While we can thankfully find plenty of information about mental health and illnesses these days, sometimes it is crucial to be enlightened by true accounts of those who are battling mental illnesses daily. For everyone who hasn’t experienced any mental illnesses, it’s a way of stepping into their shoes. A way of understanding, without just the facts and jargon, but rather with empathy and a mind inspired by these people’s courage, determination and sheer strength in living with a mental illness. But I will also carry on to say that sharing experiences is profoundly beneficial to those who are battling a mental illness too. Because they can relate, because they know they aren’t the only one who knows what it feels like and how devastating it can be. And ironically through this common grounding of shared pain, a community is built. A community who feel together, support each other, understand each other and all in all help the cause of breaking mental health stigma.
In today’s post I will be sharing two stories form two very special people. Topics such as anxiety, depression, post partum depression and PTSD will be discussed. However before commencing, I would like to highlight a trigger warning as topics such as suicide and self harm are discussed.
Tara (C) 2018 mamasoul.com
“My journey with mental health started early in my life. My first memory of having an anxiety attack was when I was 8 years old. I would have to learn for most of my life how to live with depression and anxiety. I discovered yoga in my twenties and it really helped through my ups and downs, and my first try at anti depressants. I tried to be prepared for postpartum depression. I was 41 and had been in therapy with a wonderful therapist. I was in control of my depression and anxiety. I knew when I needed help and I knew how to get it. When I found out I was pregnant I found a therapist that specialized In pregnancy and depression and she got me ready. I hired my postpartum doula who also specialized in postpartum depression and was outspoken with my fears to my midwives”.
“I had somewhat of a traumatic birth but a euphoric afterbirth…or what I thought was euphoria. I never slept or never ate. I walked the streets of Brooklyn for hours with my baby wrapped around me. After Lazlo’s first birthday I was still not sleeping or eating properly, whilst still nursing all day still and caring for my baby. I was losing so much weight and my health was deteriorating. Especially my mental health. I didn’t realize I was suffering from perinatal mood disorder. I thought I was so educated and ahead of the game. I finally found the proper help through my therapist. I went to an inpatient treatment center called The Motherhood Center. It had such an impact on my life that I decided to dedicate my career in helping women, especially the women who cannot afford or find the proper help”.
Read more Tara’s story and the initiative she has taken, along with her partner Laura at: http://mamasoul.com
Allison, Allison Blair Art
A Phoenix, painted by Allison to depict rising above your mental illness.
“I slipped through the cracks. I appeared mostly intelligent yet also a little slow. I was excellent at acting and learned at a young age that life is easier if you conceal your pain. My mother would always tell me, “Don’t tell anyone what happens at home. They will take you from me”. I am not sure how true that was. My parents were not abusive towards me, but were abusive to each other. Then when my brother started doing drugs, becoming the towns drug dealer; my parents marriage really started to unravel and things got worse. My brother started physically abusing me and had tried to kill my mother and I. My mother also started doing drugs with my brother. Everyone was bursting out at the seams, and I just wanted to run away and hide”.
“When I was 19 I got into a good college out of state and fled. There I was sexually assaulted. And thats when I started to unravel. I had been so strong through so much. I found myself attempting suicide three times within that year. I found myself taking a metal towel rack and lashing it into my legs just to feel nothing. I couldn’t feel pain. I was totally numb. I had massive dents and bruises all over my legs. I found myself in the mental hospital and was slapped with a diagnosis of clinical depression, general anxiety disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder. I spent a very long six days in the hospital and was then released, but I didn’t stay on my medication because of the side effects. I then got into a better college and transferred out, although my mental illnesses followed…I attempted suicide again the following year”.
“This is the way I describe depression: it feels like there is a boulder in your heart. You can’t get up, you’re hurting and your pain is crippling”.
“At this point I also had a growing drinking problem. By the age of 20, I dropped out of college. I had met a man, fell in love and got married at 21. He also had clinical depression and anxiety. He treated me so well, I felt like I had found my safe haven once and for all. But my problems were still not behind me. My drinking continued and it had started to put my job and marriage in jeopardy. I took time out of the work force to get back onto medications and tried my best to cope”.
“A therapist decided to try an IQ test on me and it was then discovered that I have a 120IQ but only in one part of the test; the VCI. It pointed to a near genius level to write, speak, and analyze, while everything else was substantially below average. Amongst this and other testing, the results read, ‘Cognitively autistic, Allison would much rather sit quietly and ruminate’. I will never forget that line”.
“At 22 years old, I got pregnant with our first child. I stopped taking my medications and I was doing well, until post partum depression hit me and I found myself on the floor crying and writing out my suicide note. So back to therapy I went, and was put on more anti-anxiety/anti-depressants and even Vyvance. The Vyvance was awesome. Since it wasn’t completely determined whether I had ADHD or Autism since they both affect the brain in similar ways, they figured either way, the Vyvance will help me function. And while it did, my marriage hit a rough patch. And I took advantage of the Vyvance to lose a ton of weight and developed body dysmorphia. Once I dropped to 90lbs and found myself having a host of physical ailments, I stopped the Vyvance. A few months later I got pregnant with our second child. I have remained sober with both pregnancies but have recently slipped. I found myself being drowned by more depression and anxiety; choosing to become more reclusive, even as a stay at home mother”.
“This is the way I describe depression: it feels like there is a boulder in your heart. You can’t get up, you’re hurting and your pain is crippling. I love my kids, my husband and I enjoy being an artist. I aspire to have a greater career in art one day, but I realize I am not very good. Maybe as a writer, we will see. But right now, I love raising my family and being with my husband. In January it will be 6 years of marriage. Thats the thing, no matter how great your life gets, clinical depression, PTSD or anxiety is not going to go away. People foolishly assume that if you have a great life, that you must be happy. That’s not always the case. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. No amount of external rewards is going to change that. I do believe firmly that yoga and having a religion/faith/spirituality greatly helps, but sometimes you do need medication and there is no shame in that. But it’s hard to stay on them, hard to find the proper health care and everything about living with a mental illness in general is just hard. It’s a battle, but I hope people will learn that when their thoughts start rationalizing suicide, that its time to go back to the doctor. Also it should be noted, that the day my husband and I met, he was planning on going up to NYC to commit suicide. But the day he met me changed his plans. He has gotten a lot better and he is very good about taking his medications”.
“There is no shame in discussing our struggles. It makes us real and opens the door to less stigma”.
Allison projects and illustrates her journey with mental health through art and writing on her Instagram account. Find Allison on her Instagram page here: https://instagram.com/allisonblairart?utm_source=ig_profile_share&igshid=1arnt1yrwgwo5
I would like to thank both Tara and Allison for sharing their stories with us, and I would like to hear yours too. Share your experiences in the comments below, or email me at email@example.com if you would like your story featured here.