How I Am, Really
On June 8, I asked this question in the photo above on Facebook. There was a reason, and that's because I was NOT doing well or fine or good or any of the other typical answers we give to that question. I was trying to be. I was fighting to be. I was failing to be and that scared me. I needed to know if I was alone or crazy. As it turns out, I was neither. It helped to know I wasn't alone, but I still was not doing well.
It's been 2-1/2 months since I last posted here on my blog. I just finished re-reading everything I've posted so far. In my second post, An Introduction to This Joyful Life and Me, I mentioned, in so many words, that you'll find that I write when things are going well, but you won't hear from me much when they're not. I wish I could always write no matter what, but as I warned you in the beginning, it is highly likely that I won't. Sometimes it is because I just don't feel like writing or I don't feel like I have anything to say. This is the case particularly (though not always) when life is hard. During this time that I've not been writing it has been especially hard and life has changed quite a bit for me, especially in the past month.
The following is not something I normally talk about with most people because there's so much misinformation, misunderstanding, and/or lack of both that it makes it an uncomfortable topic to discuss at a personal level. At the same time, it should be discussed more to overcome the stigma and provide those who don't understand with factual information. I'm not going to give an educational lecture with this post, nor will I go into personal details, but I do want to share a little, and encourage you to educate yourself, ESPECIALLY right now, about mental health, if you haven't already.
So, as those closest to me have known, I have a well-managed Depression and Anxiety diagnosis. For many of us with such a diagnosis, it isn't something that just "goes away" either with or without medication, like an ear infection or a cold. Rather, it is managed, like Heart Disease or Diabetes, for a lifetime in many cases. I am proud of the way I have managed it over the years, and thankful for every person and organization in my life that has supported me in doing so successfully throughout the years. There have been a few times in my life, however, that it has needed more management than normal, and I've needed extra support.
The stress of COVID-19 has triggered one of those times for me. A death in the family earlier this year, and riots in my city have not helped. I've been on medical leave from work since June 15. A few days before my last day of work, I was offered an opportunity to participate in an informational and interactive group discussion that gave helpful mental health support. I jumped at the chance! I was relieved to learn, again, that I was not alone in the ways I had been feeling, but for someone who already has a mental health diagnosis, everything we've been facing is even more difficult in that regard. Try as I might to pull all my coping tools from my mental health closet, it just wasn't enough, even with the strength of faith that I have. And that's okay. It's not a weakness. It's not a matter of just "snapping out of it." It's not a matter of simply praying or thinking positive, because depending on the severity of the Depression, it may not be POSSIBLE to think positive, for very real medical reasons. It is a medical condition that needs medical treatment.
I also do believe that spending time reading the Bible and in prayer helps - a lot. Sometimes we may need others to do that for us though. Thankfully, I know I've had many family members and friends doing just that for me. I am deeply grateful, and love you all so much!
I feel like I am starting to turn a corner right now, and hope to be fully recovered by my target return to work date of August 16. I am now at a place where I CAN read the Bible and pray and use the therapeutic tools I've acquired over the years as well as some new ones I've picked up. I'm applying the principles of living "present" in the moment, whatever the moment holds, and leaving tomorrow up to God.
I believe in miracles, but I also believe that sometimes the hardships we face have invaluable learning opportunities by going through them, rather than being rescued from them. So, I have been asking God to walk with me through this, to give me strength, and to help me to keep my heart open to learn new truths he may have to teach me through this experience.
Reading through all my blog posts today was encouraging to me. It painted a picture of how I got from there to here, but it also reminded me of my well self and gave me hope of being there again soon. A couple of days ago, I was afraid August 16 may be too soon to go back to work, but for the first time, I can see that as a very likely and attainable date. Trust me when I say that's a good sign! So is the fact that I'm writing!
I've cried many, many, many tears since this all began, but the tears I have at this moment are, for the first time in what feels like eternity, tears of gratitude... an overwhelming sense of reality of how much good I have in my life, how truly blessed I am. I have the most loving and supportive husband I could ever ask for who is faithfully my rock - always, and especially right now. When I've been so overcome that I can't see or think about what I need to cope, he has reminded me, encouraged me, researched for me, pampered me, taken care of personal business for me, prayed with me, prayed for me, been patient with me, and had no expectations of me, but (and this is really important) believed in me. I don't know how I would have navigated this without him.
I don't tell you about this to get an "I'm so sorry." And I REALLY don't want (or need) anyone to worry about me. I mean, I appreciate that and all, but more than anything I want others to be aware that just because you don't have a diagnosis, you still need to be aware of how the current situation could impact you. And if you DO have a diagnosis, it is that much more important - really!
I read a Forbes Magazine article today that says, "A Total Brain survey announced today that 83% of women and 36% of men had experienced an increase in depressed moods. 53% of working women and 29% of men have experienced an increase in anxiety since February. The toll of Covid-19 on mental health is concerning and needs to be addressed as soon as possible."
This is real, y'all, and I know from statistics, that some of you (1 in 5) reading this do have some sort of mental health diagnosis. I had no idea that my well-managed condition would be derailed so significantly until it was too late, but I (we - all of us) have never been through ANYTHING like this before either! So, I encourage you to do everything possible to take care of yourself at this time - physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally. At the same time, give yourself grace if you've tried to take care of yourself and it has not been enough. And give yourself grace if you need to let some responsibilities go to care for yourself. I need to hear that as much as anyone. Fortunately, my husband has enough grace to offer when I can't find any to give myself.
We are ALL in this crazy mixed up global boat together, all with different backgrounds, experiences and challenges, but all needing self-care. Please don't hesitate to reach out to someone if you ever need to. Take advantage of any community or employer offered mental health support opportunities. Above all else, please don't let shame play a part in whether you ask for help or not. I know personally how easy that can be to let shame get in the way, but also how unnecessary it is.
I'm normally available to talk about details of my experiences and strategies privately, and have done so to help others many times in the past. Right now, however, please understand that for my health sake, I am NOT in a place to talk about it more than what I have here. It actually causes anxiety right now when people ask how I'm doing. Please believe that while I have a little farther to go to be well again, that I WILL be well again. While I might not have said this a month ago, I am absolutely certain of it now, so I ask that you will be too. I will be able to talk about it again in the future, just not right now. I also may not feel like talking at all. Please don't take it personally.
For now, for me, it's one day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time, but I do so with hope, faith, and gratitude today, and I do mean TODAY. I haven't had that before now, It feels SO good to have a positive outlook again! I know I may still have some bad days or moments ahead, but I'm confident that they will be fewer and farther between, every day, and before long, I'll be my old self... but likely much stronger than ever before.
I leave you with three resources, below, and prayers for overall health. Take care, and God bless!
P.S. All of the above was written on Saturday, July 11. It took until today to be brave enough to post it. (Please be kind!) Also, Social Media is NOT my mental health friend right now. Neither is the news! You will find many professionals and articles that say the same. They are actually telling people to avoid both right now for their mental health. I'm not posting or commenting and I'm only spending about 10-15 minutes a week reading (and skipping over all the political and COVID-19 related topics). So, you just won't see me on social media right now.