My Mental Health Mash Up
Before you read further, please take a look at the content warning. This blog post discusses potentially triggering issues.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and all month long I have been posting weekly blogs about my journey with mental health struggles. I have done four entries now on my various main mental health diagnoses: PTSD & Me Part One, PTSD & Me Part Two, Depression and Me, and my best friend Anxiety. Check them out if you haven’t already. This last Monday in May I want to talk to you about how all of my diagnoses affect me. Please remember that I’m speaking only of my own experiences, and everyone who struggles with mental health issues has a different experience. Even if someone else had all of my exact same diagnoses, their lived experiences, upbringing, brain chemistry, culture, and more will affect how they experience and cope with their mental health struggles. This is my personal journey.
So how does living with all of these things together look like? What does it feel like? That depends on the day – sometimes even the hour or minute. Anxiety and depression are my old friends – the new PTSD stuff I’m still learning to cope with and am still healing from. What it is mostly is … exhausting.
During times that I am dealing with depression, I struggle with low motivation, low energy, feelings of worthlessness, feelings of inadequacy, and sometimes no feelings at all. My depressed states can last from hours to months. Usually a few days or weeks at a time. It makes me sometimes unable to get out of bed, unable to work, unable to socialize, unable to maintain personal hygiene at times. It’s difficult to feel productive. It makes me lose interest in things and it negatively impacts my sex drive. It makes me overeat or under-eat. It makes me oversleep or not sleep at all. It’s worse in the winter but present on some level all of the time.
Because I’m still sorting out what struggles come from my general anxiety disorder and what ones come from PTSD, I’m going to talk about both. They keep my brain pretty darn busy with a running dialogue. Pretty much all the time. Awake or asleep my brain runs through endless lists. I am the person who over packs because “what if we need this.” I am the person who always has all the answers about whatever we are doing – because I am terrified of what will happen if I don’t know. I worry about being embarrassed so don’t try new things. I always have to know where we are, where we are going, and how to escape. I know where the bathrooms are, what time the show is over, where the emergency exits are, and who is around me. I notice tiny details relating to peoples’ tones, their body language, their words – yet due to my aphantasia can’t remember what their facial features look like. I am known to be “particular” – even from a young age. I dislike things being moved or changed without discussion or notice. Socially – if I want to go somewhere and don’t have a person to go with – I usually don’t go. Too much to worry about – where to park and when to arrive and – easier to stay home. I avoid small spaces and crowded spaces. I sit on the aisle seat. I panic if I feel like I can’t breathe. I almost always have a plan A, B, and C because I have to.
All of this makes it difficult to work without accommodations. It makes maintaining friendships tricky. It made (and makes) parenting harder than it already is. It makes planning for any event, from little to big, a BIG DEAL. I feel the need to be prepared all the time in as many ways as I can be. I’m exhausted a lot. Combine all these with ADD and chronic pain and I’m not always fun. Often I’m a hot mess. I can be bitchy and I can be unmotivated. I can be hilarious and I can be morbid. I have a sarcastic sense of humor and my walls up pretty high. I have abandonment issues. I can be flaky. I find it hard to commit to things and turn down invitations to things I really want to attend. And them I’m sad people have stopped asking. I run a constant battle in my mind trying to determine what feelings and thoughts I have I should trust, because I don’t always feel like I can trust my own feelings.
So that’s a little bit about what it’s like to have all these things together. For me. I have a therapist and a mental health medication provider. I do talk therapy and trauma therapy and medication therapy. I’ve learned a lot of coping skills. While living with these issues IS exhausting, it’s not all bad. I’ve learned excellent communication skills. I see little picture and big picture. I am incredibly empathetic. I can be incredibly patient (or incredibly impatient). I have a lot of lived experiences to share. I’ve learned enough about a lot of things to be either helpful or annoying. Medical, legal, special needs education stuff, you name it, I’ve dealt with it on some level. I’m an excellent advocate – mostly for others, but also myself. Not being able to work full time allowed me to be a full time parent. I am pretty good day to day at using my coping skills to not fall “too deep” into any abyss. The last two years struggle with PTSD aside, my mental health had been “stable.” Stable doesn’t mean cured. It doesn’t mean fixed. It means – baseline. Baseline me is pretty okay.
My friends have asked about how they can support me. If you have someone in your life who struggles with mental health issues – ask them that. “How can I support you?” It’s incredibly validating. In my case it is things like, keep inviting me even if I say no a lot, offer to go *with* me to an event, reach out to me as I’m terrible at keeping in touch, be patient if I flake out, and if I tell you that I can’t do something because I’m struggling – recognize that I’m being vulnerable in sharing that with you. Don’t try to talk me out of it. Just respect it. (That’s different than asking if there’s a way you can help, please feel free to do that, if I decline – respect it). What someone else needs may be totally different. But they will be touched that you asked.
That’s it for Mental Health Month on our final May Mental Health Monday. If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health – please know that you are not alone. I’ve put together a list of resources you can find HERE. If you have questions about me or the issues I deal with – please drop me a comment or send me an email. I love to hear from you.
Until next time my friends. Be kind.
CONTENT WARNING – this blog post discusses issues related to mental health including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more.