We were raised to think that even just the words “mental issues” meant a person was crazy.

When the mental health and wellness industry began to boom, people were starting to talk about anxiety and depression more and more. This was SO refreshing for me because it meant that these emotions were no longer seen as a stigma. I remember a time when these types of emotions were to be kept private in my own life - at least my parents had wanted me to. At the time, I didn’t agree with them and was a bit upset that they wanted me to keep it to myself. 

But thinking about it now….I know it wasn’t their fault. It was society’s fault. Back then, I felt many people in my parents’ generation and prior, were embarrassed and didn’t want their friends or family to know their kid was dealing with mental issues. We were raised to think that even just the words “mental issues” meant a person was crazy and depression was something to be ashamed of. I remember when people would even use the term “gone mental” in place of the word “crazy”. I can even recall watching the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as a kid and associating the word “mental” as meaning crazy there on after. I am now realizing that I had been brainwashed too! 

So as you can see, my journey through anxiety and depression is quite interesting and long, but where I am at now is incredibly better than where I was when it all began...

It was in the late 90s, that my anxiety began. I was 17 years old. I was in a bad relationship, and looking back on it now, it was definitely an emotionally abusive one. It was the ultimate trigger to my years of anxiousness that would follow. 

As I continued to cry endlessly and torture myself in my head about my outer appearance, my personality, and anything else a teenage girl would question about themselves, my parents were beside themselves and just couldn’t figure out what was happening with me. They just thought I was an overly emotional teenage girl, hopelessly in love with some boy. I don’t think anxiety or depression even crossed their minds. Even I couldn’t articulate what these emotions were - I chalked it up to not being good enough for him. 

That relationship turned out to continue into college, and it was then the feelings of anxiousness turned into much harsher feelings and much turmoil. It was like being a prisoner in my own mind. This is very hard for me to write this, even now, but it’s the only way to tell my story. The fact that there was a deeper issue going on - really only hit my parents AND myself when I tried to hurt myself. I look back, and it was never my intention to off myself completely. I just didn’t know what else to do because I was so anxious and depressed that all I wanted was HELP, any help at all. I remember panicking after I swallowed one too many pills and running to my R.A.’s office, soon after, confessing what I had tried to do. I think I just needed the attention and that was my way of sending an S.O.S! I didn’t want to explain anything to anyone, I just wanted to be fixed and feel normal “like everyone else”. As much as I’d like to say, that that situation knocked some sense into me, it didn’t…

But for my parents, it did. They did their research and became more familiar with the idea of mental health and its coping mechanisms. I went on to trying all kinds of therapists, taking different kinds of medications, and trying different coping techniques like meditation, yoga and even acupuncture. I honestly thought that there had to be a magic pill that made me feel whole again and that would release me from my own mind. 

My anxiety got the best of me throughout my life and I have to say....when its at its height, its torture....I’m going around and around and around in my head over something I didn’t like the outcome of or even something negative that I thought COULD happen. I was the epitome of a catastrophizer - agonizing over things that I had no control over and from there my imagination would run wild, right into a deep depression….and these episodes would continue for almost 20 years... 

I am now 37 years old. Yep, it has taken me until this very year, for me to truly feel like that I have changed for the better in regards to my mental health. And to be honest - I know I could’ve made it here sooner, but it’s the obstacles and growing older and wiser that helped me learn how to cope. While I know that this journey is not over, I’m okay with that and no longer scared and I couldn’t have done without the support of my family. They picked up EVERY TIME I fell. 

But now I’m confident that if I ever run into tough times again, I know I can dig myself out of it on my own. The fact that I am now incredibly self aware of who I am, what I believe, and most of all what I’m worth, has been the key to healing my mind. I wouldn’t say this is the solution for everyone, but it’s mine and a peaceful mind to me equals happiness.

Much love to all,
Jen

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