Around a third of us experience depression or anxiety, but it's so little talked about that each of us tends to feel like we're the only one. Let's share our stories and dispel that feeling!

The day of radical truth-telling

By Paula

MissP-klein I like to experiment and I’m learning to listen. Sometimes I invite my monsters over for tea and give them names. I also like kittens, comfort food and yarn. I write at dentintheworld.com.

I have ideas about the way I want my blog to be. About experience telling my story, but also showing how my story fits into the larger context. About systemic problems and individual solutions. About fairytales and real world heroines.

I don’t.

At the heart of my identity lie struggles I have kept mostly hidden in the online world. I am cutting myself off from myself.

***

I struggle(d) with mental illness.

Last year in June I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (10% of the population suffer, though only 4% are diagnosed with it). I suffered panic attacks, heightened anxiety levels, worry, sadness, stomach aches, racing pulse, insomnia, the inability to get out of bed some days and action paralysis. The symptoms started two years ago, triggered by my decision to finally finish my PhD, even though my boss did not like it. By mid-May it had gotten so bad that I considered going to my M.D. to get help. It took me a full four weeks to overcome my paralysis and call to make an appointment. It was all I did that day, but also the most important thing I did that month. My doctor put me on Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and five weeks of sick leave. I am forever grateful for the respite and the drugs. I have met many people that dispute the efficacy of psycho-pharmaceuticals in the treatment of mental illness, deeming them something for weak-willed people. For obvious reasons I disagree.

In September I started therapy with a young and mostly competent therapist. I also started reading Havi’s blog.

I have had a number of crises, but each one turned into a crucible in which I melted to form a new and truer Self. In each step I have stripped away unnecessary and volatile components, so that only that which is my core remains. Today I am not only closer to who I want to be, I am also closer to my values. I have an idea of who I am and where I want to go. Without my descent into mental illness I would not be in this place today.

Which is not to say that you need to get yourself a mental illness to work on your stuff and come out a better person. Having a mental illness sucks, big time. It left me powerless to do the most basic things for myself. Well-intentioned family and friends gave/give me all manner of advice about how I really just need to suck it up and do IT already. They can’t understand how difficult doing anything is if your brain is not functioning. If I tell you that something is really hard for me, trust me on it. I am not lazy, or selfish, nor am I a weak-minded fool, and I really wish that life were easier and I could fulfill your expectations.

I’m more, or less, missing two years of my life. It’s caused all manner of unpleasantness. There is, for example, my dissertation which is not finished even though I started writing it two years ago. My knowledge of what I did is fading and I am close to giving up on it. I am also unemployed with the prospect of living off of meager welfare (negative societal judgments courtesy of the house), or my meager savings. For a long time struggling for survival into the next week had left little energy to look for jobs much less apply, or even figure out what the hell I wanted to do in life.

BUT, and this is a big but; today I am my own rock. I have direction. I am my own miracle. I have trust in the universe that everything will work out. I have faith in myself that I will be true to myself.

Not saying all these things obscures those truths from me. I get caught up in other people’s judgements. I got caught up in protecting my secret identity and thus was never fully present, or fully committed to this blog. This can change now. (Of course I worry that a potential employer might read this and judge me accordingly. But to that employer I say, ” Madame, did you not read about how I found my strength, how I found my values, how I am, today, fully anchored in myself? Do you not think that a person with such strength can be an invaluable asset to your project?”)

***

Hi there! I would love it, if you left a comment, or said hello. What I wouldn’t love is, if you pronounced judgments on me, or told me how I should behave. Sharing your own story is very much welcomed. Hugs and sparkle points to all.

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Cross-posted from http://dentintheworld.com/the-day-of-radical-truth-telling/.

{ 6 comments... read them below, or add one }

  1. Ilene says:

    Major support here for what you wrote today. For years, I kept my major depression a secret from all but close friends and family, but a few years ago I began telling more people whom I trust or who have similar illnesses. It takes a lot of energy to keep this secret, and it’s bound up with shame. Fortunately, anxiety and depression are more ‘talked about’ in the media and by the general public, which helps. Good luck to you!

  2. Judith says:

    Thank you for this post. It’s things like this that give me hope when things seem bleak, as they do at the moment. I have a doctors appointment in two weeks time, which is a step in the right direction. I have been putting off getting it because I didn’t want to ‘admit defeat’ again. I haven’t been on medication for depression for about 18 months and, at the beginning, I was doing really well and thought I had finally kicked it. Over the last six months it has started to sneak up on me though, and I have been trying to ignore the warning signs. Then, since the new year, I have been going rapidly downhill to the point of barely being able to do anything. As a single mother of two daughters (17 and 12), with no support network at all, I can’t afford to let this carry on. So, I am just holding on for another two weeks in the hope that my doctor (who is great) can help set me back on track.

    Sorry for rambling. Been feeling very alone lately and it’s nice to connect. Once again, thank you so much for this post xx

    • Kate Harding Kate Harding says:

      Hi Judith,

      Just wanted to pop in and send you an e-hug! You’re not alone. There are millions of us, and we understand how this feels.

      It sucks when this stuff happens again. After my first breakdown, I really thought I’d never have to go through that again, and it was hard to accept when it happened for the second time.

      Hope you start to feel better soon.

      Much love,
      Kate

      • Judith says:

        Thank you so much Kate. I’ve been reading here for a while now, but I’m not usually one to leave comments. I’m glad I did this time though, as your kind words added a much needed smile to my day. Thank you again x

  3. Kate says:

    Your words..”I have had a number of crises,but each one turned into a crucible in which I melted to form a new and truer self”,is beautifully expressed.Possibly the purpose of depression,( as painful as it can be ),..is to guide one back to their true selves.”I am my own miracle”,is such an empowering way to speak of recovery.Your article was helpful in showing others there is a light on the other side.Thank you for sharing.

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