Making Connections through Mental Health

Lately, I’ve tried to become relatively active on social media sites other than Facebook. I’ve taken to Twitter for more than just posting my drawings. Through sharing my blog posts on Twitter, I have connected with a lot of different people who truly inspire me to become a better person. Who knew only 140 characters on a social media site could do that?

I bring this up for a reason. My connection to new people who also cope/battle/suffer from mental health issues has introduced me to some issues that I thought I battled alone or didn’t know existed. It’s also opened my eyes to how people react to individuals who suffer from things like depression, anxiety, even schizophrenia. I am amazed when I really shouldn’t be at this point, with how much people are willing to harass or bully someone who struggles. I’ve seen this on Twitter and Facebook, and it is something I often view out in the public as well. I want to share what I posted on Facebook, and ended up sharing on Twitter and Instagram, after seeing how someone I knew was being treated over their depression.

I would have liked to say something more about the issue, but sometimes you have to be the bigger person by being straight-forward, but polite. However, I think I tried to make a good point. Mental health is something people need to consider as being equal to physical health. If you were sick, you would go to a doctor, right? So, why isn’t that the same thing with mental health? If you’re sick, you take a day off from work to recover. If it’s mental health-related, there is no excuse for most jobs I’m aware of. I know companies are revolutionizing the way they treat their employees, but most people who work in a minimum wage job will not be afforded the privilege to take a day off. Personally, I took this past Monday off from work as a “mental health day” only because I knew I couldn’t get penalized and I had PTO to cover. However, it is very easy for someone on Facebook to just message you and say “cheer up” and tell me life isn’t all that bad. Sure. Great. I’m happy for you if you can say that and truly believe it. Take a walk in my shoes though. Yes, life isn’t ending, but that doesn’t stop the depression or anxiety. Heck, it doesn’t stop me from crying at work or wanting to run away for 1 day of relaxation.

I tried hard in my previous post about my “depression arch” to explain how depression feels for someone who suffers it. Depression isn’t always about being sad, and it will be different for each person that experiences it. Mine tends to bounce all of the places from depression to anger to irritability to loneliness. I described as bungy jumping back and forth between good and really, really bad. I physically feel like that is happening. My energy is zapped, my attention span is zilch, and I just feel like crying or getting a hug from someone.

I’ve been paying attention to friends on Facebook who suffers from depression or ADHD, and I’ve begun following people on Twitter who try to advocate as well for mental health. I read their posts, I reply back with encouraging feedback, and I offer assistance in place I can. However, it makes me feel truly grateful for the help I have had so far in my life. I’ve struggled with everything in my life for as long as I can remember. Whether it was food, survival, staying safe from abuse, or trying to just get by another day I have struggled.

I’ve essentially been an adult since I was a child. My mother didn’t mean for it to happen, but I watched her struggle with abuse from her husband and the guys she dated. I watched her stress out, with me stressing out with her, about how the bills will get paid and how food will be put on the table. At 12, I was raped by my biological father while my mother laid in the hospital after nearly dying from what they believed was a stroke. When the memories of that night came back to me and my life was turned literally upside down nearly 10 years later, I had help. It took me, 2 people, to get me into my current therapist. Since 2010 when my mother passed away, I found help in places I didn’t know I would have. Teachers at my high school donated money when my stepfather kicked us out of the house after my mom died. My current mentor, who is just truly amazing, encouraged me not to give up school even if it meant taking some time off to sort out my life. After becoming an English major in college, the English department did everything they could to help me just simply survive when I attempted suicide multiple times at the end of last year and into the Spring. A professor who had me as a Facebook friend often gave me support and positive advice when she saw I was struggling. I couldn’t be more grateful for her support. And my therapist has guided me in the right direction to help me grow. Even now as an alum I found a few friends I can reach out to, professors and mentors to fall back on for educational help like graduate school, and a continued relationship with my therapist who continues to help me each day…even if she’s simply validating what I’m doing when I’m on a “good streak” with my depression.

I look at the people I’ve become connected to who may not have the support I have. Let’s face it. We all come from different backgrounds. However, my support has helped me start this blog, and now I’m always there to support others who struggle. I went to college as a history and English major, but I’ve discovered just how much I love to help support people who need it. There might be some days where I can just offer a hug, but there are other days I can listen.

Speaking of mentors and support, I met with my mentor from college this evening. She has always been a wonderful person to speak to about almost anything. I try to express my gratitude often because I’m not entirely sure where I would be today without her. I’ve been playing around with an idea to go to graduate school for a Master’s in Counseling for non-teachers. Getting a teaching degree would be difficult because I simply don’t have the time to go to class, do an internship, and work all in the same day while scheduling sleep in there somewhere. I’ve been playing back and forth with something in psychology, noting that I have to be aware that it will be emotionally hard on me. I caught up my mentor today on my graduate school application for an English program I’m trying for, but then I introduced my counseling idea to her. Granted, I’m still in the information gathering stage, but she’s great for offering support and advice (which she provided). I’ve become very passionate about mental health since last year when my therapist left the campus. It was a breaking point for me that showed me what I could be good at doing, and just doing something helps me cope with whatever is happening. Since starting the blog, I’ve realized…a little late I told her…that I would love to do counseling. She agreed that I have found something I’m passionate about, but she reminded me it’s never too late to do something new. I went to college for history before discovering how much I like reading and writing and becoming an English major. Now, I’m 25 and realizing I should have tried counseling or psychology. Talk about a career change! Whew. Apparently, I enjoy stressing myself out. What better way than to just keep going back to school? At this point, I don’t think they will get rid of me.

I needed to hear that. Every day people change careers for something they’re passionate about. A therapist I saw after mine left (and before I went back to her…long story), was a lawyer before becoming a therapist. She was in her 50s/60s finishing her Doctoral degree when I met her.

Until I decide what I want to be when I grow up, I have taken to Twitter and Facebook to simply offer my support to others. A lot of the time, I’m offering support and reminding myself that it’s ok to cry, reach out, etc. I’m not perfect. I have a lot of room to improve. One day I would like to be able to say I’m happy being me, but I feel as though I can share what I have learned with others…people who suffer/cope/struggle with mental health issues and people who don’t but want to understand. Some days I would like to beat it, metaphorically and physically, into some people’s heads what it’s like to suffer from depression. Lately, most days, I just want to help others know it’s ok to be who you are.

Someone posted on Twitter in the last two days how their struggle with mental health only isolates themselves from others. I admit, even today, isolation is sometimes good and bad when the depression is bad. I would have loved to lock myself up in isolation for eternity after the day I had today, but I went outside. What I learned, however, is that struggling with mental health can bring people together if given the opportunity, which is how I replied to this person on Twitter. You can struggle alone, probably make things worse, allow your head to get in the way, and you can see if you survive that or get better. OR you can reach out (remember it’s OK TO REACH OUT) to someone for support, just to talk or vent, or for advice. Take time to understand what you need and let the person you reach out to know what you need. Reaching out can help you establish connections with people who suffer the same, or similar, way you do. I use my blog and social media to make connections. Take a chance and try for yourself. You never know what, or who, you might find.

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