I have been thinking a lot lately about what I post online, why I stopped posting about mental health, why I felt ashamed to have mental illness, why I thought it would affect future employment, and why after so many years of feeling comfortable sharing about it I all of a sudden felt it was wrong.
It all comes down to one thing: lack of education of the people judging me (my past employer).
One of the things that happened when I left my old school is that someone was feeding my Facebook posts to the leadership of the school. To say I felt violated is an understatement. And the way that it was handled was even worse. It was clear to me that the leadership saw mental illness differently than they see physical illness, and they were ashamed that I was on staff and posting about my mental health (nothing crazy… just what I was struggling with). They actually told me that if I take a leave of absence for my mental health that I would not be trusted by parents anymore. I was no longer trusted because I was honest about what I was struggling with. THAT is why I decided to resign instead of just take a leave of absence.
After that I deleted lots of posts on Facebook, I deleted so many posts on my blog that were important to me. Some of them I kept by copying/pasting into a document and some of them I made into a draft. I think I’m going to try to resurrect them.
May is mental health awareness month and I’m going to use my platform (that not many people read, but that’s okay) to share my story.
I’ve had anxiety my entire life. When I was little, the way I handled it was with constant tantrums. As I got older I managed somehow by just trying to control everything around me to be “perfect” though I obviously was not successful. I stuffed it because my brother had severe mental health issues and honestly my parents just didn’t have time. I got told later that mine wasn’t as “bad” as his.
I dealt with anxiety into college and was officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and everything made sense. I stayed busy. I took full loads, worked as a pharmacy tech, and was on leadership of the Baptist Student Ministries. I met Robert in May of 2003, and we got married that year. When I had Karis in 2006, I started struggling more with my mental health. I had some postpartum stuff but it wasn’t super severe yet. I took meds for a little while then stopped when we tried to get pregnant again. During my pregnancies, I am mentally well. When I give birth, I struggle. It happened worse with Ethan but with Levi is when I had to really get some help.
On November 30, 2009, my brother died by suicide in a very traumatic way. My life will never be the same. I had Levi in February 2010, and my depression was really bad.
Since then I have been up and down. Since then I have been inpatient once for being passively suicidal, I’ve done outpatient twice, I’ve been in therapy since 2012. I have had severe depression many times and severe anxiety ever since. I have been told that I have PTSD not just from my brother’s death but the trauma of his life as well (he tried to commit suicide more times than I can count and he was in and out of mental hospitals). He and I were very close growing up. He was my only sibling.
In October of 2016 I checked myself into rehab after finally hitting my rock bottom with my alcohol use disorder. I am still sober today.
I have been diagnosed with bipolar 2, but I’m not sure about that since I actually just seem to have seasonal depression (that is severe). Bipolar 2 and very different from 1 in that 2 doesn’t have mania… just slightly elevated energy and deeper depression. I also think I have adhd which could be a huge cause for anxiety. I’m still in the process of trying to figure myself out, at almost 40. But I will NEVER stop fighting. I deserve to live a life without constant debilitating anxiety. I deserve to be able to look forward to the winter season and all that comes with it. So I will keep seeking answers and the correct treatment because I matter. And so do you.
If you are reading this and struggling, I encourage you to find a therapist or a doctor that will listen (both is ideal).
And seriously, don’t do what I did. Don’t shrink back in shame as if you have something to hide. Mental illness is ILLNESS. We don’t want it, we can’t control it, and it’s just like being physically sick. It doesn’t make you less of a person.