Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit worldwide, mental health issues have become more prevalent, because they’re being recognized more in the mainstream. I’d like to think that there is a little less stigma surrounding mental health, and now is the time to bring awareness of mental health challenges to light.
Sometimes, I Struggle with Depression and Anxiety
Like many women who have survived instances of trauma and abuse, in the aftermath, I still have good and bad days. It’s part of the healing process, and sometimes it’s not pretty.
The last few days have been hard on me, and I’m not exactly sure why.
I’ve suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of sadness, an immobilizing depression that’s kept me nearly bedridden, and an anxiety that has given me insomnia as well as nightmares the last three nights in a row.
I had a sudden onslaught of sobbing several times that brought me to my knees, and I had some thoughts of self-harm. But I didn’t give in.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges can happen to all of us from time to time. After all, we’re human.
It could be something small that was said or not said that triggered the breakdown. Or, it could be that processing past and present emotions and stressors has led me here. Whatever the reason, the unwelcome depression and anxiety has come in waves like a blinking light – off and on, on and off.
So, what did I do?
Managing the Symptoms
First, I went easy on myself. I quieted the inner critic and self-soothed. I let myself sleep, cry, and whatever else my physical body needed to feel safe. … I’ve realized that I must listen to what my body needs to be better attuned to my own self-harmony.
Next, I reached out to people who care about me. I called my mom and wrote to my close friends. They even checked up on me a few times without me having to ask first. And when someone you care about checks up on you and listens when you’re ready to talk, it’s soul-recharging. (Thank you to my family and friends. You know who you are.)
Then I educated myself and self-reflected on what could be going on. I found an interview with author and licensed psychotherapist Terri Cole about her book, “Boundary Boss,” to shed some light on the issues.
It turns out that sometimes, people like me (who are people-pleasers), are prone to self-abandoning and taking on other people’s problems as if they are our own. We try to fix things that can’t be fixed or that we have no business of trying to fix. This not only depletes our own energy but causes resentment toward others. And that’s not fair to anyone.
A Further Understanding
For me, it’s mainly rooted in codependency.
Codependency is NOT about being dependent on others. Cole states in her book that codependency is actually “the act of self-sacrificing to keep people attached to you. It’s driven by fear, not love. … Giving is love. Over-giving is dysfunctional.”
She states that we must ask ourselves, “Am I giving because I’m afraid I’ll be rejected or ‘kicked out of the pack’ and be left alone?” If that is as deep-seated a fear in you as it is in me, then you already know the answer.
Cole goes on to explain how self-love is about setting and maintaining healthy boundaries, practicing self-care, and being good at negotiating for your own needs. “If you’re last on your own list, you’ll inevitably attract others who agree with that. Set the bar higher based on how you feel about yourself.”
According to Cole, “boundaries are about keeping the inner peace inside ourselves.”
After taking in Cole’s wisdom, I realized that part of my sadness lately comes from an innate fear of rejection due to a naked vulnerability. It’s scary to put yourself out there, whether in your profession, creatively, or in romance. And when you wear your heart on your sleeve, it’s easy to get hurt or to be afraid of getting hurt.
Those fears were causing me to doubt myself and feel insecure about my current situation in life. Just recognizing that, however, is a good start. The next step is to trust (in yourself and others) and have faith. And the most important step is to set and keep boundaries for yourself. Other healthy people will know to respect those boundaries.
So, I took a long nap, ate a hearty meal, and am taking time to write this all out so I can unload my thoughts and feel a bit lighter. I still have a lot of inner work to do, but I am trying – day by day, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow.
If you have questions about mental health, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline at 800-950-NAMI. Or, in a crisis, text “NAMI” to 741741.
Together, we can bring better awareness to mental health issues and end the stigma for good. Thank you for reading and sharing this with me.
Photo by Luis Dalvan on Pexels