I have started a new practice when considering decisions. I now ask myself the following two questions: Does this action have the potential to make a positive impact on someone else? Am I worried about performing the action based solely on others' judgments? When I thought about writing this blog about my recent experience with mental illness, the answers to both questions were a resounding yes. So, here we go!
A few months ago, my husband and I were having a disagreement - okay not a disagreement - a full-fledged fight. Once the yelling stopped and we were able to have an actual discussion, he cautiously asked me 'Do you think you might be depressed"? It took my breath away. It was the first time it had ever entered my mind as a possibility. Me? Depressed? But I'm such an extrovert and I'm really good with people, I can't be. I have lived my entire life with my outgoing, happy-go-lucky personality being the most major aspect of my identity. However, the more I researched depression and anxiety, the more it sounded like me and after taking screenings at the doctor, the results proved that I was riddled with both.
It's funny how clearly things become with perspective. All of those mornings when I would wake up and have to consciously will myself to get out of bed. All of the doctor's appointments over the past few years where I told the doctor to check all of my levels because I KNEW something was wrong. Convinced at different times that I had Lyme Disease, cancer, or some version of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome when in reality it was a chemical imbalance in my brain. All of the times that I snapped at my husband and tried to fast forward the times with my kids so that I could get something else accomplished. All of the times when the first time I would feel any type of calm or relief would be after my first (of many often times) glasses of wine at night. The first time I visited my therapist when he said "Tell me about you and what brought you here" at which point I started confidently spouting out my stats and accomplishments. He then asked me the simple question, "When was the last time you felt joy". And this is when I buried my head in my hands and cried...and cried and cried. All of those times where my thoughts would berate me by saying 'Snap out of it, Kara. What is wrong with you? People are going through so much in the world. You have so much. How dare you not feel happy?" After reading this, you are probably thinking to yourselves, um...duh...sounds like depression. You guys, I seriously had NO idea.
After visiting my doctor, she recommended more exercise, more therapy and an SSRI. I was ready and willing to change so I got started. I am so grateful that I did because everything has changed. I now wake up most mornings full of energy and excitement for the day. I get excited when one (or both) of my girls crawl into bed with us in the morning. I relish in the cuddles and try to prolong them instead of rushing them. I listen - really listen - to my husband and come from a place of support instead of defensiveness. I am more focused with my work. I take time to write and create. I look forward to meeting people and connecting with others. I look people in the eye and smile as I pass them on the street. I feel worthy of my life and my work for the first time ever. I am grateful. So very grateful. Grateful to my husband for having the courage to bring it up. Grateful to my parents, siblings, and best friends for being right there with me supporting me every step of the way. Grateful to my beautiful baby girls for loving me in spite of my detachment and for sticking with me and giving me the opportunity to be the mom that they deserve.
Once I started feeling better, I made it my mission to share. The sharing started with those closest to me and has rippled out from there. I have had the privilege of sharing stories with many women who have been and/or continue to be in the throes of mental illness. For those of you out there that can see yourselves in any of this, you are NOT alone. Get curious with yourselves and answer these questions: When was the last time you felt true joy? How is your energy level? Are you just going through the motions?
And believe me when I tell you that there are options for you to feel alive and to live a joyful and fulfilling life. And know you are worth it. You are worth the time, the self-care, the discovery. YOU ARE WORTH IT. And if you can't choose to pursue a better life for yourself, do it for us. Believe me when I tell you that once you are operating from a place of joy and peace, the world around you will be a much better for it.
If you think you might you might be struggling with depression, please reach out to your health care provider.