If you didn’t know, the month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This month is designed to bring light to the stigma that all mental health conditions carry and show support for those affected as “1 in 5 Americans are affected by a mental health condition” per the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I know for me, I’ve dealt with my fair share and it’s still something I’m working through.
My MH Struggles
Anxiety, depression, ED…oh my!
From what I can remember, my mental health struggles started in middle school and continued to play a pertinent role in my life through graduate school. My earliest memory of any sort of condition started with depression around 8th grade because of this anger I had towards my dad. Something I learned in graduate school and working with children is that depression can manifest in other ways, beyond sadness and lethargy. Per the American School Counseling Association,
“Early medical studies focused on “masked” depression, where a child’s depressed mood was evidenced by acting out or angry behavior.”
Looking back, I would say depression showed up for me in rebellion and anger, particularly towards my parents. Combine that with all the hormones puberty brings and the pressures to fit in transitioning into high school, I was perfectly primed for what came next.
I found myself in the midst of an eating disorder towards the end of my sophomore year. I realized my body was changing but didn’t know why; I never thought that my body was just trying to figure itself out and deal with this natural part of growing up. Since all of my sport activities weren’t counteracting the weight gain, I turned to bulimia, which only heightened my depression and introduced anxiety.
Once I went to college, it was a struggle to figure out how to manage depression, decide if and when I wanted to start ED recovery, and understand what triggered my anxiety. Without going into too much detail, because it’s not a memory lane I like to go down nor do I remember much, it all came to a point a few months after grad school. At this point I had stopped purging but still struggled to identify what my healthy relationship with food looked like, my anxiety attacks were manageable due to an as needed medication, and my depression was louder than ever because of an ex.
That “a-ha” moment
I’ll never forget the moment that changed it all: I laid in my bed on a Sunday morning without any motivation to get up. I cancelled plans and said I was sick, which was somewhat true, but honestly I was heart broken. My mind was wrapping around this concept of self-worth as I realized I had none. Laying in bed, I couldn’t stop thinking of how I never wanted to feel this way again and I recognized in order to break this cycle, I had to stop putting my value in other people.
Here’s what I lacked:
- a positive self-image
- any sort of belief in myself
- an idea of who I wanted to become
- a voice to stand up for myself
- any self-care practice
Those are just some of the things I journaled that day. When I read all of that in my journal, it hit me like a ton of bricks. So over the last 4 years, I’ve put all of my efforts into bettering myself. Getting stronger in my mental and physical health, finding a self-compassion practice, building up my self-worth through positive affirmations, and exercising my voice by standing up for myself in all of my relationships. After all the work, I can truly say my life is changed forever.
So I want to introduce a little project I’ve been thinking about for months. It’s time for me to get out of my comfort zone and share this with you!
The Self Series
All of those things that I wrote above under what I lacked, are all important subjects that should be and need to be discussed BEYOND the walls of a counseling center or office. For me, part of the reason why I got into wellness and coaching is because I wanted to share the tips, exercises, and things I had learned on my own journey of personal growth. So I jotted down an idea that I think will bring that mission to life: The Self Series.
For 4-6 weeks, I’ll highlight a particular “self” subject on my blog and social media outlets. I’ll share my experience but I also invite friends and peers to guest write on the blog to reach more people. Because not everyone can relate to one person and why not try to build this community at the same time?
I also want to use this outlet to give others a platform to share their stories! So many people I meet have felt the same way I have and have valuable experiences and thoughts to share. I want this project to bring people who struggle with the same cycle of thoughts that I dealt with (and still do) to meet others so they know they’re not alone. I want to this to be a resource to those who are on their own journey to reference any time they feel stuck. I want this to be a place for professional mental health practitioners to interact with those who aren’t or are in need of their services but can’t or won’t seek treatment. No one is alone in this and I’ll make sure everyone knows that.
So if you will, PLEASE join me! This is just the beginning of this project and I’ll keep everyone posted on when the first Self series topic kicks off…I’m thinking self-worth. Thoughts? Leave them below!