May was Mental Health month. A time to shed light on this affliction in the hopes of breaking down the stigma and barriers surrounding this topic. However, I feel this topic needs to be shared and discussed in an ongoing fashion. Anxiety and Depression are real. By sharing my story, I hope to shed light and help others who may be struggling. I want to open the conversation and break down the stigma surrounding these mental afflictions. This is my story:
The year was 2003. I was newly married and my husband was leaving for three weeks to tour Japan with his band mates. At that time, I was insecure and felt abandoned. The first couple of weeks went okay, but then we lost contact with each other. This was before cell phones. The loss of connection with him was the final straw, and I fell into a deep depression. I remember feeling depressed, lethargic and unmotivated that I couldn’t get out of bed. I was in a very dark place. I had two miniature dachshunds who stayed by my side all day while I laid there. I’m sure their bladders were ready to burst, but nothing could drag me from this dark cocoon of my thoughts and emotions. At the lowest point, I had no desire to get out of bed and no motivation to do anything. I was in such a dark place that no amount of breathing, yoga or other activity was going to help me in that moment. I had thoughts of killing myself. I wanted to end the pain, loneliness and despair. It was as if the whole world had disappeared. I didn’t know how to reach out for help. I had always put on a happy face for others, and so asking for help seemed scary. I never had opened up and shared what was going on inside. My pattern of coping with such heavy thoughts and emotions was to withdraw and isolate.
On this particular day, I couldn’t get out of bed. I was tired physically, mentally and emotionally. I was done. In this moment of such deep despair, something inside of me said, “Tara ask for help.” Ask for help. So, my roommate at the time was getting ready to go to work, and I was afraid to tell him what was going on. But I knew if I didn’t get help, I would continue to spiral deeper. I grabbed the white pages or yellow pages (again before Smart Phones and Ipads), and began to search for a treatment center. I called my health insurance provider and asked them to refer me somewhere where I could get help. I found a mental health facility and I made the call. I was scared and unsure but the voice inside me said, “Do it. Get help.” I called and the person on the other line told me to come in for treatment.
After I hung up the phone, I went downstairs and told my roommate that I was checking myself into a mental health clinic. He handled it beautifully, and I don’t know what he must of thought, because I had never shown outward signs of depression. I asked him if he could watch my dogs for the next few days, and assured him I was okay to drive myself to the facility. His girlfriend (now wife) and he took care of my dogs while I was gone. I went for almost a week. Once I committed to getting help and drive to the treatment facility, I then had to tell work and my family what had happened. Everyone was very supportive.
During my time in the mental health facility, I started talking, opening up and sharing. I started journaling about my fears and feelings, and something started to shift. I was put on medication to help with the anxiety and depression. I think this is the hardest part of the struggle with depression, is that there is so much that goes on in your mind, and it’s hard to communicate that to others. Because I did not understand what was happening in my mind, it was hard for me to articulate what I was feeling. I was afraid others wouldn’t understand. So, instead of talking about it, I would keep it all bottled up. Before I sought help, I was dealing with my anxiety and depression on my own. And that was the hardest part, and why I want to share this story.
I got better. I felt more stable. But it didn’t cure it. I don’t know if there is a cure. Since I can remember, I have always dealt with anxiety and depression. I still do. Yoga, breathing and meditation help, but I still have those moments of sadness and despair. Fortunately, not as deep as I did back in 2003, but I’m more conscious when those self-defeating thoughts begin to take hold. For me, yoga, journaling and meditation help. I’m no longer on medication. I’m not saying this will work for everyone, but I would encourage you to find what works for you. Whether it’s medication, prayer, therapy, reading, cooking, going to gym, whatever helps you feel more connected to yourself and this world, do that. Ask for help in times when you need it. If nothing else, know this: you are NOT alone. My intention is to open up space for communication and understanding of this disease. The more we talk about it, the less shameful it feels.