Mental Health Awareness Month

  • I will likely keep editing, but I am eager to post this, now or never.  And it’s the last time I’m deleting it! So there. Also, second post in a row that is not related to fashion. Oops!

Last night, my boyfriend and I were watching Chris Gethard’s stand up comedy called ‘Career Suicide’. To be honest, I had never heard of Chris Gethard (shame on me!), nor was I aware that May is Mental Health Awareness Month (slap on the hand!). His standup took a humorous take on what is otherwise an all but funny topic. Gethard spoke on his experiences with depression, anxiety, and alcoholism, and I could relate to everyone of them. I’ve often heard that depression is difficult to put into words, and I can also attest to that. If you know me well, you know that I have dealt with depression and anxiety for a good portion of my life. Or hell, perhaps you didn’t realize, because I spent a good portion of my 20’s trying to hide it. I can best describe depression as a blanket. At its worst, I constantly had it wrapped around me; a perpetual sadness that  lingered. The thoughts, “I’m not happy” clung on to me with determination. They were there during work, when enjoying the company of my friends, and they would especially find me when I was alone with my thoughts. I would practice a compulsive habit of asking myself, “what is wrong with me?” and the answer would always be “everything. Mental illness runs in my family and after years of seeing my loved ones cope with their own disease, I couldn’t imagine a life where I had the power to feel okay. Considering my family’s history, there were times when I resented my parents for bringing me into this world.  Believe me, that is not an easy sentence to type. It’s at this point in my writing, that I ask myself, where exactly am I going with this? This post is not meant to be all gloom (I do have a sense of humor after all believe me I do!). And I haven’t even touched on my experiences with anxiety and my relationship with alcohol. I do know that anxiety and depression often go hand in hand, and I never really knew which came first, the anxiety or the sadness. One sort of fed into the other, but I do recall having anxiety before I could even formulate my experience with depression. I was a nervous child in school, and the pangs of dread never really left. With that said, my anxiety was always manageable until around the time I hit puberty. High school in particular was difficult for me. Like many, I never felt that I belonged anywhere, and I was dealing with issues at home. My coping mechanisms began to form into an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and I discovered drinking to be the one place where I felt solace. I have too many stories, both funny and saddening, and they deserve their individual post. I will say, that I have lost friends to due to my behavior. When you’re on the other side of depression, I would imagine that it’s difficult to understand it. It’s been a struggle for myself to comprehend, and I’m the one living with it. You can only avoid your friends for so long, break plans or act like a drunken mess before they hit their limit.  Some people, although well intentioned, didn’t have the tools to cope with me either. What I want to emphasize now, is that I searched for help. My first time seeing a therapist was at the age of 20, and truthfully, he was absolute shit. He had the audacity to claim that I would be on medication forever. That was an unreasonable diagnosis led by a 45 minute conversation. Eventually, I encountered kind and understanding doctors who realized I was suffering and believed that I didn’t have to. It wasn’t till my late 20’s that I came to my own epiphany. Today I not only understand, but whole heartedly believe that I deserve to live a life without pain. I currently see a therapist who has been heaven-sent. I am under a controlled cocktail of medications (message me, I am more than happy to share).  And holy shit, I’m actually happy! Like, I look forward to experiences, and meeting up with people, and even sharing this story makes me happy. Trust me, I still battle with certain issues (that’s also a different post), but I am continuing to learn appropriate responses to the struggles around me. Even better, I don’t perceive my life to be a struggle at all. I am embracing the imperfections of it as a place for mental and spiritual growth.

I’ll end the post with this story: I took a picture four years ago of a park in Astoria. It had been a particularly difficult day. Today, I can only assume I was coming down from a drinking binge, although I do remember I had been off my anti anxiety medications for a couple of days. The withdrawals are real, my friends. I had mustered the energy to pick up my medication, but the pharmacy happened to be closed. Not knowing what to do, I stopped by this park and sat down, believing that perhaps nature could cure me for the day. What I did do was cry. I cried like a newborn child and I prayed like a sinner. I simply prayed for the pain to go away. I was exhausted from feeling guilty, unworthy and hollow. After I cried, I took a picture of the park and uploaded it on Facebook with a cute caption that said “…I discovered a new park being built and captured this lovely view. Ready for bike rides and picnics this summer!”. Talk about deception. I laugh now because the picture obviously did not represent my reality. Our self perception is often dependent on how we believe others to perceive us. And we often conform to the image that others may expect from us. That’s a whole lot of fucking pressure. Consider the stigma that is accompanied with mental health, and it’s no wonder so many people are afraid to seek help. I keep that picture as a reminder of how far I have come and as a testimony to my resilience. If you gain anything from this post, is that I extend to you the right to be happy, and the right to feel peace. I plead that you seek assistance, because it might be the most daunting, but bravest thing you will do.

With much love,

Alejandra

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