In the United States, we don’t often discuss mental health. Mental health issues are problems experienced by “crazies,” they are something that happen to “other” people, not to us. Even in my circle of liberally-minded, open, touchy-feely friends, mental health is rarely discussed, and our own mental states, even less so.
In recent months, however, this has become a real struggle for me, as I find myself battling my own internal demons. After several months of re-acclimatization and transition, I found myself feeling blue and out of sorts this winter, and definitely lonely. After a few months of happiness and respite, I found myself emotionally struggling once again. On top of my initial feelings of loneliness were piled loss, inadequacy, heartache, and a heaping dose of self-blame — the perfect mix for depression.
I found myself lost and alone, at the bottom of a pretty dark hole. I was disinterested in the activities that usually make me feel good and bring me joy. I strove to stay busy, to never have any down time alone. Yet, at the same time, I found myself pushing people away. I was wading in a deep muck.
With the help of some family and friends (some more than they will ever know), I’ve started to see the light twinkling out there in the distance, not so far out of reach. I’m slowly seeking out (and finding) joy again. It’s high time for me to stop pushing out and/or bottling up my feelings, as is my wont; it is time to explore them deeper, to engage in a real discussion with myself.
The reasons for taking this “discussion” to the public forum that is my blog is twofold. First, we all have a tendency to shy away from broaching the subject of our mental health (both individually and collectively), because to acknowledge these challenges would be an admission of vulnerability and perceived weakness. So we bury them under blankets of shame. Yet, whenever I’ve shared my own struggles with friends, I’ve found that they, too, are fighting their own, personal battles. Though we may not have the same war, we are far from alone in fighting. I want to open up the discussion, so that others may also feel the impetus to chime in, or in the very least, to feel less alone. Second, I need to release my emotions, to not bottle them up, and I’m much better at expressing myself through the written word rather than through speaking. It will be much easier for me to open up and express my vulnerability through the added shield of my blog.
Enough of the dark and heavy, I’ve spent too much time with those subjects in recent months. I want to look and strive toward the light. A few weeks ago, one of my dearest friends, M.M., sent me The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. I’m not usually one for the self-help, spiritual enlightenment route, but M.M. sent it to me at the exact right moment. In her book, the author highlights the importance of expressing gratitude for living a full life. Gratitude is not always tied to happiness, but expressing it leads to feelings of greater fulfillment. In the time I’ve spent dwelling on the bad and blaming myself, I have acknowledged the myriad of things for which I am grateful. So, for the next 100 days, I aim to share one thing per day that I am grateful for, big or small. As much as it terrifies me to admit my vulnerability and unhappiness, I hope that this exercise will lead to a path out of these areas.
Without further ado, Day 1…
In my attempt to challenge my depression, I’ve recently moved. I’m hoping that the change of scenery and greater proximity to Seattle’s social spheres will catalyze some change. That being the case, I’m grateful to my first Seattle roommates. Though my housing situation was not always ideal, they were good and gracious roommates. They opened themselves and their friend group to me, the new kid in town. Though they sometimes fell into the trap that all people with long-established friend groups do, they tried to be open and welcoming, and generally succeeded. In them, I have found good, decent friends in tough times. Though they didn’t know exactly what I’ve been going through these last few months, they understood that I desperately needed a change and respected and were flexible with my decision to move out before our lease was up. And they were excited for me. They came by to see my new place and to explore my new neighborhood a bit. I’m grateful they want to keep the doors to this friendship open, even as I choose to forge a separate (but hopefully interwoven) path. I’m grateful for the experience of living with them and for the little ways in which they eased my transition to Seattle.