Mental Health Awareness Month

by - 9:10 PM

May in Mental Health Awareness Month! I've been thinking about sharing some things about my own experience with mental health for a while. I'm a big believer that the only way to decrease stigma is to be willing to talk about things, and I figured this month would be a good time. I'm still extremely nervous to share this. Please be nice.
I started having Panic Attacks/Panic Disorder during my freshmen year of college. After my car accident that summer, I began struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. (These are both clinically diagnosed with the criteria found in the DSM-5 which I recommend looking at before you throw mental illnesses like these around. Another topic for another day). After trying everything I could think of, I was at the point that I felt I was just going to have to accept these things as part of my human experience. Moving to Arkansas and starting graduate school was really hard on my mental health. As I'm sure you've seen, anxiety and depression often come hand in hand as problems for someone to deal with like two sides of the same coin. This is because they both can be correlated with a decreased amount of serotonin in the brain.  I entered a major depressive episode after moving to Arkansas that lasted for about 7 or 8 months total. Around the beginning of this time, I had some people remind me (thank you Dad and Brian) that the way I was feeling did not have to be my new normal. These were not things about myself that I had to accept. Mental health is just as important as any other kind of health.
There are problems that you can encounter mentally that cannot be fixed with time, rest, change, prayer, exercise, friends, etc., the same way that there are physical things that need medical intervention. I know this because I tried them all. Even though I was terrified to do it, I decided to begin looking for a mental health medication that could work for me in October because I was at the end of my rope in a lot of ways. Every day was a bad day, and I couldn't do anything to fix it.
After 7 months of trying, 4 medications, too many side effects, and some dosage adjustments, I am soooooo happy to have finally found something that works for me. I finally feel like myself again after a very long time of feeling entirely empty and exhausted. I'm actually a wholly healthy person for the first time in forever. This doesn't mean that I don't have bad days just that they come far less often, and I am much better equipped to deal with them.
If you are on this journey, I just wanted you to know that you aren't alone. I was really close to giving up a lot throughout this process, and I'm so glad I didn't. I know how frustrating these things can be when you're trying so hard to feel better and nothing seems to work. At a point, you forget what feeling better would even be like. It feels never ending, but it isn't. There is a light at the end of this tunnel. Keep trying.

P.S. I would recommend talking to someone who has been through this process as you are going through yours. I will gladly be that person for you! If you have questions about anything medication or mental health related, I would love to answer them from what I've experienced or researched. I know there are a lot of people who have never experienced these kinds of things. These are very common issues to deal with though, so I do think attempting to be educated is very important.

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