On Tuesdays I go to a yoga class at Country Boy Brewing which is led by one of my favorite people, Cara Thomas. She is my favorite yoga instructor because she keeps the practice fun and doesn’t take herself too seriously. I’m sufficiently challenged during class but also get to relax and recharge which is my main reason for doing yoga in the first place. One phrase that Cara repeatedly states during class is “practice accurate self-assessment,” she’ll usually say this before going into a difficult pose or showing us how to take a pose to a more challenging level. She’s always encouraging us to listen to our bodies and know when we’ve reached our limit. I’ve taken this phrase and applied it to myself as a whole. I’ve practiced accurate self-assessment and realized that I’m not in the place I want to be at.
I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for years but that doesn’t mean I am good at knowing when things are starting spiral downward. I have a lot of pride and I want to believe that I can pull myself out of a rut. I’ll exercise, I’ll spend time with friends, I’ll distract my bad thoughts with happy ones, I’ll take my medication regularly – and I’ll be fine. Sometimes this works, but sometimes it doesn’t. I feel guilty when it doesn’t work, I feel that I’ve failed with what should be a simple task, keeping myself happy or if not happy at least ok. But the truth is that my responsibility isn’t to keep myself happy, my responsibility is to recognize when I’m not ok and to seek help.
The past couple weeks have been a whirlwind of highs and lows. From celebrating the 100th Birthday of my Grandfather with family to losing another member of my family, and not getting the chance to say goodbye. Questions have settled on my mind, heavy questions such as “where is my life heading?” “Am I happy with who I am becoming?” “Am I enough to the people around me who rely on me?” I sit at my desk at work and often have the unexplainable urge to crawl under my desk and stay there. Any small miscommunication with my boyfriend turns into screaming and crying. If text messages that I send to friends aren’t replied to within the hour, I start to panic and wonder what I did to upset them. There are too many hours in a day when all the hours are spent overanalyzing every situation and at the same time there aren’t enough hours in the day to make me feel as if I’ve accomplished anything.
I actively try to fix it. I take my medication every morning, I take 10 minutes a day to practice Mindfulness, I attend yoga once a week, I attend Cyclebar classes at least three times a week, I make myself spend time with friends, I make myself call my father, I read books, I listen to podcasts. Unfortunately, it isn’t always enough. A few weeks ago, Kate Spade took her own life, followed by Anthony Bourdain. These deaths were all over the news and social media and I realized that I wasn’t ok. I wasn’t ok and I was afraid. Afraid that if I wasn’t ok, how much more not ok would I have to be to make a decision that I couldn’t take back.
So I made an appointment to get a therapist. I am a huge advocate of therapy for everyone, not just people who struggle with mental illness. I had an amazing therapist for three years but she wasn’t covered by my insurance and I couldn’t afford to go anymore. I realized that I need therapy right now. It was incredibly scary to call someone brand new and tell them who I am and how I feel. Would they take me seriously? Would they understand? Could they help me? I made an appointment and I told a complete stranger the inner depths of my messed up thoughts. I was placed with a therapist and went to see her this week. She listened to me and told me that I should be proud of myself that I was able to recognize the signs of a depressive episode and that I sought help.
I’m sharing this for a few reasons. First and foremost, I want to break the stigma around mental illness and therapy. Your mental health matters just as much (if not more) than your physical health. Never be ashamed to seek help for your mental health. Therapy is an amazing thing for everyone, you face so much in your daily life, getting an outside perspective is so good for you. Second, I want the people around me to understand more about anxiety and depression. If you want to help people around you struggling with mental illness, it helps to understand it. We need allies, people who support us on the good and the bad days.
I’m not in the best place but I’m practicing accurate self-assessment to get myself to where I want to be. I urge you to check in with yourself mentally and emotionally, it’s ok to not be ok, and it’s ok to get help.