A journey towards mental health
Mental health is a journey, but you can find comfort in the fact that we are all on that journey. Everyone’s may look different, some people may be more tapped into theirs than others, but what we all have in common is that we cannot shut our minds off- which can get a bit noisy. So I personally define mental health as creating psychological and emotional clarity for that voice that never shuts up. There are so many ways I can go about writing this blog. It could go into scientific facts (which would most likely be wrong because I’m no doctor), I could go into statistics, or stories I’ve heard, or try and make it really light hearted and just give you apps for meditation (which don’t get me wrong are awesome). But, what I’m going to do instead is get pretty personal, because this is a personal subject for me, and small business is personal. I’m going to share my journey with mental health. What its looked like, how bad its gotten, and how I decided I needed change, and the tangible things I did (and am still doing) to get through. Ok here we go.
I remember my first depressive episodes riddled with anxiety being at the age of six. They have since come in waves on and off. There are an endless amount of reasons a person can struggle with mental health. For me, it has taken a lot of therapy to figure out, but I can basically boil it down to genetics (most women on one side of my family all struggle with depression and anxiety), being mentally abused by my step-father for twenty years, being sexually traumatized as a child and pre-teen, being in several physically and mentally abusive relationships, and finding it hard to love and accept who I am.
My most recent battles with depression and anxiety have been the worst. They started about two and a half years ago. It was triggered by someone extremely close to me attempting suicide. Which then pushed just about every trigger I have ever had. Plus, I was getting married, and although that is a very happy thing, men in general still really scared me. I had a lot of issues around men I hadn’t worked through. The depression consumed my life. I couldn’t get out of bed on most days, I couldn’t get through the day without having a breakdown or anxiety/panic attack. I resumed old habits of hurting myself and came super close to ending my life all together.
Thinking about this time of my life, that was not too long ago, still hurts and brings back so many feelings of darkness. But I bring it up because it is still fresh, and I remember how hard it was to wake up one day and say “I cannot live this way, I won’t be able to live this way, I need to end it or I need to get better.” And then I chose to get better.
I wish it was just an AHA! Moment and that I could tell you I snapped out of it right away. But it has been a long journey. It has been slowly moving forward, then taking two steps back, inching forward again, then pushing back. It has been a beautiful, enlightening, and painful process. The main reason I wanted to write this blog is because I realize there are so many more people going through similar seasons, or people with loved ones they want to help but are unsure how. So I will start by saying it is extremely hard to push back the sadness and figure out how to get better. Insurance, therapist, psychiatrist, and (all the -ist in general), are not fun to look up and sort through. But I promise it is so, SO, worth doing.
I also understand that this is a fashion brand and that I should most likely be writing about how to transition your closet from summer to fall, but this brand has never been a-typical. To me mental health is an extremely important issue that is not talked about as much as it needs to be. I personally kept my mental illness hidden for so long. And yes, although YIREH is a fashion label, there are actual human beings wearing the clothing and I think that person is the most important part of it all.
So, that being said here are a few things that I have been doing for the last two years that have helped:
The first thing I did was realize I needed medication. It was life or death for me and I needed immediate help to then get in a better mental state to actively work on my issues. Medication is controversial, and not for everyone, but it saved my life so I am personally pro-medication when it comes down to it. I saw my primary care doctor for this because I didn’t know where else to go. Since, then I’ve been seeing a psychiatrist who professionally diagnosis you and prescribes medication. I had been taking Zoloft, I started out at 25mg and gradually went up until I got to 150 mg which seemed to be the correct dosage for me. Today, as I write this after two years of being on the medication, I am completely off (only because I am pregnant and it was a personal decision). I am off and I feel amazing. I’m not sure if it is all of the pregnancy hormones changing the chemical makeup of my brain or the past couple years of therapy, but I can honestly say I am extremely happy. Which is another reason I think it is so important to share this because I came from being suicidal to now having a zest for life, and I know the same is possible for others.
The next thing I did was find a therapist (more on how to do this below). Medication is not for everyone, and maybe therapy isn’t either, but I personally believe every single human can benefit from seeing a therapist. However, finding the right one is a lot like dating. It can take a lot of time to find THE one (which is why I knew I needed the medication first). The first therapist I met with didn’t work out, the second one I met with we didn’t click, and then finally the third I’ve been going to for almost a year. It really helps to talk to a neutral party, who you can lay it all out on the table for. They can then help you pick up the pieces without bias or judgement. It’s important you feel like you can trust the person you’re talking to, and that you feel safe with. I knew I wouldn’t feel safe with a male therapist so I’ve only ever seen a female- and that’s OK. You have to go into this experience knowing that every session is not going to end feeling good, and that in order for it to actually work, you have to give it your all. The therapist isn’t going to fix you, they are there to help you along the journey and give you tips and insight you may have not known. Ultimately, you have to be the one open to getting better, and trying new things in order to do so. It is not easy to talk about your most vulnerable self. However, over time it gets better, I promise. If you stick with it and actively pursue change, you will eventually begin to get better, and healthier, and stronger. You will also develop a profound emotional intelligence and things will slowly begin to make sense. You will be able to fight all of those head monsters and come out the other side so extremely proud of yourself for doing so. It is hard, but it is worth it.
Something else I’ve done is set strict boundaries, with people and myself. I am a person of routine and I decided my mornings would be for me. I work out, read and journal through what I’m currently working on in the morning and it starts my day off clear headed and energized. But if I miss it one day I’m not hard on myself. I am also really honest with myself and with others when I need to rest. Rest has played a huge role in clearing my mind, but letting myself rest hasn’t been easy, I usually feel guilty for doing so immediately. I’m also very honest with what I can and can’t commit to. I used to say yes to everything, and now I only say yes to things that bring me peace or that I know I can commit to. It’s not worth doing it if you’re going to absolutely hate going or doing it, especially in a season of healing. Better to just say no, or not right now. This has lost me a few friends, but good riddance. If people do not respect your boundaries then they are not people you necessarily need in your life. So get intentional, what can you do more of, and what can you let go and do less of that will bring you more peace.
Books have played a huge role in my healing process. There are so many good books out there that can help you change your perspective, get unstuck on issues, or simply just learn. Some good books I’ve read recently are anything Brene Brown, Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, Love Does by Bob Goff, and Love Lives Here by Maria Goff. But I also recommend going to the Self Improvement section of Barnes and Noble and just searching through titles and reading descriptions. I’ve found some gems doing that.
Finding a community of people I can talk to has been key. Luckily, my husband has been a huge support and has joined me in therapy for the past couple of years. Finding someone who is willing to walk through the darkest times of your life, whether it is a husband, friend, family member, church group, dog walking friends- whoever it may be is such a treasure to have. If you don’t currently have support like this, please don’t get discouraged. Luckily, there are so many groups out there these days that you can join, or activities you can start up (always wanted to paint, or dance, or do yoga? Now is a great time to start!) to simply just get new routines and take your mind off of negative thinking patterns. Surfing and yoga has been a big outlet for me and also made me new friends in the process.
My biggest help in all of this has been spirituality. It can look different for everyone, but for me it has been believing in a God that is for me. I have held tightly to the belief that the world is a good and beautiful place no matter what has been thrown at me and those around me. This belief is what has kept me holding on through it all and continues to propel me forward. It has given me an understanding that bad things do happen, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything then has to be bad. Through my belief in God I have begun the process of meditating, and setting intentions that keep me on track towards where I want to go. I also have changed the way I speak, instead of dwelling in negative language I try my best to speak out of a place of love and light. Doing this then helps me to begin to see those things even when the bad comes.
Last, have patience with yourself. Healing takes time. Find what works for you, and don’t be afraid to try new things.
This has been very vulnerable to write out, and I’ve done it many times going into extreme detail, and then erasing everything. At this time this is what I’m most comfortable sharing with the world. I find it hardest to write and talk about things when you’re still going through them. But I also know that it is empowering to tell your story and to share. I have a heart for doing my best to inspire and empower others. The journey of navigating through mental illness has been an extremely hard one for me, but I really want others to know that it is possible, and that when you feel like giving up, to know that you’re not alone and that there is someone out there that has made it out the other side and promises (and I don’t promise often) that it’s worth fighting for.