I’ve always had a voice, but sometimes it has disappeared under the onslaught of pressures, real and imagined, work and personal. If you read my blog, you probably think things have gone pretty well for me: I’ve got the freedom and money to travel, friends and family, and good physical health. But it hasn’t always been that way. On this, both my birthday and World Mental Health Day, I’m sharing one of my mental health struggles and how I found my voice again.
In 2012, I cracked. I had been under the pressure of caring for family members and working a job with lots of travel, then looking for another job after I got laid off. I was going through the motions of living but I had been feeling stuck and deeply unhappy for months, losing energy and hiding out from friends. I blindly refused to see I had slowly slid down into a major depressive episode.
It all came to a head when I slammed a door on a friend’s car and she called me on it. It was something that wouldn’t have bothered me all that much a few years earlier but that day, I completely lost it. She did what a good friend does, she held me accountable for my actions and painful as it was, I could see she was right. There was something wrong with me.
I knew this place I had fallen into. I had been here years before, when my life had spiraled down into a small, dark place. The last time, I had taken prozac for a year or so, weaning off it as I got better. I didn’t want the prozac this time. It had flattened the highs as well as the lows and I felt fuzzy the whole time I was on it.
This time I wanted to do the work to figure out what had gone wrong and how to fix it. How to fix me. I was ready to see a therapist, talk to someone about all the stuff bottled up inside me for so long.
I picked out three therapists to see which one I responded to the best. It felt a bit like the story of Goldilocks. One therapist was way too concerned with getting fresh air even though I was cold in her frigid office (she offered me a blanket!). The second one scared the crap out of me with her intensity. The third one was gentle and curious, and her initial questions made me feel I could trust her. I went with her.
I saw my therapist twice a week for four months, with homework between sessions. We walked through some hard times and the box of tissues was never far away on the couch where I sat and talked and talked and talked. Ever so slowly, the darkness eased and bits of light crept in. I started to see the way forward unfolding.
There was no miracle moment, no time when I thought, “Aha, that’s the thing I need to fix!” and voilà, it was done. It was a lot of work. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I wasn’t “cured” in four months, but I knew how to move ahead on my own, and my therapist was there for backup.
I grew up when mental illness was a stigma. We didn’t talk about it and we certainly didn’t broadcast it to the world at large. We live in a different time now, and I am happy as hell that we do. I can say, without shame, that I was clinically depressed and therapy helped me find my way. It gave me back my voice.
I’m using that voice today, on World Mental Health Day, to say that if you need help, ask for it. Get help. Keep asking for it. Keep getting help until you feel better, until you find your voice again. You’re so worth it. Even if you don’t think so right now. Trust me, you are worth it.
- Learn about depression: National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI)
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 in the US and a live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds via a secure online platform. Canada: text HOME to 686868. UK: text HOME to 85258.
- Suicide Prevention Helpline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.