Living With Mental Illness

This post is quite personal and difficult for me to share. I’ve toyed with it for quite a long while and finally feel like I’m able to, hopefully. I think it’s important to remember that those blogs we read, and those instagrams we follow have real, living, breathing human beings behind them, who feel emotions, who go through struggles and times of joy, who have many experiences we can each relate to. So it goes without saying (but I’ll say it) that I’m obviously part of that. My life may seem a specific way to you, heck you might think it’s pretty damn nice. And it can be, I won’t deny that, but it is not always. As you may or may not know, this week is Mental Health Awareness Week here in Canada. I bring this up because even though I may not reach millions of people on this blog, I do reach a few thousand, and I felt as someone who has suffered and watched close people around me suffer from mental illness, it feels important that I share my story, if only to feel like this is a truly honest space that I’m not ashamed or afraid to admit my truths, and also if in the smallest way I can help anyone, or open a dialogue about this subject, inform, whatever the case may be, then I have done a small part in helping raise awareness for illnesses that effect 1 in 5 people every year (oh god, I sound like a mental health ad. ha!)

To get right into it, I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which are not uncommon mental illnesses to be diagnosed together, they kind of go hand in hand, in my opinion anyway. I was diagnosed with MDD back in high school, I think just over 10 years ago. I chalk the cause of my illnesses up to genetics, for the most part – it just runs in the family. In some ways I feel both lucky and unlucky that I grew up in a home that knew mental illness well. Lucky because when my parents noticed the signs they knew what to do (for the most part), but unlucky because living with someone who suffers from mental illness is not easy, for either parties. I grew up watching MDD takes it toll on my family in many negative ways, so while I knew much about it and never passed judgment on those who suffer, it was kind of a nightmare. So, imagine knowing that you too may end up affecting those you love in a negative way, maybe you already do…It’s best not to look at things that way though.

What is MDD?
Incase you aren’t really sure what MDD is, it’s essentially a depressed mood/state for most of the day that lasts for extended periods of time (ie weeks, months…). For some people this only happens once in their life, maybe from a traumatic event, a death of a loved one, injury…there are many causes. For others, however, it can be a lifetime, with reoccuring episodes.
Now you might picture in your head someone who is totally non-functioning when you think of clinical depression – can’t get out of bed, someone who looks sorrowful, a real drag of a person, sluggish – but that really is not the case. Many people who suffer from MDD are quite capable of leading normal, productive lives, it’s just, in the easiest of terms, harder. Not only does MDD affect the mind, but it also affects the body.You know those commercials that say “depression hurts”, well it really does, all over. If I’m having one of my bad days, all of me feels unwell. I personally have lived with it so long that I don’t really know any other way – I have my bad days, I have my okay days, and I have my just darn fine days. And to be honest, for quite a long while I felt just fine. I stopped taking anti-depressants and I thought maybe I wasn’t one of those people that would have it for life, that maybe I could control my emotions and feelings and thoughts just by choosing to be happy…but it’s not that simple with MDD. Which brings me to my GAD.

What is GAD?
GAD is chronic and exaggerated worry and tension even though nothing is provoking it, throughout much of the day, if not all day.
I’ve always been an anxious person, and I never felt it truly got in the way of my life when I was younger. I would get anxious over normal things that anyone would get anxious over, but sometimes it felt a bit excessive, like I couldn’t think of anything but that worry. Fortunately, I didn’t normally have much to worry about back then, so that feeling would go away once I solved the problem. However, that changed entirely. To be honest, it was only very recently that I was diagnosed with GAD, although it has probably been going on for much longer. My anxiety felt like it had no cause, which made it near impossible to figure out how to stop it, and instead my mind would start obsessing over things, so much so that it was debilitating my ability to actually do anything. It sometimes felt like I was just existing in my mind. But I have always felt like I can manage my anxiety, however, the panic attacks were what really got me. In complete disclosure, only a few months ago did my life become almost unbearable because of the panic attacks GAD caused me. To put it frankly, panic attacks are the fucking worst.

What are panic attacks?
If we break it down into the simplest of terms, it’s that fight or flight feeling you get when you have been spooked. When your body feels in danger, it sends out signals and adrenaline telling you to protect yourself or flee the situation. It’s just basic human instinct for survival. Now imagine that feeling, but for no reason at all. My first panic attack – that was caused by nothing apparent to me – happened while I was sitting on the couch with Ryan, watching TV. Clearly there is nothing to panic about in that situation, but my mind told me otherwise. A panic attack can come on pretty abruptly, and my first one caught me out of nowhere. My best way of explaining it was a wave of fear came over. It felt like if fear had a form, it was a sheet and it was suffocating me. I couldn’t breath, I thought maybe I was having a stroke, maybe I needed to go to the emergency as soon as possible…something awful was happening. After that initial one, the attacks happened occasionally, like maybe once every few months, then it started happening almost weekly, and then finally, daily. My panic attacks got so bad it felt unbearable to be alive. This made my MDD so much worse because I thought to myself, if I have to live feeling panicked all day long, which is both mentally and physically draining (think cold sweats, panic, hyperventilating…), then what kind of life is this? Honestly, I wish panic attacks on no one. Panic attacks are difficult for people to understand if they have never been through them. But I think if you know someone who suffers from them, you should learn as much as you can about them.

Getting help.
Even though I had done the whole medication, seeing a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapist) shindig as a teenager, it felt kind of new because I didn’t have my parents here to help me through, to set things up, to solve my problems for me. It was up to me to go get help. But it’s scary getting help – you think you can fix your problems, you think tomorrow will be a better day, you think what’s the point, but you also just cannot figure out how because your brain is so consumed with anxiety and sadness that it’s impossible to make yourself do anything, like make yourself a meal, let alone set up an appointment, see a doctor and work your mind out. It’s a frightening thing, but I went to the doctor, I got back on meds, and it was the best thing I did. I haven’t had a panic attack since I started my medication which I can say with a huge sigh of relief. Medication doesn’t solve all my problems, but when it comes to my attacks and anxiety, it has made immense changes in my life.

How I help myself.
Back when I first moved to Toronto and I thought I was able to control my moods without the help of medication and talking it out with someone, the thing that helped me most, and I really believe it did, was Taoism. Now I am in no way a religious person, but Taoism isn’t so much a religion as it is a way of thinking or rather, not thinking, at least in my opinion. Reading books on Taoism really calmed me and helped me to live in the present, because one of the most debilitating parts of depression and anxiety is not being able to exist in the present moment and being consumed by your thoughts. Taoism helps you to focus more on your actual physical presence. I find I don’t use what I have learned from Taoism as much as I used to, which is something I would like to get back into.

So?
To me, I feel it is important that we do not judge those who suffer from mental illness, however minor or severe it is. You likely wouldn’t be scared of or look at someone funny who had cancer or diabetes, so why should it be any different for mental illness? I understand the mind can be a scary thing, and when it is unwell it can make people act in a way that is unnerving to those around them. I recently was on the subway (metro, train et.al.), and a man was walking up and down the subway yelling things that made very little sense or at least felt very out of context, and people were so quick to move away, so quick to tell him to shut up or make jokes at his expense. He probably didn’t even register anyone around him, let alone hear the unkind words, but I felt sad, for him, in a way, I mean imagine being that sick, but what made me more sad was that human beings are so quick to judge, so quick to be disgusted by something that was so apparently out of his control. I mean, if he could control it, do you really think he would be doing it? Would you start yelling nonsense if you could help it? It’s so easy to judge people when we are unwilling to put ourselves in their shoes.

I’m no doctor and I’m definitely not an expert on this subject. To say I know how to perfectly deal with my illnesses would be a complete lie. I feel like I am still figuring that out each day. I’m not sure I could give tips on how to deal, because often, I don’t know if I deal all that well. But if you suffer or know someone who suffers from mental illness, it’s important to talk about it, and it’s important to get help. It sounds so stereotypical to say that, like I’m a living advertisement for Mental Health or something, but I really mean that. If nothing else, I’m happy to chat in the comments, or you can send me a private email (you can find my email in the contact section). And at the very, very least, I hope this post made you feel comforted in some way if you have been through something similar, or know someone who has. I’m not here to get sympathy, or to be congratulated for being so brave to talk about it, but rather to share my story in hope that it may resonate with someone who feels alone, or with someone who didn’t know much on the subject at all and now feels encouraged to educate themselves.

xx

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23 thoughts on “Living With Mental Illness

  1. Mona says:

    Hello,
    I hardly know what to write to you but I know that I need to write something. First of all, thank you for writing this important post. I admire you so very much for your openness, and wish that I too will one day be able to be as open and honest and unashamed (I know, why am I ashamed!!) about my own mental illness. Parts of what you’ve written could have been written by me. And I just wanted to say, I understand. I understand you to an extent. I have no idea how your own personal battles are, but I understand you have a battle. It is very important to talk about mental illness, and my family is supportive and much more ready to do talk about it than I am (even though I am the one suffering), but thank you for doing it. And I will say this: I did feel comforted. So often you feel so alone, like you are the only one who is living this way, knowing that there are people out there that also battle everyday makes me both sad (I wouldn’t wish mental illness on my enemies) and understood in a way that is soothing for me.
    I didn’t make much sense. What I wanted to get to is that this post is amazing. And so are you. And I wish you all the best!

    Much love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Larkspur Vintage says:

      Hi Mona, thank you so much for your reply. I’m so glad my post could bring you comfort, that was my intention ❤ Don't feel bad if you feel ashamed. Although I don't think we have anything to be ashamed of, I know all too well being afraid and unwilling to let people know about it. Fortunately, I think mental health awareness has come a long way, but there are still some people who will judge or make assumptions about you just based on the fact that they think we are abnormal. Maybe one day you will feel comfortable sharing, maybe you wont, but that's perfectly okay either way. I'm glad you have family that are understanding and helpful to you. That is so important. I too am very lucky that my family has much knowledge about mental illness and have been so supportive of me. Stuff like that makes a huge difference.
      Please know you are definitely not alone. And I am always hear if you ever want to send me an email larkspur.shoppe@gmail.com
      Also, your reply made perfect sense! haha
      Much love to you and take care of yourself ❤ xoxo

      Like

      • Mona says:

        Hi! Thank you for replying to my reply 😀 Very sweet of you.
        I agree that we don’t have anything do be ashamed about, I keep saying that to others, yet… the feelings of shame are there from time to time. I lost a friend when I “came out” with my mental illness, so as you say we’ve come a long way, but there are individuals who still react to it, and I think it’s because of these people that I’m a bit afraid to talk about it. Thank you very much for your support, you really are incredibly sweet. And I would like to offer the same thing to you, or anyone else who might read this. I am always willing to be there for you, or anyone that might need to talk (curlsncakes@gmail.com).
        Thank you so very much ❤
        I'm glad it made a bit of sense 😀
        You take care of yourself also, you wonderful human.
        Much love

        Like

      • Larkspur Vintage says:

        I am so sorry to hear you lost a friend over that. But you are probably better off. If someone can’t understand and be supportive, they are not worth having in your life. There are plenty of people who will love and accept you, regardless of any illnesses you have. But, I totally understand you being fearful to share because of that experience. Thank you for your kind words, you are so sweet. Much love to you ❤

        Like

  2. Juliana says:

    I’ve never commented before, but as a regular follower of your blog who was recently diagnosed with GAD, I just wanted to thank you for talking about this. I feel it really helps if people have some degree of understanding of what’s going on, but I often hesitate to talk to people about my issues.

    Like

    • Larkspur Vintage says:

      Hi Juliana, thank you so much for commenting. I am so happy that you felt compelled to share a bit with me. I’m so sorry you are going through struggles with GAD. I hope you are on the road to recovery and feeling well. It is incredibly hard to talk about personal issues. Don’t feel like you need to. If and when you do, you will know it’s right. Believe me that it took me a long while to psych myself up to write this. I am a pretty private person when it comes to things like this, I always fear I will be judged and thought to be “crazy”. It takes time to accept yourself and know that you are not “crazy” and that many people go through the same struggles. It helps to write things like this, so those who do judge people, or have a hard time understanding, are able to learn, and see that we are normal people, we just have a hard time.
      Much love to you darling xoxo

      Like

  3. Danielle says:

    It was very brave of you to post this — I admire you for being so open. I think it’s so important for people to feel that they aren’t alone in battling mental illness and honest posts like these definitely spread awareness. There is such a harsh stigma against things like depression, and I think denial of it bars some people from seeking the help they need. There is far more negative judgement than compassion towards people who struggle with mental illness. It’s just not right.

    I suffer from depression and anxiety as well. It’s incredibly debilitating and it feels almost impossible to explain it to those around you who don’t understand why you simply can’t leave the house some days. Thankfully my close friends understand it and those that judged me harshly for it are no longer in my life.

    When my anxiety/depression gets bad I set aside time for an at-home spa night. I put on a mud mask, drink lavender tea, maybe take a hot bath, listen to zen music, and read. It’s so important to take care of yourself when you’re feeling unwell. I’ll have to look into Taoist books!

    Thank you for this heartfelt post!

    xo danielle @ teaconjurer.com

    Like

    • Larkspur Vintage says:

      Thank you so much Danielle. I definitely agree, I think alot of people avoid getting help because they think it makes them weak in the eyes of society. It’s so unfortunate. But honestly, after posting this, I have had so much positive feedback, so many understanding replies, it makes me feel like we are going in the right direction.
      I’m so sorry to hear you suffer from anxiety and depression, I know it all too well. I’m glad you have friends who are understanding and that you feel you can be open with. That is so important. All my closest friends know of my illnesses, and I make sure that they do, I want to be able to give all of myself to those close to me, and if they cannot understand it, then they probably shouldn’t be in my life anyway.
      Thank you for the tip on the spa night. I do sometimes do that, all those things you listed are things I enjoy doing and help me relax and focus my mind. And yes, please do check out Taoism, it’s nice because trying to understand it helps to take your mind off things, it gets your mind working, and helps it feel calm, while also trying to teach you to stop thinking so much and just let yourself be.
      Much love to you and take care of yourself xoxo ❤

      Like

  4. Christina says:

    That was so nice to read, and brave of you to write it down..! I like it when people open up about things that are so usual – we all know at least one person who suffers of such illnesses – yet no one discuss them easily.

    I went through depression at 16, I never saw a therapist because I felt strong enough to deal with it on my own, there was so much inner dialogue, so much writing and writing in notebooks to get it out of me, tears and emptiness for about two years. It runs in my family as well, luckily as it seems it only passed down to me but I haven’t suffered from it since then, because there hasn’t been anything to make me really sad. And because finding love has made everything bright in me, it made me whole and stronger to deal with mental or practical issues. Since I didn’t see a therapist I don’t know if it counts for MDD, but it was rather hard, if I didn’t have the strength of mind and will I had from a young age, I may have suffered from it again.

    Like

    • Mona says:

      I’m sorry put I need to say something about what you wrote, and I mean no disrespect. But being “strong” doesn’t have anything to do with suffering from mental illness. Even the strongest of people can suffer from depression. And as far as I can tell from my own depression and from the things I’ve read, depression really isn’t about being sad. It’s very different from being sad, it’s not like the depression disappears when you don’t have anything to be sad about. If it was like that, then it wouldn’t be a disorder/illness.

      Like

    • Larkspur Vintage says:

      Hi Christina, thank you so much for your reply ❤ I also like when people are honest and discuss real things on their blogs, so I felt it was important that I do. I'm sorry you went through a hard time at 16, being a teenager is indeed a very hard time on it's own, let alone when you are suffering from an illness. I know my teens years were extremely difficult for me, probably some of the worst times in my life, aside from more recently. I do however have to agree with Mona that sometimes depression has nothing to do with being strong or about being sad about something in particular. If you look at my life, aside from a few unfortunate things that have happened to me, I don't really have anything to be sad about, however, I still do have depression. In my case, it's a chemical imbalance. Things such as love, like you said, can help, for a time, but love alone doesn't make it go away. Anyways, I'm very happy to hear that you have not had reoccurring depression. Stay strong. Much love to you ❤

      Like

      • Christina says:

        Hello to both again! I’m sorry if it didn’t come out the right way, English is not my mother tongue and I maybe set this wrong. I didn’t mean that it has anything to do with being strong or being sad. I just meant that while I was depressed I felt strong enough to deal with it in my own, that’s why I didn’t feel the need to see a therapist. I didn’t mean to belittle anyone’s experience or feelings.
        I too had no particular reason to be sad then but I still was depressed. It was something sad that started it but it wasn’t based on a specific event. I don’t claim to have the have kind of condition or the same kind of experience of course, it’s just that for me, it happens from time to time but not so deep as then.
        Hope I didn’t insult anyone, I just wanted to express the way I felt it. Maybe what I had has nothing similar to what you discribed and my comment is completely pointless, in that case I’m sorry for the confusion….!

        Like

      • Christina says:

        Aftter taking another read at the comments, I feel like I shouldn’t comment about depression in that aspect because my case was probably an one time event and I don’t have enough knowledge on it as an illness/disorder. Obviously living with it as an illness is so different than what I had in mind when comparing myself, so let’s just say that my comment was a little out of context, I should be more careful when discussing serious subjects as this one..! Much love to all!

        Like

      • Larkspur Vintage says:

        Oh my goodness Christina, I did not want for you to feel like you said something wrong. Everyone has their own experiences, and you are absolutely allowed to share and comment. Your experience is no less important than anyone elses. I’m just happy people are talking about. So please to feel bad or feel like you said something wrong. Take care xx ❤

        Like

  5. misslucysladybug says:

    Thank you for your very honest and brave post. Living with depression and anxiety is challenging but I always find it helpful to know there are others with a shared experience. Take care

    Like

    • Larkspur Vintage says:

      Thank you so much for replying. I’m glad you could find comfort in this post. It is indeed nice knowing (although unfortunate) that many people have personal experiences with depression and anxiety. Much love to you ❤ xoxo

      Like

  6. Anna says:

    Great post! I know people will find hope in this. Although I’m very sorry you have to deal with this, I’m glad you wrote about your experiences. They sure does resonate. What you said about getting help is so true. Although my diagnoses were OCD and panic disorder, my experience sounds very similar to what you’ve described. Medication changed my life. It took about eight weeks to fully start working, but I haven’t had a panic attack since then, and it really helps with the obsessions. CBT therapy has also helped. All the best, and thanks for this post.

    Like

    • Larkspur Vintage says:

      Thank you so much for commenting Anna. I’m so happy to hear that medication has been helping you. I can really relate. I sometimes wonder how I went so long feeling the way I did, not having any real idea that it could actually be better. While I have never been diagnosed with panic disorder or OCD, I don’t doubt I have at the very least, a mild form of panic disorder, I wasn’t at the point of being unable to leave my home, but I really was quite impaired by the panic attacks, just in constant fear that it would happen again. Anyways, I’m sorry you’ve been having a hard time, but I’m so happy to hear you are doing better and have not had any panic attacks, that is such a relief. Much love to you xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lora by Lora says:

    Great post. Thank you for being honest and sharing. I am sorry you have tp deal with this. I might not be suffering from any of this but I now have an idea of how to relate to those around me who do. Thank you for sharing your story. Hugs

    Like

    • Larkspur Vintage says:

      I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve read a bit on PMDD, although I can’t say I am hugely familiar with it, but I understand the struggles that come with it. Bipolar is such a tough illness as well. I hope both you and your family member are doing well and taking care of yourselves. I agree it is wonderful to share stories. I’ve had so many people start sharing with me and I think that is incredibly important ❤

      Like

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