I don’t write about mental illness here much. I know it’s an incredibly important topic, but I also know that learning disabilities/differences and developmental
|The end of the day may sometimes
be sad, but it still holds beauty.
disabilities/differences are still grouped under the mental illness umbrella all too often. So, I try to address the LD side of things more or less exclusively, to give them the attention they deserve.
Today, I felt the need to talk about my personal struggles with mental health, though.
Many, many people I’ve talked to who are also dyslexic or are on the autism spectrum have fought their own battles with emotional problems. The stress of dealing with stigma, internalized negativity, poor treatment by others and getting a handle on the way your unique mind works is unimaginable. It’s also often invisible, unless you know what to look for.
Part of why I strive to be as positive as I am is that I’ve dealt with depressive thoughts and waves of hopelessness for as long as I can remember.
It always hurts to admit, but I used to self harm and even had a suicide plan in place at one point. No one knew, at the time. I didn’t talk about it, and I made sure to keep the marks well hidden. It’s surprising how easily oceans of hurt can be hidden behind a smile.
Those were bad times, and I might write about them one day after talking with those who were involved in them. The point is, we all survived.
Although I’m in a much better place now, I occasionally find myself sinking back into that hole.
I’ve learned how to counter it without professional intervention, which seems like a novel thing.
For me, education was key. I hit the internet, read personal stories and delved into psychological research. I figured out that the pain from cutting pulled me out of my head enough to calm me down. I’ve accepted that as a part of how I work, and learned how to get around it.
Now, when the urge arises, I channel that need into exercise or doing physical work. Pilates are great for that, as are the never ending dirty dishes and heavy housework.
When I start sinking into a depressive spiral, I turn to writing poetry or fiction. Sometimes I even come up with some pretty good stuff. Sometimes, not so much.
In the warmer months, I go for a walk or run. I also make a point of finding something to appreciate in the moment, even if it’s just the texture of a cat’s fur, the shine of glittery nail polish or the sound of a favorite song.
Usually, I can pull myself out of it alone. If I can’t, I turn to my friends or family for support, and that always helps. If things don’t start getting better? I’d probably take the dive into therapy.
I still have anxiety problems, especially when it comes to money, but I’ve learned to use that gut clenching fear as a way to push forward with my goals and as fuel for creative ways to bring enough income in to pay our bills.
I have a routine in place to manage my personal symptoms. I was lucky enough to figure out how to put it together on my own, but that doesn’t mean there’s any shame at all in seeking professional help.
I have close friends and family who needed to do just that. Once they found something that works for them, they were able to move on with their lives.
Like me, though, I’m sure those old feelings come back from time to time. I don’t think they ever go away completely, like a chronic illness, but they can be managed.
I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time, but was prompted to write this entry by Jared Padalecki’s Always Keep Fighting campaign. Jared is an actor, and seems like a genuinely awesome guy. I found him on Supernatural, but he’s been on other shows, and in a number of movies, as well. He also recently lost a good friend to suicide, which is what spurred him to start the conversation. His campaign is raising funds for what looks like a great organization, To Write Love On Her Arms.
These issues do need a lot of attention, and the stigma around them also needs to be eliminated. In many ways, mental health is getting more attention than the learning differences I regularly write about, but there’s still a long way to go.
Part of the difficulty in depression and other forms of mental illness is the crushing sense of loneliness that comes with them. You really do feel utterly alone in the midst of a low time, and it feels as if it’ll never end. Once you sink far enough, there seems to be only one escape.
The games our minds play on us are cruel, but it’s important to realize that we’re never truly alone, and the vast majority of problems out there are temporary.
There are always resources available, like the suicide hotline and a surprising number of online resources. Tumblr has a fantastic list here.
Even more significant, we need to remember there’s always some sort of community available, whether it’s LD related, religious or even a group of people who are fans of the same thing you are.
You are loved, and you are a vital part of the world. Hang in there, reach out without shame if you need to and, as Jared says, always keep fighting.