Mental illness 1.0 – Admitting to yourself that you have it & proactively getting help of any sorts

As I’m typing out these words, the audible version of one of my most favorite books of all time “Furiously happy” by Jenny Lawson is playing in the background. This is the second time I’ve revisited this book since a professional officially put “anxiety disorder” in my medical records 3 years ago. Now that this has worsen, I decided to give it another read/listen, hoping I would find some sort of comfort and assurance, someone telling me that it’s going to ok.

Furiously happy

*So in case you’ve not heard of Jenny Lawson, she is a best-selling American writer who described herself as “high-functioning depressive with severe anxiety disorder, moderate clinical depression. I have avoidant personality disorder and mild self-harm issues that stem from impulse-control disorder and occasional depersonalization disorder”. I read her blog http://thebloggess.com religiously a couple of years ago. I don’t know why I stopped, but I have to start again. I wrote to her expressing how thankful I was finding her book in my dark days, and eventually got a general reply (which I thought was an automatic reply) saying some general encouraging words. I was over the moon when I received it, regardless. I strongly suggest her blog and books to anyone who’s struggling with mental disorder, or is a family member/friend of someone who is suffering from mental illness. Her books are indeed a light-hearted, hilarious, “furiously happy” yet heart-breaking and emotional reads.

I forgot how I came across this book, but I guess it was one of those times I failed so helpless that I was actively seeking for any sort of sympathy. I think I googled “books about anxiety and depression” and this book came up. I really wondered if anyone out there was experiencing the same shit that I was. I first heard of the term “anxiety disorder” after a doctor visit about 3 years ago. Work was busy, and my messed up personal life didn’t help much, causing me to fall extremely sick and constantly anxious. It was one of the wisest things I’d done in my life to bringing my anxious ass to get myself checked. So my advice to anyone who suspects that he/she has any kind of mental illness is to do some proper research. There are tons of quizzes and articles on the internet that will be able to tell you whether if you have mental illness or not. It’s also critical to get yourself checked. You must be informed of what’s going on with you. I personally think that if you’re informed and aware of your conditions, you’ll likely seek help and eventually got better.

So back to my story… My doctor at the time showed great concern when I walked into his office, smiling, but I looked… empty and blank. Like, I was there, but not really THERE, you know. I was traveling a lot for work (which I enjoyed a lot, as a coping mechanism to escape life back home) and preparing for the supposedly most important day of my life – my wedding (which I dreaded). Until the year of 2015, I had never heard anyone tell me that (I’ve received a few more recently). Anyway, I constantly had gastric problems, I always got dizzy, my body would hurt like crazy and I always felt sick at the time. I remember being self-harmed and getting extremely upset when I didn’t work/travel and basically had to deal with people. He ordered some tests for me, but aside from low Vitamin D, I was fine. At least my numbers looked fine. The medications didn’t help much (or did they? I’m not sure), but I never came back for re-visits. I still remember until today the moment when he looked at me and asked “You look fine but can you really manage?” in his French accent. I remember telling my friend that “Hey, you know I have anxiety disorder” after the checkup and he laughed so hard, like “Is it even a thing?”. I found it funny, too. What the hell is “anxiety disorder”? Is it just some lame condition of mentally weak people? I can’t be such a loser. Well, if I could go back to tell myself one thing, I’d say “Honey, stop whatever you’re doing and go back to whatever you were doing before this. That’ll help!”. Little did I know how bad it’d eventually get and how badly it’d affect all aspects of my life back then. I also got suicidal at times but still refused to get help.

Another advice I can give for anyone is aside from actively getting professional help, please let your loved ones know about your conditions and ask for for help. I did get myself checked, but never sticked with the treatment plan. I told my partner at the time that I was prescribed with “anxiety disorder”, and he saw me trying to hurt myself, but I don’t think he ever got it (well, he told me that he tried to be delicate with me, worrying that I’d get suicidal if triggered too much – that’s it). I was crying desperately for help, but he got tired of it and kind of gave up on me, I think. It was kind of a torture to him. With me being clinically depressed and unhappy at the time, it must have been very hard on him too.

Mental illness is still a very alienated term to most of my part of the world. No one gets it. You’re either sane or you’re “crazy” (that you have to go to those “mental institutions and get treated). There’s no grey area. Well, bad news is that I’ve always been in that grey area. It got worse as I aged. I think the only person in my family is kind of understanding with my condition is my mom. She also had friends who suffered depression. One of them allegedly killed herself, one acted insane and always hallucinates, and one just broke down hard. The “community” that I live in is fucking cruel, the closer people are to you, the crueler they are when something goes wrong with you. They made assumptions. They blamed my mom for my acting-up, saying because of her that I’m not normal like other people. I didn’t settle down, give birth and live my life quietly as other domestic women. My parents always told me “Why is it so hard with you? We brought you up, fed you and gave you education. And now there’s your mental health that we have to care about too?”. My dad listed down the things that I did wrong (well, I did do some crazy shit, but I didn’t commit a crime or anything). He’s been sending me Buddhist teachings about zen, and letting go, and enlightenment to me. I appreciate it, but it didn’t help at all. I doubt that Buddhism will be able to cure mental illness. My grandparents blamed my mom for spoiling me (spoiling me caused me to be clinical depressed, anxious and extremely unhappy?). My own brother and “beloved” cousins called me a narcissist of some kind for making my parents & grandparents worry (although I NEVER did anything to them, and they knew nothing). I’m still deeply disappointed and saddened by the fact that no one bothered to ask me how I felt and what I was going through. I couldn’t care less about other people, but not having a support system was indeed hard, and you always have to fight your battles alone.

And if you’re wondering what did I do that was so bad? I quit my long-term job and left a long-term relationship, the 2 main causes of my terrible anxiety and depression. I’ve gone to someone who “had it all” to someone who is “sinking hard” (someone else’s words, not mine). Well, I wish I could flip off and tell that person I’m a lot happier “sinking hard” now than “having it all” like previously. I’ve been set free. I don’t need to lean on any romantic partner to feel secure. I’m more stable now on my own and I’m really thinking of ways to get better.

I never wanted anyone to fight my battles for me, but some help and understanding will be greatly appreciated. You should get help, that’s all I have to say. Don’t fight alone. Get yourself someone like Victor to Jenny Lawson, who is patient, loving, caring and understanding and very informed & educated. Find someone who wouldn’t freak out or give up on you.

I’m nowhere near being completely recovered from depression, but I’m walking baby steps. I could wake up again. I’ve started reading, listening to music and writing. I’m slowly doing the things that I used to love before falling deep into depression.

If I won’t be able to make it, I hope someone will. I hope you know that you’re not alone in this journey. And I wish that we’ll get better 🙂

Until next time!

Rosie

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