No More Meds: Some of the Side-Effects (Part 1)

A few months ago, I finished completely weaning off the meds that I’ve been taking for depression and anxiety for the past two-and-a-half years. I’ve written about the process before, but when it comes to the end result, I couldn’t write about it all in just one post.

To be honest, that result will be ongoing, as a person’s mental state is not linear, and I’m no different in this situation. I will say that as of right now, I don’t feel an immediate need to go back to my medication. That’s all I was really looking for in the first place, so I consider that a win. However, there have been some side effects of being off meds completely that have affected my life in ways that I wasn’t expecting – one of which is that I am very tired all the time.

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You Can’t Force Timing

I remember early on in this blog, I wrote a post about what I called the Waiting Game. Without going into the entire post, I basically wrote about how it’s not so bad to be patient and wait for things to happen to you as long as you continue to do your best to live a good life. That waiting on something doesn’t have to be so terrible, and sometimes it’s necessary.

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Being a Friend to Someone Who’s Depressed

“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” – Stephen Fry

It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed. This might sound obvious, but if you aren’t well-versed in mental health or mental illness, it’s not.  It’s easier to help someone who’s depressed when you’re in the moment. It’s easier to help them find a psychiatrist or a therapist. It’s easier to help them get help. But to be their friend – to love and support them through what could be the darkest points of their life up to that point – is hard.

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Out of the Darkness Community Walk 2019

Last week, I was fortunate to participate in an Out of the Darkness Community Walk, one of the hundreds that are around the country every year by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This is the third year that I’ve been able to participate and fundraise for the AFSP, and every year I end up becoming stronger and more inspired by this event as it continues to shine a spotlight on bringing together thousands of people in the local area who are affected in some way by suicide.

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My Brain Will Not Slow Down

I’ve been of a kick on this blog writing about worry and anxiety recently, and it’s opened my eyes to the ways I approach my anxiety disorder. Over the years I’ve developed some good strategies to cope with my anxiety and be productive despite its effects, but there’s one area where I still struggle: I can’t slow my thoughts down, and I can’t remember the last time I had that ability.

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Mental Health Outside of Awareness Months

I’ve written a ton of posts on this blog during ‘Awareness Months’ over the years: Mental Health Month, Mental Illness Awareness Week, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, World Mental Health Day…the list goes on. I appreciate those days because not only does it shine a spotlight on a specific issue, but it emboldens people to talk about their experience in a way they might not do any other day, week or month of the year.

And while I appreciate those days, I’m never really sure what to say in the days and weeks after it’s over. What should we do? Is there an action that needs to be taken? How do we take what we’ve learned over that time and apply it to the future?

I thought about this especially this year after the end of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. I didn’t know to do when the month was over, because I wasn’t sure how to continue to educate others on suicide prevention and make people feel comfortable enough to share their stories and experiences.

It feels easier for some during an ‘Awareness’ month because others are speaking out, which I very much appreciate – in fact, I think that’s one of the biggest benefits of these ‘awareness’ movements. But it also makes me wonder why it’s so much harder to speak out the other days, weeks and months of the year when mental health isn’t necessarily a central focus on a national or global scale.

Sometimes it feels like there’s an all-or-nothing attitude toward attention given to mental health movements. This attitude isn’t from our community, of course; the bloggers, activists and organizations that I read from and follow are wonderful at continuing the conversation year-round. No, this is more of an attitude from the general public. It feels like if we’re not in the middle of an awareness month, then mental health is not on the radar.

Look, I know that there won’t be the same level of attention given to a cause outside of a time of awareness; that’s fine with me. I’m honestly just wondering why there can’t be a happy medium for this situation. Mental health doesn’t need to be at the forefront for everyone, but it’s also part of our daily lives. It comes up in the thoughts we have and the decisions we make. There’s space for it in the daily conversation. It might not always be happy and uplifting conversation, but that’s life.

Maybe the drop off that I’m talking about isn’t as extreme as I’m making it out to be, but that’s always how I’ve felt once these times of awareness are over. If I’m wrong, please let me know! I guess I just want mental health to be part of the daily conversation in some way, and not just when it’s Mental Health Day/Week/Month, etc. That’s not such a wild thought, right?

 

World Mental Health Day 2019

It’s October 10th, which means that once again it’s World Mental Health Day! Now I’ve written about World Mental Health Day before (twice, actually), so there is a lot that’s been said about not only recognizing the importance of mental health but seeking out ways to be as mentally healthy as possible. World Mental Health Day also takes place during Mental Illness Awareness Week, putting an added focus on being aware of how pervasive mental illness is in today’s world.

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We’re Heading Into Winter

So it’s October! While September is a little less in your face about it being fall, by the time we reach October people are pretty much in full-on Jack Skellington mode or sending Dwight Schrute’s pumpkin head to their friends. But for me, October can signal a lot of changes – the most important one being that summer is over, and this year it’s especially important to me.

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How to Fight the Mental Health Stigma

I have battled mental health issues for more than six years and, for just as long, I have been battling the stigma of mental health. There are plenty of reasons as to why the stigma surrounding mental health continues to exist, but its results are usually the same. People are given an inaccurate picture of what mental illness looks like and, based on this depiction, they treat people with mental illness a certain way. This leads potentially making people feel ashamed of their struggles, and not seeking help for those struggles.

While progress has been made, the stigma surrounding mental health persists in our world today (which I wrote about on the blog last week). But there are several things you can do to lessen the stigma surrounding mental health. While not all of them are easy, any action taken toward shrinking the stigma goes a long way not only for that person but for any of us who are struggling with our mental health. Here are some things to try to lessen the mental health stigma:

Be Open and Honest

When someone asks you how you’re doing, it’s natural to say that we’re ‘fine.’ But if you’re with someone that knows you well and you feel comfortable around, it might not hurt to tell them how you’re really doing. People are afraid of the unknown, but when you thrust mental health into everyday conversation, it becomes easier for people to accept in time.

Word Choice is Important

Labels – and knowing the right labels – are important when it comes to mental health. Your friend being sad for a few hours doesn’t mean they have depression. I’ve heard people get called bipolar all the time if they act even remotely out of the ordinary. And of course, there’s the constant labeling of the mentally ill as ‘crazy’ – a misspoken phrase that unfortunately is quite common. Once you pay attention to the words you use, you can begin to recognize when people around you use language that’s hurtful to the mentally ill.

Mental Health is Equal to Physical Health

This is something that I personally try to encourage as much as possible – that mental health is just as important as physical health. Mental illness is a disease just like all the other physical diseases out there, it’s just harder to see. Once people around me understood that I live with a disease, it was easier for them to accept why I sometimes couldn’t come to parties or hang out with them.

It’s All Relative

Mental health is not a one-size-fits-all type of thing. People are all on different journeys and in different places with their mental health, and what works for one person may not work for another. Recognizing that we’re all individuals with our own stories might seem like common sense, but mental health is something that’s often put into a box because of the lack of awareness or education. Don’t be afraid to tell your story and let people know that it’s just that – your story.

These are just a few of the many ways we can work to shrink the stigma. It’s hard to know what will work best in a given situation but one thing is certain – that stigma won’t go away if we don’t try to get rid of it!

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