Today is World Mental Health Day. Since this blog is all about my journey and adventures in dealing with my mental health, I thought I’d write a short post to say:
Hi! My name is Josh. I’ve lived with mental illness since at least high school. I experienced my first panic attack (which I didn’t recognize as such at the time) when I was a senior in high school, but looking back, I was probably dealing with depression and anxiety for longer. But I wasn’t formally diagnosed until much later, in my 30s. I was first diagnosed with generalized anxiety and depression and started on an anti-depressant. A few years later, I realized I needed someone to talk to and help me deal with my wonky brain. After seeing a couple of therapists who weren’t a good fit for me, I found a brilliant therapist, got diagnosed with cyclothymia, and was started on a mood stabilizer. I recently went off my anti-depressant, but have continued with my mood stabilizer, as well as an anti-anxiety med. I stopped seeing my therapist last year after we both decided I’d gotten from her what I wanted and needed. She gave me a hug and we’ve kept in touch since. I still use what she taught me, along with various things I’ve picked up from manuals, self help books, and friends.
What I really want to say is this: if you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s okay, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and you’re not alone. If you need medication to help keep your brain chemistry from being a mean motherfucker, it’s not weak to admit that and it’s not weak to take them. It’s no different from a diabetic needing insulin or someone with high cholesterol needing to take a statin (this is also me). If you need to talk to someone who won’t judge you for your brain chemistry and the assorted psychological issues that we develop from trying to live with wonky brain chemistry, someone who will help you develop tools and techniques for living, it’s not weak to admit that and it’s not weak to see a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or other qualified counselor. Mental illness will often lie to you, telling you that you’re alone, that no one wants to help you, that you’re beyond help. These are lies. You are valued, useful, and deserving of love and care. There may even be aspects of your mental illness that are strengths, features not bugs. I’ve come to see aspects of my mental weirdness as superpowers, not weaknesses. Being different doesn’t have to mean being broken.
If you need help, get help. If you need a friend, I’m here for you. None of us can get through this life alone.