During my career, I’ve been described as “laid back,” “calm during crises” and “always happy.” More often than not, I smile and make jokes even though I feel like I’m about to explode with nervous energy. Sometimes even my parents or husband don’t know I’m not feeling well.
I don’t necessarily mean to keep anything from my loved ones; it’s more that my focus turns inward as my anxiety and depression increase. Bottling up all that negative energy intensifies my symptoms and drains me. Hiding it has also caused me to be misunderstood and relationships to be strained.
Early in my marriage, I learned to be upfront with my husband. This could mean the first thing I say when I walk in the door is “I don’t feel good mentally.” I get an immediate sense of relief when I say those words out loud. It helps him understand the source of my actions and to not take anything personally. We talk about what’s going on (if there were any triggers) and what we need to do to help me in my current state.
Ever since I began writing my first novel, I became much more forthcoming to friends and family about my struggles with anxiety and depression. I’ve found sharing with others is the most therapeutic action I can take! It still astounds me how many people I know who can relate, either from their own experience or a loved one’s. Not only does this help me realize I’m not alone but it allows me the opportunity to help someone.
Especially at work, I still use caution in sharing what I experience. Not everybody understands, and some may even say something insensitive, which no one needs when dealing with mental illness. Call it instinct, but you can usually tell quickly if someone just won’t ‘get it.’ It’s not worth sharing with those people. Simply say, ‘I don’t feel well,’ and leave it at that.
Even though I’ve opened up tremendously over the years about my struggles with anxiety and depression, I’m still working on being more honest about it. I feel being open will only help me to cope, and it might even help someone else!
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Thinkstock photo by Discha-AS