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To the Friends Who Left Because of My Mental Illness

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Thank you. Truth is that is the only thing I can do. I thank you for being a part of my life for the time that you were there, and I thank you for leaving and making me a stronger person. Yes, it is one of the hardest parts of living with a mental illness, constantly seeing people walk out of your life, but at the same time it gives you a chance to reevaluate your relationships. If you aren’t able to handle me at my worst, then you don’t deserve to be there when I’m at my best.

I want you to know mental illness is real. Brains are beautiful organs responsible for so many important tasks, but just like any other organ in the body, they can get sick. The thing about when your mind becomes sick is that it can take years before it manifests into something noticeable. When it finally makes its presence known, you might be able to minimize the pain for a while without anybody noticing, but after suppressing it for so long, it comes at you like a boomerang. To the people around you, it can seem like a sudden change, a complete 360 in a short amount of time. But, really it has been there all along, slowly stabbing the dagger deeper and deeper.

At some point the depression gets so bad, getting out bed and brushing your teeth is an accomplishment. Eating three meals a day is nearly impossible and keeping up with schoolwork is a challenge. Maintaining friendships is a difficult task when you can’t get out of bed or brush your teeth. I don’t expect you to understand how I feel, since you may have never experienced a mental illness, but at some point just being there is important. But, you aren’t there anymore. Is it because of my mental illness? Is it because you have moved on? I don’t know.

What I do know is how hard it is to not have the people in your life that were once your best friends. What I do know is that my mental illness does not define me. What I do know is that I will not invalidate myself because of my mental illness or beat myself up because of lost friendships. I will champion the little accomplishments I make every day. I will continue the practice of self-care. I will seek help when I need it. I won’t let the stigma of mental illness win.

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Valentine's Cards in the Store Won't Say What I Need Them to as a Person With Depression

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I have always loved Valentine’s Day. Loved the idea of it. I haven’t celebrated many, but now I have an amazing partner who celebrates with me.

The issue is what do you say, write or do that explains how you feel? Love is personal. Love comes in many different forms. And loving some one who has difficult mental health issues can be shown in many different ways.

Also expecting someone’s love when you have mental health can be really difficult too, especially if you don’t feel too great about yourself.

This year I wanted to use Valentine’s Day as a way of saying a big thank you to my partner.

But there are no Valentine’s cards that thank you for reminding me to take my medication every day or for making sure I shower. Or balloons that say “I love the way you hold my hands when I want to hurt myself.”

I have decided to plan Valentine’s evening in advance so I can have a calm and happy time. And I’ll write the following in a card: thank you for loving me even when I can’t.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Depression Lies

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It tells you,
you don’t belong here.
It tells you,
you should just disappear.
It tells you,
you amount to nothing.
It tells you,
you should just stop all of the struggling.

People try to convince you that you matter,
but it only just twists the dagger.
People try to convince you it’ll get better,
but it only deepens the pressure.

Depression lies.

It’s not just a bad day,
it’s a string of them that have decided to stay.
It’s a grey cloud over your head,
that you just can’t seem to shed.

Depression tells you,
you aren’t worth it.
Depression tells you,
you should just quit.

But, depression lies.

On the worst days,
you can’t get out of bed.
On the worst days,
your body feels likes it has just been unthread.

No matter how many times someone says they love you,
you’ll never think it’s true.
No matter how many times someone says you aren’t a burden,
you will never believe their jargon.

But, depression lies.

I know depression lies,
but that doesn’t mean it changes the color of my sky.
The sky is still grey,
and I still want to get away.
I know depression lies,
but I still let it make me cry.
They say it’s all in my head,
but my body still feels like it’s made up of led.

When will it end?
I keep going because I know depression lies.
But when will it end?
I hope I can survive,
even when I know depression lies.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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22 Things People Don't Tell You About Starting Antidepressants

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Editor’s note: This piece is based on the experience of individuals. Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

For many, the decision to start antidepressants can be a difficult and scary one, and not knowing how an antidepressant will affect you coupled with the stigma surrounding psychiatric medication certainly doesn’t help. 

While finding the right antidepressant might seem like a daunting process, when prescribed by a doctor, antidepressants can be wonderful tools for managing symptoms of mental illness. That being said, we know there isn’t a lot of information out there to help people prepare for starting antidepressants for the first time. We asked our Mighty community to tell us what no one tells you about starting antidepressants.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “A long time of trial and error… until you find the medication that’s working for, not against you.” — Anki L.

2. “It won’t necessarily work right away. Sometimes it takes some time to kick in. As hard as it can be, stick with it, be patient and don’t give up hope. Because even if this isn’t the one which will eventually work, there is something out there that will.” — Jen D.

3.People might assume you missed a dose because you still experience negative emotions like everyone else while on them. If you feel numb, like a zombie or generally feel worse after taking them for the recommended time due to side effects, please, please please tell your doctor… Also, don’t just quit them regardless of whether or not you feel like they’re helping you. You have to safely taper off of them. Please don’t give up!” — Nicole C.

4.My advice is if you are thinking about starting or [are] currently on an antidepressant, think about or research the withdrawal effects because there [may] be a time when you do not need to use them anymore.” — Amanda H.

5. “Withdrawal effects. The first time I forgot to take my medication for a few days, I was so afraid of the ‘brain zap’ feeling I got and how debilitating that split-second feeling was.” — Brenna M.

6. “Weight gain. Being tired all of the time but not being able to sleep. Being numb. Going through tons of different kinds of antidepressants to find the right one that works.” — Alex R.

7. “You are your own guinea pig. It may take several tries to get the right medication and dose. Also, don’t be afraid to call your doctor if your new medication makes you feel ‘off.’ Never stop medication without a doctor’s approval first. Some medication has intense withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop it, so your doctor should advise you how to wean yourself off it if need be.” — Emily D.

8. “Not every day will be easy. Stuff will still trigger me.” — Tamara Lynne P.

9. “Antidepressants help with mood, but self-care needs to still be practiced to battle depression.” — Laura R.

10. “They react differently with each person.” — Gloria H.

11. “Make a schedule so you don’t forget to take it at the same time every day. Forgetting just once can mean a wave of side effects and withdrawal symptoms.” — Emily F.

12. “Feeling content can be uncomfortable at first. Especially if you’ve gotten used to living in the chaos. Also, medication alone is not always the answer. Therapy and learning about self-care is critical.” — Pamela S.

13. “They aren’t an immediate ‘cure-all.’ It takes a lot of trial and error… to become stable. You have to still do other stuff to deal with the depression. It takes discipline. There is no magic pill. That said, I feel like being on them is of benefit to myself and those around me.” — Lilith G.

14. “You might get side effects that aren’t expected, like diarrhea or constipation. No one ever talks about the gross parts.” — Megan M.

15. “Do you know they can increase your chances of getting cavities because of the dry/cotton mouth?” — Joanna C.

16. “Do your best to never miss a dose. And be sure to confirm your dosage on every appointment and refill.” — Amanda W.  

17. “For me it was the physiological changes. I didn’t realize how much my body hurt until the pain went away. My metabolism increased so I lost weight even though I was enjoying food again and eating more. My psychologist did warn me I might get nauseated.” — Shanta K.

18. “Weight gain, feeling tired and in turn, non-stop yawning. Those side effects have now passed. The only side effect I still experience every day is the excessive sweating. I feel so much warmer than I ever have before. Just walking up the stairs starts me off.” — Alice H.

19. “It matters what time you take them during the day. There should be way more ongoing support for people taking a new medication.” Brooke H.

20. “No one told me about the crap I would get from people around me. I felt better when I started taking them, but everyone around me got scared. I was happy the meds were helping, but many people were pushing me to get off of them or making comments about how dangerous they were. Other people were more afraid of them than I was and I was the one taking them.” — Julia A.

21. “They sometimes make you sick. You could end up with symptoms of a cold, diarrhea or nausea.” — Abigail M.

22. “Keeping in touch with your doctor regularly while finding medication that works best for you is key, but it’s also important to note they don’t fix everything. Therapy, counseling and taking care of yourself are all necessary steps in the process, because medication is not a ‘cure-all.’” — Kathryn D.



22 Things People Don't Tell You About Starting Antidepressants
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3 Secrets I Never Wanted to Share About My Depression

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Last month I wrote about 10 secrets I did not tell about my depression before then. To be honest, I had told them before – but only to my psychiatrist and my counselor. They were not my only secrets. Far, far from it. I’ve been doing a lot of work in therapy over the phone lately and it’s time for another “secrets” story.

These are secrets I don’t want to tell anyone – even my mental health team.

1. Sometimes it actually is comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate when my depression locks me in my bed, making me feel lost, totally exhausted, worthless and useless. It’s painful and embarrassing and causes me to think — daily — of ending everything. However, there are brief — and often terrifying — moments when it is also comfortable. Somewhere between that last nap, the soft bedding, the slow and easy music playing and chamomile tea, it gets easier to handle. My family doesn’t usually bother me much on a bad day and sometimes the quiet and the still is kinda nice. I hate when I sometimes feel this way and I have barely even told my psychiatrist about this sensation.

2. Sometimes I don’t want it to go away.

I do not know where this comes from. The probable reason is it has become my “normal.” On occasion, the idea of learning to live without this uninvited house guest is terrifying. I really, truly, want to be free from this illness and move on with my life. I look forward to the days when I can play with my family and love on them all day long. I want to work and rent a home of my own and perform on stage again. Still, I must admit from time to time I am still scared of what life without depression looks like.

3. Sometimes it feels like I hate you more than I hate it.

Every time I do make an effort to hide how badly my depression is affecting me, and you – my love ones – try to force normalcy of your variety on me, I secretly can feel like I hate you more than I hate my depression. It gets so frustrating to try to be OK around you. When I do snap or get upset, you demand I “wrangle myself in” or just “calm myself down” and it makes me hurt and angry.

These aren’t things I like or want to talk about. I am afraid they will proliferate the stigma people already have around depression and other mental illnesses. There’s nothing worse, in my opinion, than having contradicting symptoms. It is painful and confusing.

Please tell me I am not alone here?

Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows

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7 Tips to Help You Deal With the 'Anniversary Effect'

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There are so many dates that mark occasions throughout the year that bring us happiness. The first time we met. The last day of school. The moment you got engaged. The day you enlisted. Birthdays. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Wedding anniversaries. Valentine’s Day.

But there are days in the calendar year that are hard to take. The day a loved one died. The birthday of a someone special who’s no longer alive. The date of a serious accident you endured. These dates press on your mind, body and soul in distressing ways. When they arrive on the calendar, you feel sad, lost and in pain.

The clinical term for this experience is called “The Anniversary Effect.” Sometimes called an “Anniversary Reaction,” this psychological experience is defined as a unique set of unsettling feelings, thoughts, memories and physical strain that occur on the specific date of a significant trauma. For some, the Anniversary Effect causes a re-experiencing of the loss; for others it heightens the stressful aftermath of the event. Certainly for all, the anniversary of the day is marked with enormous emotional and physical pain.

Sometimes you can trace the reason why you’re feeling sad, irritable or anxious. One look at the calendar and you connect the dots from your current emotional state to the traumatic event. For example, you readily recognize the date of a natural disaster, or when your father died, the date of your cancer diagnosis or a miscarriage, just to name a few.

But there are dates that aren’t recognized or readily made conscious to us in the calendar year. They are subtly stored in our memory in less time-specific ways. The Anniversary Effect may come in sensorial or seasonal ways. For example, Autumn reminds you of when your child left for college, or a hot humid day recalls you time you foreclosed on your house. An icy storm summons the moment of a life-changing car wreck, or fireworks on the Fourth of July stirs memories of fighting in Iraq.

Anniversary Effects are like a post-traumatic stress response, but in calendar form.

Depression and The Anniversary Effect 

When you live with depression, you may live with two calendars — one that keeps track of time, while the other stores emotional experiences. And when it comes to Anniversary Effects, you need to be mindful of the dates of trauma in your life.

Another thing to be conscious of is in the first year of a traumatic experience, painful feelings, despair and anxiety may occur at the third month, sixth month, and ninth month intervals of the anniversary date. After the first year, most people then tend to experience “The Anniversary Effect” on the year-marker date.

When depression is a chronic issue in your life, managing your illness becomes a necessity. One of the ways to keep a healthy structure is to note the negative events that uniquely touch your life. By doing so, you can become more conscious of the power of these events. You can double down on self-care to prepare yourself for an Anniversary Reaction. Being mindful of these annual moments also can minimize the helplessness you can feel as the date approaches – or the element of surprise as the date suddenly appears on your radar.

Every year, I note the happy dates on my calendar, as well as the painful ones. I’ve learned in my own therapy while recovering from depression how seeing these dates several weeks ahead prepares me for an Anniversary Effect. Being aware helps me keep my depressive symptoms from worsening. I make sure several weeks before these difficult dates arrive to eat and sleep well, not overdo too much and to delegate as much as possible so I can navigate the painful loss as it approaches.

In my work as a clinician working with others who struggle with mood disorders, I also encourage my patients to do the same. In addition to learning the wonderful moments in a person’s life, the session work outlines days in the year that are tough. Together, my patients and I work to use the structure of the calendar to help manage the symptoms of depression that ebb and flow at such trying times.

What You Can Do?

Here are some more tips to help you deal with Anniversary Effects.

1. Look. Make sure you take time to glance at a calendar each month and explore dates and memories attached to such dates. Whether it’s an old-school paper calendar or a digital one, this kind of habit can keep you aware of traumatic dates – and prepare you for the possibility of an Anniversary Effect. For instance, I circle difficult dates in red on the  calendar that’s clipped to my refrigerator in my home. Seeing the color in relation to the present date helps me ready myself.

2. Remember. The anniversary date is not the only day you might feel out of sorts. Remind yourself that days or weeks leading up to an anniversary date – and even ones after, may be tough ones for you. For example, a patient of mine whose mother died around Thanksgiving has an equally difficult time when Mother’s Day rolls around in May. As the pumpkins from Halloween fade and the Christmas decorations begin dotting the landscape, she becomes mindful of her loss. But she also readies herself again when the commercials for Mother’s Day flowers or gifts stream across the television.

3. Let others in. Sharing the date with others can enable you to feel less isolated when the anniversary of a difficult day approaches. Resist the urge to shut down or withdraw as it can worsen depression. If the Anniversary Effect touches the life of your child, make sure you reach out to teachers or other important adults to alert them to the dates.

4. Limit media. Anniversaries of public traumas like 9/11, disasters, somber holidays like Memorial Day or Veterans Day receive significant media coverage. Often, media outlets revisit distressing imagery. So, a good idea is to limit watching of TV, surfing the internet or reading newspapers around those dates.

5. Get it out. Expressing your thoughts and feelings when an Anniversary Effect happens can help you move through it. You can do this by talking with a family member, a cherished friend, journaling, scrapbooking, blogging and other creative ways to express your inner experiences.

6. Take good care. Nourish yourself with things that bring you comfort, ease and peace during these times. Self-care, like eating healthy, keeping a steady sleep schedule, pampering yourself, and delegating as much as possible will help ground you as you move through your anniversary date.

7. Ask for help. If you find you’re struggling with your trauma, remember you’re not alone. Loss affects each of us differently, so don’t put a time limit on your grief. But, if you feel exceedingly overwhelmed or can’t readily cope with your Anniversary Reaction, consider calling a mental healthcare professional who specializes in depression and trauma.

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