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How Emotional Abuse From My Upbringing Contributed to My Mental Health Struggles

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Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by clicking “chat now” or calling  1-800-799-7233.

After texting with a friend yesterday, it finally hit me. I know why I’m struggling so badly with depression. It’s a subject easy for me to talk about, because then I can act like it doesn’t bother me much. But, writing about it, I can’t hide the pain it’s caused. I feel weak, vulnerable. But, it’s something I need to write about so, here’s my best shot.

Sitting on my patio, coffee by my side, cigarette in hand, here goes nothing. Or, everything.

For over a decade, I have been emotionally abused. For the first time in my life, I’m not being abused by an outside force, only the thoughts that still linger in my mind. It’s odd not having someone else put me down daily, and I find myself craving that again. As odd as it may sound.

When I broke free from abuse, I thought I would feel lighter, more in control, happier. That’s not always reality. The abuse sticks with me. The words said, linger in my mind and continue to drive me “crazy.” Even if I have an amazing boyfriend who tells me daily how great I am, how pretty I am and how much he loves me, I still can’t shake the feeling that I’m not good enough.

For years, these are the phrases I heard in my home life:

“No wonder you don’t have any friends.” 

“You’re crazy.” 

“Who would want to marry you?” 

“You belong in a mental hospital.”

“You’re acting like a 2-year-old.”

“You’re a spoiled little b*tch.”

“You’re a slut.”

“You’re selfish and don’t care about a damn thing. You’re lazy.”

Surprisingly, the abuse started because of the same issue. I’ve had debilitating anxiety and panic attacks for over a decade. More times than not, the abuse would always begin at the first sign of a panic attack. When my mind is at the level of a little child, when I’m scared of even myself, when I’m rocking back and forth, when I’m hyperventilating, when tears are uncontrollable, when I’m no longer in control of myself. Nothing makes me feel more weak, scared and vulnerable than when I have a panic attack. And that’s when my family members chose to strike.

Sometimes, their abuse brought on a panic attack and it just worsened. There were days I’d find myself sitting on my bedroom floor, back against the door, trying to keep them out of my room. There were days I’d drop to the ground in tears, broken by what they had said. There were days laying in the fetal position, gasping for air while they yelled at me. I couldn’t escape.

As I got older, the abuse got worse. Eventually, she’d start getting more physical. I was afraid for my life, at age 21. I couldn’t fight back.

The worst part of having an emotionally abusive relationship is, no one believes you. My family members acted so kind and nice to others, so it seemed like I was the liar. In high school, my friends thought I was the problem, that my family just cared about me.

The words they spoke still linger in my mind to this day. The feelings of worthlessness, sadness, pain and shame are all still alive within me. I don’t know if they’ll ever go away but, God, I hope they do. I hope I overcome this and can be happy again. Maybe I need to forgive them still, but I just don’t know how.

If you’re in an abusive relationship of any kind, seek help now. Professional help. Please, do it for your future.

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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Thinkstock photo via Litetokig.

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Things I Want to Tell You When You Ask Me if I'm Doing OK

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You ask me if I am doing OK and I want to tell you how I am feeling but the words get stuck on my tongue, my teeth barricading them in. I planned on being honest and upfront with you. And even though I rehearsed this conversation 78 different times in my head, when I open my mouth, nothing comes out — not even a squeak.

Nevertheless, I persist. I try again and again until my heart is threatening to beat out of my chest and my mouth is so dry that I think I went to the Sahara. My palms are damp from sweat and I swear I have a flush. My head is pounding and I feel tears threatening to escape.

You ask me again and this time I simply nod my head. You say,“Are you sure? Because you don’t look OK.” I take a deep breath to center myself and I tell you I am doing OK.

What I don’t tell you, what I wanted to tell you, what I needed to tell you is that for me, OK is relative.

I am doing OK because I don’t go out and get drunk only to cry. Because alcohol is a depressant and depression has taken up residency in the dark corners of my mind again.

I am doing OK because until this moment, anxiety was simply at the background level I am used to. It was allowing me to function.

I am doing OK because I didn’t cry today.

I am doing OK because I genuinely smiled today.

I am doing OK relative to my worst days.

I am doing OK.

What I don’t tell you is I think I should take up gardening because maybe then I would be able to use the dead, decaying parts of myself to grow something beautiful. Something meaningful. Maybe then I would finally be able to breathe again.

What I wanted to tell you is I could write a dissertation on loneliness. Defend the supporting facts and conclusions that I have drawn from my research. And by research, I mean the experiments that are the tragedies in my life. Because I have reached the same conclusion reproducibly and reliably. There is no statistically significant evidence that I will stop feeling this way anytime soon.

What I needed to tell you is I don’t know how to stop this tsunami of feelings. And I don’t know why I insist on trying to use natural disasters to explain myself because I will never be a hurricane or a tornado. I only destroy myself, not the things in my path. I want to believe one day it will rain without pouring, but I am so lost right now.

But instead of telling you any of this, I tell you I am doing OK.

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via kotoffei.

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16 Songs That Perfectly Describe What My Depression Feels Like

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People who experience depression know how difficult it can be to face the day in the midst of a depressive episode. Among other symptoms, many experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, fatigue and ruminating thoughts. Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, it can often be hard to find others who truly understand what you’re going through.

This is when music may come in handy.

Maybe a song’s lyrics put words to what you’ve been feeling in a way you couldn’t articulate before or the instrumentals sound the way you imagine depression would. Whatever the reasons may be, we wanted to know what songs describe depression best, so we asked our mental health community to share with us what songs perfectly describe their depression experiences.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Unwell” by Matchbox Twenty

“This song really hits me to the core. My depression is a strange and scary place that isolates me and makes me feel so far from myself. [The line] ‘I know right now you can’t tell, but stay awhile and maybe then you’ll see, a different side of me,’ resonates so much with me in terms of isolating myself from the people and things I love.” Carly N.

2. “Holding onto You” by Twenty One Pilots

“Twenty One Pilots’ entire second album, ‘Vessel,’ is a godsend for people [with] mental illness. That album helped me through the lowest of the lows because it reminded me I am not alone. But also serves as motivation to overcome your mental illness, to fight through and come out on top. To never allow your mind to take control of your life. My favorite song on the album is called ‘Holding Onto You.'” Tiffany P.

3. “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men

“Of Monsters and Men perfectly captures what’s it’s like to carry depression around with you all the time. Not being able to trust yourself, living in the past, but ultimately knowing you’ll get through it. It captures the essence of depression in a way few other songs can.” — Clara B.

4. “Car Radio” by Twenty One Pilots.

“The first time I listened to it, it hit me how perfectly it describes the fact I hate being alone with myself [and how] I’d rather fill my attention with nonsense rather than focus on the silence.” — Alicja M.

5. “Save Myself” by Ed Sheeran

“Talking about needing to save yourself before anyone else is extremely important to me because I struggle with that, which always ends up in me getting hurt. It reminds me to help care for myself too.” — Adriana R.

6. “Breaking Down” by Florence and the Machine

“So many of her songs help me when I’m feeling down and this song just puts into exact words the way I feel a lot of the time, as if depression is a shadow lingering on the edge of my life and haunting everything that happens.” — Sarah N.

7. “Move along” by The All American Rejects

“That song has gotten me through a lot of ups and downs throughout the years, and still does to this day. It reminds me no matter how hard it may seem or no matter how bad you feel, you just have to keep going and not let anything make you less strong of a person. Its motivated me and has helped me see light in what seems to be the darkest of situations. It’s a lot easier said than done, but I wouldn’t be the person I am now if it weren’t for this song. Shout out to Tyson Ritter.” — Samantha N.

8. “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots

“It reminds me of the times I would play with my friends in the garden in the summer, pretending to be anything from teachers to zombie killers, to running from dinosaurs, and how we were just so innocent and happy, and how now it’s all stress and worrying about getting by, especially with depression.” — Rachel W.

9. “I Miss the Mountains” and “You Don’t Know” by Alice Ripley

“Both [are] from the broadway musical ‘Next to Normal.’ The whole soundtrack is amazing and something I identified with during tough times.” Amy L.

10. “Sleep” by My Chemical Romance

“I have post-traumatic stress disorder as well as depression, and this song describes my feelings so well. I get emotional every single time I listen to it.” — Casey R.

11. “Welcome to My Life” by Simple Plan

“I knew I wasn’t the only one going through this life, but it felt like no one understood me or my feelings. This song perfectly described the feelings I had during my depression.”Eline P.

12. “Shake Me Down” by Cage the Elephant

“The lyrics talk about him becoming isolated, which is what happened to me as things became worse. It is the one song that has sort of pushed me through my bad times.”Erin B.

13. “Boston” by Augustana

“[This song] helped me understand my own bipolar depression as it manifested as constant restlessness and discontent with the ups or the downs. [It describes] just how isolated I felt through the whole eight years before I found the right help.” — Marielle E.

14. “Say Something” by A Great Big World (Feat. Christina Aguilera)

“‘Say Something,’ for me. My depression coupled with other issues and past experiences makes me feel sometimes like I can’t love properly and like I’m driving everyone I love out of my life.” — Park A.

15. “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones.

Most people might not know this song is about depression, but when you really listen to the lyrics, it becomes undeniable.”Amber B.

16. “Isolation” by Alter Bridge

“[It] is the song I’ve connected to since I was a teenager. It describes exactly how I feel, but in the end, it gives me hope. If you give the lyrics a read, you’ll understand why.” — Jackie E.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via Ed Sheeran and Twenty One Pilots Facebook Pages.

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Why Joining a Gym Was Important for My Mental Health Recovery

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

Exercising regularly changed my life. It allowed me to enjoy the great outdoors, gave me a safe place to socialize daily, calmed my anxieties and saved my sanity in more ways than I can possibly count. I honestly don’t know where I would be any more without regular exercise.

Five years ago, I arrived at the door of a women’s only gym that had recently opened. Within minutes of telling my story to the gym owner, we were both in tears. I’d tried everything. Strength training is what I needed, she said. Get strong — in body, mind and spirit. Two decades earlier, I had sworn I would never — never, ever, ever  — return to a gym. I believed they were isolationist, judgmental sweaty places, where no normal human could ever find pleasure. I believed they were full of competitive lycra-clad girls, and leering, bicep-flexing muscle boys. It seemed like it was more about narcissism than nurture. That had been my experience of many gyms. And I was never going back.

Fast forward to February 2012 and I was desperate. I signed up for a membership. And I turned up. And I fell in love. Not with the exercise — that would come later — but with the people. It was a small local gym, where the primary clientele were middle aged women of every shape, size, athletic ability and socioeconomic status. They were just like me. They were wearing normal clothes — no Lycra in sight — and they were kind, empathetic and understanding. The instructors took time to know every member, and adjusted exercises accordingly. The focus was on building strength, health, flexibility and longevity, not worrying about who was the thinnest, prettiest, strongest or fittest. No competition, just loving support of one another. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a community to continue to support the inner child we all have. I felt nurtured. And I felt good about myself. I started to really love exercising — it was the highlight of my day.

Fast forward to January 2016 and I was reasonably fit, but my mental health was plummeting at dizzying speeds. The kindness and support of gym staff and clientele at the gym helped me keep my head above water while I was drowning. By March I was restricting my food intake significantly again and by May I’d stopped eating. Because of my eating disorder, I was increasingly happy with the number on the scales, but I was experiencing severe depression, anxiety, panic attacks and frequent daily episodes of self-harm. Suicidal ideation was turning into concrete plans and by early May, I was hospitalized for a month.

My trainer — also a nurse and now a good friend — knew of my physical and mental health limitations, and adjusted my program accordingly. Weights were reduced, rest periods increased, cardio lessened. A close eye was kept on me.  The one hour a day I spent at the gym was the highlight of my day and the closest thing I felt to happiness during that entire period of time. It was one hour of the day when the chaos in my head was stilled. I could just be. The continued connection to humanity — to people who genuinely showed love and concern — kept me grounded. I still felt purposeful because going to the gym was often the only reason I would get out of bed for the day.

Fast forward another 12 months and I still go to the gym and treasure the support and love of my trainer and the other women. I feel a sense of community and know no matter what happens in my day, I will always make the time to get to gym — to connect with people and keep my body strong and functional as I travel through middle age and venture into old age.

My husband and I enjoy the opportunity to spend more time together, hiking in the wilderness, enjoying the serenity and beauty of the natural world. I’ve climbed mountains, kayaked and hiked for miles with family and friends. Nature is fantastic, preventative medicine. Strength and fitness are integral to my health and longevity — not for the sake of competition, getting skinny or looking fab in Lycra, but for maintaining and improving my physical and cognitive functions and, more important than anything, finding a community of women who support each other through anything. Women who strive to build each other up, not tear each other down.

I don’t believe I would have survived the depths of my depression without that wider support. I wouldn’t have had the strength to keep going without the watchful eye and expertise of my trainer and friend. Those few moments of light on such dark days blessed my spirit with just enough spark to keep going.

hiking

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.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead photo via didec.

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To My Loved Ones, From a 'Work in Progress' With Depression

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To my friends and family,

First of all, I love you guys so much. You have no idea how deep my love for all of you is, and I can never in my life be able to describe how much I appreciate all of you. You see me through my worst days and can enjoy the good days, which is something I’ll always be grateful for. You know who I really am despite my illnesses and love me even when they decide to rear their ugly heads.

Even with all your patience and all your understanding of me, I know how hard it can be to hang out or even listen to me sometimes. I know I can be difficult or frustrating sometimes, and it can bring you to your breaking point. Know that even when I am making you lose your mind, I don’t do it to make you upset. Those two stupid mean girls known as depression and anxiety like to play games and make me doubt you, and make me think you are going to leave me or say you hate me.

I know there have been times where I have hurt you because of them. I’ve neglected or shunned you, I have acted wrong and made mistakes that have upset you. I know I can never take back or change those times, but I want to be better. I know those two mean girls don’t control me. They aren’t who I am; you know that and I’ll make sure I fight against them every day until I am stronger than them.

Until then, I will do my best to fight them and be the best daughter, sister and friend I could possibly be to you. I will work hard to discover myself and become who I am meant to be and bring you along the way as I make that journey. I hope to have you with me for a long time and I hope we can make so many amazing memories together that they last a lifetime. I look forward to those memories and I can’t wait to make them. Know I love you from the bottom of my heart, to the moon and back and with every fiber of my being.

From,

Your daughter, sister, best friend and work in progress.

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Unsplash photo via Aidan Meyer

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Why I Never Believed My Negative Thoughts Were Depression

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

I am not a person who will struggle with depression. This is because I am a person who copes. I am someone who copes and gets on with things and does not say that things are hard because things are hard for everyone. I am not unmotivated and exhausted because I am depressed. I am unmotivated and exhausted because I am lazy. And fat. And disgusting. And a waste of all of the space. And worthless. I do not prioritize basic self-care such as showering or brushing my hair, not because I am depressed, but because I am a mother now and I should come last after everyone else. This is motherhood. I am not so depressed sometimes that I can’t see or hear or think. I can’t see or hear or think because I am so stupid and can’t multitask and I need to pull myself together because I am a mother now.

I never feel like I am a good enough mother, or a good enough wife, or a good enough friend, or a good enough daughter, or a good enough sister, or a good enough employee, or just a good enough human. This has nothing to do with living with a depression that cripples your sense of self and worth. I feel this way because all of this is true, I am not good enough at anything so I need to try harder. I will absolutely try harder tomorrow. But I will probably fail because I am utterly useless.

I want to run away from my babies sometimes. The weight of responsibility to do it right and be the best mother for them is too much. This is because I am a complete waste of space and a terrible person. A terrible mother. This is not because I have depression, and because I have put so much pressure on myself to get this right for them that it is making me ill.

I don’t stand in my home surrounded by chaos and mess, unable to do anything about it because I feel completely paralyzed by my own brain. I do nothing about it because I am lazy and deserve to live in chaos. I don’t constantly think about how I could and should do all of the things better because my anxiety makes me overanalyze absolutely everything. I think about doing all of the things better because I need too. Because I am actually doing everything badly.

I can’t have depression because I don’t really believe in it.

I have judged those that live with depression and anxiety because they are weak. They do not know how to cope and they chose to feel miserable.

They chose to feel that way. It’s a choice.

Except; what person would choose to feel that way? Some people are so desperately ill inside of their own actual heads that the only way they think they can feel better is to no longer exist. This is not a choice. Some people will never get the help they need because they don’t believe in depression or anxiety, or that the way they feel is not normal. And that actually, people who are well, do not feel that way.

I never really understood depression. I sympathized greatly with those who I knew genuinely struggled but have been skeptical of others. I am ashamed about that. I have judged and discussed and analyzed other people’s mental health as an outsider, as someone who would never have depression, because I choose not too. I choose to cope, I choose strength, I totally choose to be “normal” and like all other mentally-stable people because being depressed must be so damn embarrassing.

What a total utter asshole.

I had no idea what my brain had in store for me, or that I would become the person I had once believed had chosen to live in darkness.

Accepting that I am ill has taken me a long time. Being able to talk about it has taken even longer. And feeling unashamed or blameless is still a work in progress. But my goodness, my heart is open to anyone who has, does or ever will feel this way. There will be no judgments from me. But I will buy you a massive coffee, and I will tell you that you are not alone.

Follow this journey on Diary of a TeetoToria

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Tomas Jasovsky

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