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I believe health is more than just the absence of sickness. I believe it is more than just physical health, mental health, social health or spiritual health. For me, health is well-being. We all have “health” at some level. I live with mental health conditions. Most would say my mental health conditions are “under control.” I am able to work two jobs, have meaningful relationships and generally seem from the outside to be “functioning.”

I often hear people talk about individuals being “symptomatic” or “not symptomatic” as though these are two mutually exclusive categories. It is very rare that a day will go by when I do not have “symptoms.” My mind races, my attention jumps from topic to topic, I have tics, I get stuck on things, anxiety, obsessions and so on. I work with my symptoms and accommodate them. I refuse to allow these to hold me back.

My symptoms have given me energy, creativity and ability to think outside the box. Without my symptoms, I wouldn’t be the person I am. At times, they can also be overwhelming. My obsessions and anxiety can burn like a fire in my mind that I have no way to put out. The same thoughts. Over and over and over. Sometimes people stare at me because they can hear me say the same word under my breath repeatedly. Tic. Tic. Tic. Tic.

Does this mean I’m sick? I don’t think so. Does it mean I’m symptomatic? Maybe. Does it mean I need support? Yes. But I’m living a meaningful life anyway. My challenges do not define me nor do they confine my lifestyle. I am creating an place where I can thrive. Some days are harder than others, but I’m working with it and that’s what matters. I am healthy.

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Thinkstock photo via Ralwel.


There are a million ways parenting is made harder by mental illness. Probably more than a million. I don’t have time for self-care; I can’t work through your emotions right away when you’re triggered; every minute of every day I am needed by this other human being who relies on me for everything. It’s exhausting, having to put my needs aside every day to make sure my child’s needs are met. It’s terrifying, doubting my every move and parenting decision. It is just plain overwhelming to have to push my anxiety down to be fully dealt with and worked through later when my child is asleep. The thought of my anxiety bleeding over onto his experience has literally kept me awake at night.

You know what, though? I wouldn’t choose any other experience for my life right now.

My son is the reason I sought help. My anxiety reached peak levels after having him and forced me to see it for the illness it was, instead of ignoring it as a personal flaw. My son pushes me to be my best self every single day. The best illustration of this happened in therapy a few days ago.

I did a guided imagery for PTSD for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect, just lots of emotion. I have a very active imagination so it turned out to be a great exercise for me. The recording starts out having you picture yourself walking on your heart, seeing all the damage on the surface. Walking through and past the trauma, the pain, the shame, the anger. Then you are supposed to picture a tunnel with a light shining through it; this tunnel would lead down to the safe, pure, undamaged, loving part of your heart. My tunnel was guarded. A large grizzly bear blocked the entrance. It was not threatening, it simply said: “People are not allowed here.” With my husband by my side, we eventually stepped into the tunnel and the bear walked through with us. When we reached this room of love and light, which I keep so well guarded, I saw my son.  He was sitting on the floor, playing like I have watched him do millions of times. He looked up at me with his beautiful, joyful, smile and seemed to say, “Hey mom, welcome to my room.”

The beautiful, loving, undamaged part of myself that I keep so walled off I cannot even reach it myself is where my son lives his life. I may not be able to accept love from others, or able to love myself yet, but my son has just nestled in without my realizing it. He has helped me to open my heart to others’ love. Most of all, he has helped me to open my heart to myself. I have no doubt he is the reason I can picture a safe and undamaged part of myself at all.

I can never thank him enough for the influence he has had on my life. I can never fully express the impact motherhood has made on my mental health. I can say with full certainty that I would not be on this road to healing if he had not shown me that it is possible.

Is parenting hard with a mental illness? Abso-fucking-lutely. But, parenting is what makes my daily struggle a little brighter. It is what forces me to live in the moment. It is what shows me multiple times a day that life is beautiful, no matter what my negative voice says. On my hardest and darkest days, I still have moments of clarity and love because of the little boy who lives in a room of light and love, mirroring it back to me, showing me what I’m capable of every time I forget.

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Thinkstock photo via Archv

Most people with anxiety or depression can attest to how debilitating it can be. But after starting to work through all the negative feelings that come with it, I started to see there is, in fact, a silver lining.

After I started seeing a therapist and opening up about my anxiety and depression last year, I’ve actually seen some benefits to my anxiety and depression. So, here are seven things that remind me there is still some goodness that can come out of my struggles.

1. Depression puts things into perspective.

Don’t get me wrong, depression sucks. But when faced with depression, I become more in touch with my emotions. I think I developed a certain self-awareness and have become more introspective. I constantly ask myself why I’m feeling a certain way.

2. I developed a deeper sense of empathy for others.

Depression makes me feel like anything but myself. It makes me feel alone and unloved. It’s a terrible feeling, but it does give me a greater understanding of what other people are going through.

3. I have the opportunity to expand my interests.

Once I started working through all the negative feelings, I also started to find new ways to keep myself happy. In the past year, I’ve started taking improv classes and I’ve started to volunteer, mentor and give back to the community.

4. I formed bonds with people I may not have had the chance to meet otherwise.

As we know, depression and anxiety are not rare. They can may make us feel isolated and alone. I started to realize not only was I not alone, but there is a whole community out there filled with people who go through exactly the same things I do.

5. I developed my relationships with family and friends.

Opening up about my struggles not only serves my well-being but also enhances the current relationships in my life — including those with friends, family and coworkers. Before opening up, I had a tendency to isolate myself and push people away. But after starting to open up to my friends and family about my struggles, I found myself getting closer to them. When I opened up to them about my vulnerabilities, it created emotional intimacy.

6. I developed a greater appreciation for the happy moments in life.

Anxiety and depression doesn’t necessarily mean I will live a miserable life. There are highs and lows. But I’ve experienced enough low, dark moments to appreciate the happy ones. For me, because I’m so used to thinking negatively, I find I’m pleasantly surprised when things go my way.

7. I’m dedicated to improving myself.

Because anxiety feels awful, it does serve as a catalyst for change. It motivates me to do something meaningful in my life, improves my self-confidence and helps me find new ways to live happier and healthier.

Instead of fearing my anxiety or depression, I should treat it as a friend — something I can learn from. When I have those dark days or thoughts, I should acknowledge them, but not judge them. Instead, I can use them as inspiration to make profound change in my life.

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Thinkstock photo via Igor Sinkov.

There is a message I have shared with my friends as I have helped them through their mental health issues. Occasionally, I have even shared it with myself, though I rarely give myself such good advice and encouragement.

In all the times I have said it, I never knew exactly how to phrase it. How to tell myself “this too shall pass,” in different words. That phrase never seemed impactful enough for me. It was always like telling myself or my friends, one day things would get better. It is a very indefinite phrase, and people like myself with anxiety and depression can’t always see the truth in such phrases. The other day however, I came across a phrase that summed up everything I had been trying to say all these years. In one elegant sentence, it told my story and it told the story of those I love. It provided concrete hope that things would be OK.

“You have survived 100 percent of your worst days thus far.”

I turned the phrase over and over in my mind. It was true of course, but the more I said it to myself the more true it became for me. I thought back through every one of worst moments. I thought of the day someone very near and dear to me was diagnosed with depression. I thought back to the moments when I would cry alone in my room. I thought through every dark moment in my life. Those moments when you truly don’t believe you will make it to the next day. I thought about my own diagnosis with polycystic ovarian syndrome, or the first time I talked a friend off a figurative ledge. I thought about the night I first told my parents about my depression.

I remember standing outside the house with my mother, screaming, crying and refusing to go in and tell the rest of my family what I had just told her in the car. I remember barely being able to stand. I wanted to melt into the soft dirt beneath my feet. I wanted to dive into the cold lake that sat just on the other side of the house. I didn’t think I would make it through that night, but I did.

There can be countless moments in life when we don’t think we will see the next sunrise. Where something so heartbreaking happens we can’t possibly imagine going on. But for those of us fortunate enough to still be here, we have survived 100 percent of our worst days. We will go on surviving these awful days because the human spirit is strong. It is stronger, in fact, than the human mind sometimes. When our minds tell us we won’t get through it, something inside us keeps us fighting.

To anyone who is having their worst day right now, remember you are stronger than you ever thought you were. You have made it through 100 percent of your worst days.

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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Thinkstock photo via Pimonova.

I cannot say with complete conviction anxiety is something I am grateful for, but I can say I am grateful for what it has taught me.

Anxiety has humbled me greatly, for it causes me to fail consistently. I am grateful for this because it has instilled in me concrete perseverance and it is this fortitude which allows me to do what is hard and difficult despite the trials I know are ahead. In saying that, it is slowly allowing me to fail for the sake of trying and as a perfectionist, this is not something I was able to accept before coming to terms with my anxiety disorder. Trying is always important for me, even when I know the results won’t be what I desire.

It has taught me the value of communication and that it is in my best interest to tell those around me when I don’t feel well and to never feel guilty for doing so. There will be bad days despite all the progress I make, and it is crucial I am able to admit to others when those days arise so I can take the time and space I need to rejuvenate and heal from the heavy.

Continuing on from that, it has taught me one bad day or a few bad days in a row don’t make me a bad person, friend or human being. It means I’m healing because it is impossible to heal completely in an instant. Healing takes place over time and in segments. Nothing good (healing included) ever comes served on a silver platter all at once. It takes patience and dedication to heal wholesomely and I am only beginning this journey.

Anxiety has made me realize people leave sometimes but this is more than OK. It won’t feel OK or fair as it happens, but having anxiety means only those meant for me will support me through the highs and lows of the disorder. This is a blessing in disguise. A painful and testing blessing, but a blessing none the less.

The constant fear I face every day without fail or wavering has taught me to see the good in people because as someone who is flawed, it’s what I wish people to do for me. It doesn’t mean I will love others right or be the friend and companion others need all the time, but it always guarantees I will see the good in you before I ever see the bad. What a graceful lesson to learn.

This disorder has taught me some bad ass, seemingly super human strength! In order to live life to the best of my ability, — particularly after leaving high school — I’ve had to face challenges with my best foot forward. I can’t ask the world to wait until my anxious period is over. It has taught me my anxiety is debilitating and affects every aspect of my life, but it isn’t a prison sentence and with the strength I’ve acquired, I can live with the disorder and still live well.

Anxiety is not a disorder to be romanticized or invalidated because it is a very real condition for very real people. But in saying this,  it is possible to live with . The sooner I accept I may live with this disorder for my whole life, the sooner I will learn important lessons from my failures, fights, anxiety attacks and heartaches.

I’m learning to take it one breath at a time.

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Thinkstock photo via Pimonova.

I love writing, yet I fear it. I love being outside, yet I fear it. I love being around people, yet I fear it.

I’m trapped in my fear of fearing something, and I fear I won’t be able to get out of this cycle. The more I think about it, the more I feel my skin crawling. I can’t tell this to anyone else — who would understand? If I do this they usually say, “Oh, I am so sorry, it will get better.” It doesn’t feel that way. It makes me want to scream. Fearing something may be something they can work through, but even if I rationally know this isn’t something big, it isn’t something I can get over. My anxiety controls me and I get even more depressed when I think about how others may see me.

Even now just writing this I feel trapped in my cycle, my chest tightens and I just want to hide. I read others’ stories and think how I am not good enough. I think back to my childhood of attempts to write and how I hide those stories because I feared being rejected because my stories were not good enough. That if I tried to my authentic self, others may think I am just an odd, “messed up” person.

This is what fear is to me. This is what my anxiety feels like to me. A tightening ball of rubber bands being wrapped around each other making it hard to breath.

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