Hey, so here’s something people still never talk about enough: Mental wellness. And I don’t think it’s just because of embarrassment or shame or privacy. It’s because we don’t always realize we’re unwell until we’re better, or worse yet, until we’re really unwell.
My mind couldn’t rest. My nervous system was on overdrive. I was tired and nursing a baby and chasing a toddler and quit my stable job to start a creative business. I ran circles in my head about global and domestic terrorism, raising feminists, gun violence, saving the planet, will I get cancer three times like my Mom did, has anyone brought so-and-so dinner since her Dad went into the hospital? Mental math on our personal cashflow, responding to a friend, supporting a sibling who was struggling, grow my business, support my husband’s career, feed the kids, door knock for mayoral candidates…
Problems are relative, right? And maybe mine were all champagne, but they were still real. That was just the tip of what I couldn’t calm down about. And I was starting to lose sleep on top of not sleeping much anyway.
My overstimulation was so high that it felt like my nervous system was being worn on the outside of my body, acutely feeling every noise and invitation and question and need around me.
I wasn’t gonna make the appointment with my my midwife but I did. Then I wasn’t gonna go to the appointment but I did. I wasn’t gonna fill the prescription, and I definitely wasn’t gonna take the pill but did it anyway. And my quality of life became significantly higher within 30 minutes.
In hindsight, would anyone have known how bad I was aside from my husband and a few close friends? I was keeping so many things afloat that needed to float and my smiles weren’t fake, but that feeling. Ugh, that awful naggy feeling that just doesn’t go above a certain line when the chemicals in your brain are off. I didn’t know how bad it was until I felt good again.
Walking through darkness doesn’t necessarily mean you’re crying into a journal every night. Or even at all. I wasn’t suicidal and I wasn’t a recluse. I was overwhelmed and unhealthy and needed to bring myself back up to a baseline. I needed to find a new center point, and though I still did fine taking care of everyone else, I failed miserably at taking care my myself. I dried up, empty bucket, burned out, nothing left. It was bad. But it taught me the value of myself, that I can’t be put on the back burner forever.
I’ve learned that my energy is not infinite, and in it needs to be focused intentionally. I say no more. I go to yoga 3-4 times a week. I sleep. I keep my house tidy and maintain a rhythm that keeps me grounded. I take a pill every day, too.
I’ve learned that every time I tell someone this story they tell me about their own very similar story. Or that of a friend who went through something similar, too. Telling the truth liberates you, and often the people around you, too. It ends a stigma that depression and anxiety is reserved for the other people, not people like you and me. Just those people. I am those people, and would you have known it? My life outside of these images didn’t look very different. These aren’t pretend, they’re very blatantly what anxiety and depression can also look like.
My life is so good. So fucking good. I feel healthy, more alive, more well than I’ve ever felt before. I take my mental wellness seriously today. In fact, it’s priority No.1 in my life, because without it, I’d miss knowing the beauty all around me.
Allyssa (and Amy)