World Mental Health Day

 
mental health awareness
 

“I can’t do this anymore.”

I stared at the bathroom mirror, trying to see myself through my tears. What stared back at me was emptiness. I didn’t recognize myself. I hated the person in the mirror. She was worthless, a disappointment, and didn’t deserve happiness.

It became a pattern - my anxiety and depression would get triggered and I would spiral out of control. It usually ended with me crumbled on my bathroom floor, the darkest thoughts consuming me, and I would contemplate whether or not I should live.

I know… this isn’t a post about cakes, frosting, or macarons, BUT since it is World Mental Health Day, I thought it was about time I opened up about my struggles with anxiety, depression, and self-hatred. I know that I am not alone and we (especially women) need to be more honest and talk about this so that we can come together as a community and help each other heal.

I had a great childhood - my parents were loving and did everything they could to provide for my sisters and me. Sure, I had the normal child angst where I almost ran away from home, but everything in my life for the most part was easy and happy.

Junior high started and we all know that this is the most awkward phase of your life. I had extreme body image issues, and a list of insecurities a mile long. I’ve never admitted this, but I would actually write notes to myself like “Don’t eat today” because I wanted to be skinnier. I ended up skipping meals and becoming unhealthily skinny, and I still thought “I could lose more weight”. At around 12 years old, the negative self talk and self loathing began, which also caused me to enter into my battle with anxiety and depression.

In college, there were moments of such loneliness and darkness that I tried to deny it and block it out. I remember days where I would not want to see anyone or do anything, but instead, let myself drown in my thoughts and inner demons. The more I was alone, the more hate I felt towards myself. I thought “If I just ended my life, I wouldn’t have to deal with this anymore.” I convinced myself that it was the only way out.

I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was going through because in some twisted way, I felt comfort in this depressing state. It was what I was used to, and something that made me feel “at home” in a way. It’s hard to describe… I just knew that if I had to talk about what was happening, that meant that it was REAL, and I would have to do something about it. I just did not want to face it.

I wish I could say that all of this has completely left me, but it hasn’t. Being a wife and an entrepreneur has been an invitation to these dark thoughts, and for some reason, I feel like I am revisiting my past but in a much more complicated way. Now, I can’t exactly run away from these feelings. There is another person - my husband - who knows me too well that he keeps me accountable and questions all the time if I’m okay. Yes, more often than I liked, I would lie. I’d tell him that everything is fine because it’s much easier to say that than to go into detail of what is truly haunting me.

I’m still not used to talking so openly about how I feel, or discussing my past with my husband. It drives a wedge between us sometimes because I’m not allowing him in, to understand my struggles and how he can be there for me. So if we get into a heated argument, I don’t know what else to do but run. My suicidal thoughts have been at its peak these past few years.

In any negative situation, my knee jerk reaction was to put all the blame on myself. All I would hear were those inner demons again, attacking me and overcoming my thoughts. There was one time where we were driving in my husband’s car, and I was so close to just opening the passenger door and throwing myself out. It was even harder to be at home, with no place to run or hide, so I would do what I was comfortable with, and lock myself in my bathroom, calling myself the worst names, hitting and hurting myself, crying and asking God why I had to go through this.

Writing all of this out is painful. I don’t think I have ever been so vulnerable or open, and a part of me hopes that no one will read this… but I know that every situation you go through, good or bad, is a way to help someone else out who’s maybe a few steps behind you.

My husband reminds me all the time, that we are a team. I don’t have to go through this alone, and I shouldn’t. I always thought that this was MY issue… MY battle… that it only affected me, but I couldn’t be farther from the truth because this has affected everything in my life: my marriage, my relationships, my business.

If I am not mentally stable, it is impossible for me to show up fully for what is important in my life. Everything that is a priority to me deserves all of me. Even though I am still fighting this battle, I can proudly say that I have progressed and moved farther along my journey to getting better.

I don’t know where you are in terms of these issues, or if you know someone who is dealing with this, but I wanted to share some of the main things that helped and encouraged me along the way.

  1. Prayer: I’ll admit that I don’t lean towards prayer as much as I should and that I try to rely on my own strength to overcome things, but I need the strength of Jesus to pull me out of the deep ditches I dig myself in. Prayer keeps me in check and reminds me that there is someone who loves me so much that He died for me and is reaching out, letting me know that there is a way out, always.

  2. Community: It is incredibly dangerous what your own mind and voice can do to you. Whenever I avoid my community and get stuck in my own mind, it’s always bad. Not only does speaking out loud about it help, but it allows accountability, for people to comfort and encourage you, and for you to feel not so alone. You never know what someone else is going through too, and if you and a friend are struggling with something at the same time, it’s nice to cheer each other on. (You can also look into therapy! I haven’t done it yet but it has been on my list. It’s nice to also speak to someone who doesn’t know you at all and can give you new and fresh perspectives.)

  3. Changing the way I talked to myself: As I’ve mentioned, my inner dark thoughts and demons have a way of overcoming me. You can be your own worst enemy, so change needs to start with YOU. Speak to and treat yourself with love. The way I speak encouragement into my friends’ lives is not how I speak to myself. Why do we do that?? I challenge you, everyday, say 5 amazing things about and to yourself. “I am beautiful. I am blessed. I am gifted. I am loved. I am not here by accident."

  4. Podcasts: I am a total podcast junkie and hearing self-help podcasts always makes me feel better. Some favorites: Marie Forleo, Goal Digger by Jenna Kutcher, Rise by Rachel Hollis (please recommend more in the comments below!).

  5. Journaling: Writing how you feel is another form of therapy. Sometimes it makes me realize something I didn’t know about myself, or even gives me an answer to a difficult situation. It’s nice to look back and see how far you’ve come as well.

The more we speak openly about our struggles, the more light we shine upon it, and it becomes less dark, less heavy, and less of a lonely battle.

One thing I’ve been trying to practice is being grateful, everyday. As Rachel Hollis says, “It's impossible to feel anxiety and gratitude simultaneously. It's impossible to feel fear and gratitude simultaneously. Fight negative emotion with gratitude.”

P.S. If you ever need to talk to someone, please send me an email at amanda@justbakecause.com or leave your email in the comments and I can reach out personally.