Freedom

When I started this blog, I was not free. I hid my depression, anxiety and binge eating disorder from the world, mostly because I was embarrassed. I also have a personality disorder, but I didn’t know it when I started writing.

I felt weak because of the depression. That’s not uncommon, mostly because society still buys into the stigma surrounding depression and other mental disorders.

It took going to a mental hospital for me to finally “come clean” about my disorders. Before I left for The Menninger Clinic, I was abusing my anxiety medication, suicidal and it was hard to get out of bed. I was at my lowest.

Then, surrounded by people just like me, I realized that I wasn’t weak — it takes a strong person to fight their own brain in order to stay alive. And that’s what I was doing. My brain was telling me I needed to kill myself and that nobody wanted me around. That I was a burden. But I resisted.

Depression not only made it hard to get out bed but also it was difficult to brush my teeth and shower. I also started isolating, not answering texts from my friends and wanting to spent more time by myself. That’s depression’s game — to isolate you and make you think you’re not worthy. And what helped me while hospitalized was discovering that it wasn’t my fault. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s situational and genetics. Anyone can become depressed — just think about what the pandemic has done: people have lost loved ones, they’ve gotten sick themselves, they’ve lost jobs and people are isolated from family and friends. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump over to depression right now, for anyone.

And it’s so lonely. So, so lonely.

My goal starting this blog was to help others not feel so lonely. So ostracized. To fight the weariness that you feel in your bones when struggling with depression. I want those suffering to know that you are worthy and not alone in this fight. There is light at the end of the tunnel, at least I think so. I’m still trying to get there.

What I’ve come to know is this: It’s OK to have depression. It’s OK to admit it and talk about it freely. There’s nothing wrong with having a mental disorder. People who suffer with mental illness are survivors, warriors. I am a warrior.

Every single day I wake up and fight depression and anxiety. I fight body image issues and experience terrible, hateful intrusive thoughts telling me I’m ugly, fat and a loser. Or that I’m going to die. Sometimes, it’s no picnic. But again, I’m a warrior.

I’ve learned that I can run on hate, so I’m learning to love myself. On a good day, I see a beautiful, wild-haired woman who loves her friends and family fiercely. Who has awesome tattoos and is not afraid of speaking her mind about anything. An advocate who desperately wants to help others.

I’ve come a long way, and this blog has helped me navigate my journey, which is just beginning.

What I am now is free — free from the shackles of other people’s opinions and the stigma surrounding mental disorders. I have major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, avoidance personality disorder, binge eating disorder and I have problems abusing prescription medication. I’m still amazing. I’m brave. I’m a fighter.

I’m unapologetically me and so fucking free. Join me.

Favorite Products That Help Me Keep My Chill

I’ve really been focusing on self-care lately. My goal is to space out my ECT treatments to eight to 12 weeks, so in between sessions I need to step up my self-care game. That includes exercising more and eating a healthy diet. It also includes taking advantage of the little things at home that add up to a lot when you’re trying to take care of yourself. Remember, self-care is not selfish — it’s necessary.

Below you’ll find my favorite things around the house and products that help me keep my chill and decrease anxiety.

My favorite books — I don’t get to read much these days but when I do, I usually go for a book I’ve already read. There’s no mystery, no twists and turns to upset my anxiety, just my favorite characters and their stories. I’d also add The Red Tent to this list — that’s another of my faves but not an easy read. You’ll also see The Big Activity Book for Anxious People, which always helps me feel better. It’s not a boring workbook, it’s a hilarious take on how to calm down and I love it.

Lauer Under Eye Patches — I found these on Amazon , and I really like them. They’re inexpensive but feel so good under my eyes after a long day. They feel cool to my skin, and I think it helps minimize some of my lines. It definitely helps with puffiness.

Not Your Mother’s Butter Masque (Green Tea and Apple Blossom) — I follow the Curly Girl Method for my hair, so after using my conditioner on my curls, I put this hair mask on and it makes me hair feel so hydrated and helps with the curls. The mask is inexpensive and can be found in a number of places. I use Target and Amazon.

OPI Nail Colors — I went more than a year without going to a nail salon, so I quickly learned to do my own manicures. Every few days, I change the color and it makes me so happy to see all the bright colors. I recommend getting a cheap manicure set and buying your favorite colors. Definitely get a Base Coat and a Top Coat, too.

Sephora’s The Peeling Mask — This a disposable face mask that you do for just a few minutes, but I love how relaxing it is to lie down with this mask on after the kids are asleep. It brings a touch of luxury to my day that’s usually not luxurious at all. The mask is under $10; I usually find it for $4.

Candles — In the past I’ve never been able to tolerate candles, because fragrance can cause migraines, but I’ve been able to use more, sometimes every day. I love waking up in the morning and lighting a candle while I’m getting the kids ready for school. It’s calming and certain smells can definitely reduce the amount of stress you feel and decrease anxiety. My fave candle right now is Cactus Blossom from Bath & Body Works. The three-wick candle usually sells at $24.50, but they have sales quite a bit.

Slippers — When we moved to the new house, my feet started hurting from all the back and forth I was doing while organizing. I put on a pair of Ugg slippers and rarely take them off. They are so comfortable! Sometimes I forget I’m wearing them and accidentally leave the house in them. I love that they have a strap around the back and how cushy they are. They are expensive but in my opinion, they’re worth it. I love putting my comfy clothes on at the end of the day and sliding into my slippers. I feel it helps me relax better.

Soft Touch Foot Peel Mask — This is another Amazon find. I bought it after I saw a video of a woman peeling off dead skin after using the peel mask. It was so satisfying. What you do: put the mask footie on your feet and leave on for an hour. Then you wash your feet off and in a couple of days your feet will start to peel. Not only is it fun to peel them, but it leaves your feet so soft. I used these every few months. It was especially helpful because I couldn’t go to the nail salon for a pedicure. It’s affordable too — about $20 for a two pack.
Udderly Smooth Hand Lotion and Body Cream — The lotion is no joke. I use it on my hands (and sometimes my feet) and it makes them feel so soft, and I hope it’s helping all the wrinkles on my hand. I have old lady hands. But this stuff goes on and makes your hands soft like buttah. It costs $16 for a 12-oz pack of two.

Dr. Teal’s Pink Himalayan Bath Foam, Body Lotion and Salt Scrub – I LOVE the smell of the pink himalayan salt. It smells so good, and I instantly relax in the tub when I use the bath foam. There’s nothing like taking a long hot bath, using the bath foam and the salt scrub. Followed by the lotion. It makes me feel like I’m at a spa. None of the products are expensive. You can find them at HEB, Target and Amazon. I heard the lavender fragrance is good, too but that’s an instant migraine trigger for me.

Last but not lease — Karribi Paint by Number Kit — I thought doing a paint by number piece would be relaxing and help me to focus on something other than my anxiety. I love putting my headphones in and painting these kits. There are several kits that have birds, so I bought all of those. It’s relaxing, it gives me some uninterrupted “me time” and I get a beautiful bird painting afterward. I highly recommend this for anxiety and stress. It looks like Amazon no longer carries this particular kit, but there are tons of paint by number kits for adults.

I am in no way being paid for these endorsements — I just wanted to share what goes into my self-care routine. If you want to add anything, please feel free and drop it in the comments. I’m wishing you all good health and peace. Thanks for reading.

Stay in the light.

The Dark Always Precedes Light

Before the pandemic started, I was experiencing a depressive episode. It wasn’t too bad but enough to struggle day to day with some activities. With Major Depressive Disorder, people like me experience episodes where they’re moderately or severely depressed for more than two weeks. Nobody knows exactly what triggers the episodes, and they recur periodically throughout one’s life. There is no cure, just treatment.

When I’m experiencing an episode, my symptoms can be what I consider mild — loss of interest in hobbies and activities, feelings of sadness, fatigue, headaches and changes in my eating habits (read about my eating disorder and how it plays a role in my depression here). During a severe episode, it’s hard to get out of bed. I feel weighted down all the time and very emotional, weepy even. I can’t take a shower, as gross as that may be. I can hardly brush my teeth. Every little thing feels overwhelming and impossible. In the past, I abused my anxiety medication because I just didn’t want to feel what I was feeling. And I have thoughts of suicide. I don’t want to die, but my brain focuses on it and tells me I should kill myself. It’s awful.

Anyway, I was experiencing a mild to moderate episode before the pandemic hit. When the schools closed and we went in lockdown, instead of crumbling into a more severe episode, something just clicked in my brain. A survival instinct maybe? I don’t know, but all of a sudden I had more energy and even more patience with the kids, even though I had no breaks or backup. I had to dig deep, become more mentally tough. David and I learned to cook, I learned to bake bread, I started sewing again, I took showers more frequently and everything stopped feeling so damn hard. I also started blogging more consistently, once a week, then twice weekly. I didn’t realize it at the time, but blogging helped me so much. I needed to get everything off my chest and be honest about what I was experiencing. Soon, others were telling me how much I helped them, so I kept going, and a year later I haven’t stopped. If I helped even one person, I’m happy. And I’m proud of myself.

Now I easily take showers every day to every other day. I brush my teeth more and sleep a lot less (no naps during the day). It’s easy for me to get out of bed every morning at 5 a.m. (when Eli wakes up) and the sadness I felt before only comes and goes. My anxiety is still pretty bad, but I’m able to manage it with therapy and healthy coping skills — most of the time.

I don’t know what it was about the pandemic that caused this seismic shift, and maybe it has nothing to do with it, but I’m so grateful. I’m still continuing therapy and ECT treatments, but I’m able to go longer in between treatments, which is a huge accomplishment for me. Before, I was going every four to six weeks, and as previously mentioned, I hate them!

Moving to our new house has improved my quality of life as well. For one, I don’t have to share a tiny shower in the kids’ bathroom. Now it’s enjoyable to take one and I have lots of space and hot, hot water. Having my own office is nice, too. And a laptop — now I can blog from anywhere in the house and am able to write more during the day while keeping an eye on the kids.

All in all, I’m happy. I have my moments, we all do, but I’m so, so much better. I didn’t ever think I could be this happy again. And I told David that I’d NEVER shower every day, that it just wasn’t possible. I’d be thrilled if this lasted awhile, even forever. I could do this forever.

I know I’ll still have bad days, be uncomfortable and have spells of great sadness even, and that’s OK. Because now I know that darkness isn’t forever. That it always precedes light — warm, beautiful light where I can shine and grow. But to be honest, I can grow in the dark, too.

That’s the thing about depression — it makes you stronger and beautifully resilient. One of my favorite quotes is “Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.”

And my friends, I’ve been planted.

What Makes Night Within Us May Leave Stars

Earlier today, I was writing a piece for my kids’ preschool, and I wrote something that I’ve never really discussed before, at least here on my blog.

I talked about how my depression and anxiety weren’t that bad until I had children. That it wasn’t lost on me that after I had kids my brain changed drastically and my depression worsened. But at the same time, my heart opened and I felt love that I’ve never felt. Sure, I experienced pain that I’ve never felt before too, but oh my god, the happiness and love that I feel when I’m with my kids is so amazing and just indescribable. It was some weird trade-off, I guess. And I’m here for it.

I also talked about how Isla sometimes is anxious. It isn’t surprising given my history with anxiety but it sure is painful to see her struggling or in a panicked state. She could just be an anxious child or she could just have common, every day 6-year-old worries. She’s too young to diagnose, and I hope she doesn’t have an anxiety disorder at all. Eli, either. Of course, I don’t want my kids to go through what I’ve been through. But just in case, I’m ready for it. I know how to navigate mental illness, believe me, and I so wish that I had the knowledge and resources when I was 12 that I do now. Early intervention is so important.

Now that I’m in a better place, I can say that every terrible thing I’ve felt and gone through has been worth it. It’s so worth it if I can be with and enjoy my kids. The meds, the psychiatric hospital, the panic attacks, ECTs, suicidal thoughts — it’s all worth it. Maybe it’s easy to say this while I’m not experiencing a depressive episode. But it needs to be said, I feel. I need to express just how grateful I am for my family, especially my kids and how they’ve shaped my life. Yes, my life would be dramatically different had I not had kids, but screw that idea of “what could have been.” My life, despite my illnesses, is so good. And again, I’m so thankful. And if I have to endure hell sometimes, so be it. Every depressive episode or panic attack only makes me stronger. My kids will see that, and it’s OK that they see me suffer and cope. They’ll see my resilience and perseverance.

And maybe that’s why I had to go through all that I did — to help one of my children go through the same. If that’s the case, it’s been more than worth it, and I’d do it all again. As a parent, I’ll always want to help my kids (read more here) and even remove all the roadblocks in their life, but I know it doesn’t work like that. But I can help. I’ll always be there.

Maybe my kids are just fine and I’m making too much out of nothing. Maybe I’m supposed to be blogging about my experiences to help others. If that’s the case, if I’ve helped even one person, it’s all been worth it.

It’s all been worth it, no matter what the case. I’m a better person for what I’ve been through, and all I want to do is make someone, anyone, feel that they are not alone. That their feelings are valid. That they are worthy and important.

And even though my brain tells me the opposite, I’d like to believe all that, too.

Maybe if I say, “It’s all been worth it” enough I’ll believe it. Maybe I can believe that I’m worth it.

It’s all been worth it.

And I’m worth it, too.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I don’t have much to say about this past week, other than it was OK. It went by quickly, which is good because I’m been anxious about receiving the scores of my daughter’s gifted and talented test. I thought they’d send them out, and I got so worked up about it that I called to office only for them to tell me they’re not sending out the letters until this upcoming Friday. That sucks, because we’re supposed to be leaving for Dallas that weekend for Spring Break. Oh well, I can’t do anything about it, and I know that worrying will only hurt me. So, I’ll try to let that go, lol. But I did talk to two other mothers who both told me they were constantly checking their email for the results, so I’m not alone.

I’m looking forward to our trip to Dallas to see my parents. We haven’t traveled in a long time, and it’ll be nice to get a change in scenery. I’m hoping to see my best friend, too but I don’t know if it’s in the cards.

Anyway, that’s it for me. This week I’m going to focus on decluttering, so I’m not so anxious and writing some more. I hope y’all have a great week. If you’re so inclined, please say a prayer about Isla’s scores. It’s important to me and my husband.

Stay in the light, my friends.

Millennials and Anxiety

I was on the phone with my mom yesterday when I brought up one of my cousins and how she too struggles with severe anxiety. Hers is so severe that she has had to drive herself to the ER because of panic attacks. Then my mom mentioned two other cousins who suffer from anxiety. My mom and I joked about how so many of us had anxiety and said that if she had mentioned having a headache or being nervous about something, she would be told, “You’re too young to have headaches or be nervous.” Basically, she and her seven other siblings would’ve been brushed off or told to suck it up. Not because her parents were mean or anything, that was just how it was back then. Because of this, my mom’s generation didn’t talk about feelings. I guess they bottled it all up or coped in other ways.

I had joked about it, but it got me thinking: why are so many Millennials (those born 1981 to 1996) so anxious? Why do (most) of us feel free to share their feelings and struggles when our own parents were taught not to? Do we overthink things? Am I overthinking this blog?

I don’t think so, lol.

Fun fact: Anxiety wasn’t even officially recognized as a condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) until 1980, so I get why there’s resistance among older generations to acknowledge it as a real disorder/disease, but it now affects more than 40 million Americans — it’s a serious and widespread disorder.

The American Psychological Association reports that 12 percent of Millennials have officially been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder—almost twice the percentage of Boomers who have been similarly diagnosed. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association also released a report in 2018 that showed that diagnoses of mental disorders had risen dramatically by 33 percent since 2013, and millennials make up 47 percent of that figure. 

“Millennials have seen two major economic collapses, higher rates of divorce among their parents, a skyrocketing student loan crisis and a widening gap between the rich and the poor,” according to culture critic Kalev Rudolph.

Byrdie.com says, “While every generation tends to believe that they lived through the hardest times, the spike in anxiety levels among millennials shows that they are indeed going through more periods of stress than generations before them.”

When talking to one of my besties, she mentioned that watching the shuttle explode in Kindergarten changed her, as well as watching the Twin Towers fall in high school. Understandably, it takes a toll. Some people may roll their eyes at what I’m saying because people say that Millennials are weak and spoiled. And while I personally can’t dispute the spoiled part, I can dispute the weak part. So many of us were taught to keep things inside and not be vulnerable, but also many of us have embraced being vulnerable and authentic in what we feel and struggle with. That’s not a weakness — it takes a very strong person to share her struggle and be open about what she’s going through.

It wasn’t easy for me to “come clean” about my major depression, anxiety disorder, eating disorder, personality disorder and suicidal thoughts. It wasn’t easy, because the stigma of depression and (other mental disorders) is still very prevalent in the U.S. That stigma is what kept me quiet during my struggles, which only made it worse. It’s lonely when you’re fighting a disease you can’t talk about with anyone. And now, people congratulate and sing my praises because I do share so much — and I’m beyond grateful for that. But it shouldn’t be that way — everyone suffering with depression or another mental disorder should feel supported and free to share their experiences.

So, no — Millennials aren’t weak, and Boomers/Gen Xers aren’t stronger for keeping their problems to themselves. I acknowledge that those generations were taught to “suck it up” and keep it to themselves. That’s what they knew and how they coped. I don’t mean to sound condescending, but they didn’t know any better.

But now, we know better — we’ve evolved…not as much as I’d like, but we’re getting there.

It’s not a coincidence that so many of my female first cousins suffer from severe anxiety. Obviously, there’s a genetic component but what else is at play? Personally, my parents never told me to suck it up or not to be honest about my mental disorders. But somewhere along the way — and I suspect it’s the true for my cousins — we were taught to aspire to a certain image (i.e. being skinny). I know this to be true because I’m not the only one in my family with an eating disorder. Also, that ideal didn’t include admitting to mental illness, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, etc. I suspect that’s why I stayed quiet about my issues so long. I can’t speak for my wonderful cousins.

It’s nice to know that I’m not some genetic anomaly (although that could be debatable), because it can be so lonely to fight anxiety alone. I’m in good company — my cousins are all successful, kind, empathetic, loving women who fight just as hard as I do on a daily basis. I so badly want us to come together, share our experiences and support each other.

That’s the hallmark of our generation — strength and empathy.

Not So Fun Times in Texas

We live in Corpus Christi in South Texas. Because we’re a South Texas coastal town, we don’t see much cold weather. Not like we have this past week. Temps have been well below freezing, then it rained. Ice was on the roads and pipes burst, making our water undrinkable. We haven’t had any power since Monday at 4 a.m. It’s actually like this in most of the state. And it’s been a complete shit show.

Mentally, I was doing OK, despite having been locked in my house with my kids all week with nothing to do. Despite not being able to go anywhere. Despite having power in only parts of the house (which is better than most, believe it or not). That was all until yesterday. Yesterday morning, I found myself losing my temper more with the kids and generally was in a pissed off mood. Then I got word that there would be no school for the rest of the week, which I expected but dreaded. My kids have been fighting all week long, and I just have no more to give today.

This week has just been shitty for millions of Texans. As I was talking to a friend about it, she said something along the lines of, “I am not good in these situations where nothing is routine or normal at all.”

And, boy did I feel that.

I too am a creature of habit. I get bent out of shape when even the slightest thing is off about my routine. I don’t like the unexpected. Hell, I don’t even like surprises most of the time, even if they’re good. When the pandemic hit last year, I thought I was going to lose my mind every single day. And yes, I did eventually adapt and we started a new routine. But with this shit this week, I have not adapted. I don’t enjoy sponge baths, I don’t enjoy having to entertain my two small children every minute of the day and I don’t enjoy being trapped inside the house (we can’t even take a car ride because of the icy roads). But this isn’t because I’m a creature of habit — this is because of debilitating anxiety.

My anxiety (a product of Generalized Anxiety Disorder) is more than a little nervousness about some things — it exhausts me, it makes me think worst-case scenarios about anything and everything about my life and it gives me panic attacks. That’s normal for me, in normal situations. In situations such as the one we’re in now, it’s so much worse. Little things, like repetitive noises and messes, send me over the edge. It’s hard to calm down once I’m already triggered, and it’s really hard to keep my composure in front of the kids, which I do attempt. It affects me mentally and physically. I’m exhausted and very tense. I’m so tired and frustrated, that I said “fucking” in front of the kids and my mother in law. My kids have definitely expanded their vocab this week.

I know it’s temporary and will all be over soon, but it doesn’t change how I feel. Some things are just harder for people with anxiety. I don’t wish it on anyone.

I had such high hopes for this week, because it’s my birthday week. Now, I’ll be lucky if they get the power back on by Saturday, lol. But I do know that it will all be OK soon. School will start back up Monday, and things will get back to normal. I’ll appreciate the structure and routine so much more than I did before.

If you have a loved one with anxiety, ask how you can support them. Avoid statements like, “calm down” or “don’t worry.” I always feel misunderstood and brushed off when my anxiety is met with statements like that. An anxiety disorder can be quite debilitating and should be considered serious. I have friends who have had a panic attack and had to go to the ER it was so bad.

I hope you are all warm and safe. If you’re not, I’m saying prayers for you.

Stay in the light, my friends.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

Y’all. Last week was ROUGH, likely due to me confronting some past trauma and not just shoving it in a drawer somewhere in my messy, complicated brain. Again, personal growth is so annoying.

While I do feel better having faced my demons, I can tell it’s still bothering me a bit because of my binge eating and thought patterns. Either that or I’m just so used to used to “crisis mode” that I don’t know how to get out. And that’s OK for a little while but it’s no way to live everyday life.

This week I’m going to try and get back to my intuitive eating skills, because I think they’re so helpful and make me feel better about myself. Last week, I just chucked everything I’ve learned out the window and purposely overeat and/or binged.

I’m also going to do some thinking on where I want this blog to go and what I want people to get out of it, so I can take it to the next level.

All in all, I’m ready to get out of crisis mode and be mindful in everything I do. I know I can do it. It’s never too late to learn how to live your life in a healthy way. And even though it feels like I start all over every week and don’t make strides, I know I’m a million times better than last year. And the year before that. Progress is hard to see sometimes.

I hope y’all have a great week. Stay in the light, my friends.

I Don’t Care About “Bumming” You Out

Recently, I was told I posted too much about depression — that I was “bumming” people out. This comment not only infuriated me, but it hurt my feelings. How often do people like me — the chronically ill, depressed and others suffering with a mental disorder — deal with some inane comment like that. A comment that’s meant to shame and only discourage people’s truths.

I’m sorry, not sorry that I’m “bumming” people out. People need to know what it’s like to have a mental disorder. I’m done being told to “chin up,” “get some fresh air,” and “exercise” to cure my depression. That’s not helpful.

When you’re depressed and anxious, you can’t “pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” In my case, when I’m going through a depressive episode, all I feel is pain. I get bone tired that no amount of sleep can alleviate. In my head, all I hear are criticisms of myself, how I’m a loser and unworthy. That nobody loves me. That I should kill myself. And the guilt — it’s overpowering. I feel guilty that I’m a depressed mom and that I have limitations that other moms don’t have. I feel guilty because I can’t control how I feel. I feel flawed, defective because growing up I came to understand that depression was something you could wish away with fresh air and sunshine. That strong people didn’t get depressed.

So, that makes me weak, right? That’s the stigma of depression talking.

I know better now. There’s nothing weak about me, or anyone who suffers with a mental disorder.

As I write this — and I’m not even experiencing a depressive episode — I’m purposely overeating, doing anything that will make the pain I feel go away. Overall, I’m doing great right now, but the thing about depression is that it lurks, always waiting for an opportunity to blanket my brain in doubt, fear and pain. And it’s so lonely. Not everyone understands and there are so many misconceptions about depression. My brain, my own brain, tells me to isolate from friends and family, making me even lonelier and in despair.

Luckily, I was able to go to a very good psychiatric hospital where specialists properly diagnosed me, prescribed the right medication and started me on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I’m so sick that doctors have to pass electric currents through my brain to trigger a seizure, resetting my brain. I have to do treatments every six to eight weeks, along with weekly therapy, just to feel almost normal.

My diagnoses are as follows:
Persistant depressive disorder (dysthymia)
Major depressive disorder, recurrent episode, severe
Generalized anxiety disorder
Binge eating disorder
Avoidant Personality Disorder
Opioid use disorder, moderate
Sedative, hypnotic or anxiolytic use disorder, moderate

I’m one of the lucky ones because I can afford a high-dollar hospital and therapy. There are people who can’t. There are people who are suffering in silence, all because some people feel uncomfortable and “get bummed out” talking about mental illness. It’s bullshit. No one — and I do mean no one — should ever suffer in silence. There’s nothing embarrassing about struggling with depression. It’s not a weakness. It’s the same as having any other disease or disorder. So many people put on a happy face in order to hide their illness, and that too is bullshit. And that can be so dangerous if that person has suicidal ideation. People literally die because they don’t feel free to share how they’re feeling. The CDC reports that more than 48,000 people die each year by suicide. That number is surely to rise because of the pandemic.

It has to stop. I’m done being embarrassed by the fact that my brain is wired differently. I’m tired of feeling weak, when in reality I fight for my life every day. I’m strong as hell. I’m scrappy and I have grit. I’m proud of who I’ve become. And I will certainly NOT stop talking about depression or other mental disorders. I don’t give a fuck who I’m bumming out, because I’m also giving a voice to those who can’t quite find theirs yet.

I’m free from the embarrassment and guilt. I’m done with caring what other people think — the weight of their opinions is far too heavy. I will continue to lend my voice because I want others to be free too.

Please let us be free.

The Personality Disorder I Didn’t Know I Had

In 2019 I went to a psychiatric hospital (The Menninger Clinic) after battling suicidal thoughts, abusing my anxiety meds and hitting a low I didn’t know was possible. For six weeks, I was away from my family, which is almost as painful as fighting depression and anxiety.

While I was there, I was assigned a psychiatrist, social worker, therapist and a psychologist. I underwent many psychiatric tests and was taken off all my psychiatric medications. It was rough.

I knew I had major depressive disorder, because I’ve struggled with depression for almost two decades. I knew I had anxiety, because of the crippling panic attacks and intrusive thoughts – thoughts telling me I should kill myself or that my family was going to die.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the diagnosis of Avoidant Personality Disorder. I had never even heard of it. Avoidant Personality Disorder, which affects about 1 percent of the general population, is described as having feelings of extreme social inhibition, inadequacy and sensitivity to negative criticism or rejection. It’s more than being shy or awkward in social situations (which I am). It makes it hard for those suffering with the disorder to interact with others and maintain relationships. It’s also common for “us” to avoid work or school, mostly because of extreme low self-esteem.

It was hard hearing this new diagnosis. For one, I already felt saddled by depression and anxiety. I wasn’t fond of the idea that I had this disorder, another albatross around my neck. And yet, I couldn’t deny it. Reading about the disorder was like reading from my memoir; I knew the symptoms and behavior well. I’ve always been social awkward. I avoided school like the plague, and later when I worked, I avoided that, too. I haven’t worked outside the home since 2013.

There was no denying the diagnosis. And, even though I’d probably been dealing with it since adolescence, I felt more broken because my many flaws were well documented and it was “official.”

But that’s bullshit. I was broken but not because of the diagnosis. I was broken because I had kept my struggles to myself and hadn’t reached out until it was almost too late. I was stifled by the stigma that surrounds depression and other mental disorders. The stigma and keeping my struggles to myself almost killed me.

Having depression, anxiety, a personality disorder and binge eating disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. That’s what I have – not who I am.

Now, I blog about my troubles and speak freely to others about anything and everything mental health related. I’m no longer afraid of being judged. The weight of others’ opinions is far too heavy to bear.

Now, I’m free.

Reject the stigma. Be proud of the fighter that you are. Seek help if you need it. By doing so, we help eradicate the judgement and stigma. Be free with me.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, go to the nearest emergency room or call a trusted friend. You are not alone.