As with a lot of my posts, I have a laundry lists of things in my head before going to write the post. Finally, I decide to come write them down. This post started really bearing on my mind, so I figured it was time to put it in writing. Before going on, this is very personal, but I also believe it is something that needs to be said. Point blank, awareness needs to be spread.
I will just come out and say it. In fall 2014, for the first time in my life, I majorly suffered from depression and anxiety. These mental illnesses are often associated as a symptom of Cushing’s disease, and the Lord knows that they hit me full blown. At first, I didn’t even recognize it myself. The fact that I had depression was actually brought to my attention by a loved one. When it was initially brought to my attention, I had major denial about it. I thought “I am Gina Gregoire Helton. I am tough. I am strong. I don’t get depressed”. Little did I know, it was the harsh reality. It worsened, and along with the terrible illness of depression creeped in anxiety. Double whammy!! Goodness, I thought one was bad but now I struggled with both! YIKES!
These two illnesses began to take over me. I looked in the mirror, and I hated what I saw. I hated me. I didn’t deserve to live. Why was God taking others lives when they wanted to live, and I wanted to die. I kept questioning that. Did I have a bad life? Absolutely not. I have so many blessings to count, it is endless. Loving family and friends. A roof over my head. Food in my stomach. A great community. A good job. A God that loves me, even though I couldn’t find it in me to love myself.
Then why was it hard for me to be around those that I love? I literally had anxiety imagining leaving the house. Even going to my parents house and being around my family. Those that love me and accept me no matter what. I was terrified, and that scared me. Why did I hate myself? Why was scared to be around people I have known my entire life? I didn’t know. I couldn’t explain it. As I began to learn about depression and anxiety, I began to understand they are truly illnesses. Just like the flu. You cannot control them inflicting you. While they can be managed, they are not something you choose to have. I would not wish them upon anyone.
I have to admit after telling you this, that before I suffered from depression and anxiety, I did not understand. Every single day of my life, I encounter people with depression and anxiety through my personal life and in my profession. With regret and sadness, I will tell you, I was one of those people that always looked at those with depression and anxiety and thought “suck it up buttercup”. I was someone that thought you could just “shut it off”. Quit thinking the worst and think positive thoughts. I thought it should be automatic. I was learning quickly that it was not. The illnesses attack your mind and soul.
Now I stand here today, without being depressed or anxious to ask everyone in the world to be accepting of those suffering from these terrible illnesses. If you know someone suffering, reach out. Do not push your thoughts on them or judge them. Just acknowledge it, offer love and support. Let them know that no matter what you will not leave their side, and you will not let them walk through it alone. Even if you have not experienced it yourself, you can hold their hand. You can help them with the resources. Offer hotlines, offer to go to the doctor or a therapist with them. It is honestly a terrifying experience to go through alone, especially if you do not understand it yourself. Trust me, people with depression and anxiety do not WANT to be experiencing it.
If you are experiencing depression or anxiety yourself, please know that it is not permanent. You can get help! If it is gets so bad you cannot bear it alone, please reach out to loved ones. They may not know exactly what you need, and sometimes you may even need to tell them exactly what you do need. Loved ones may want to help, but they may not know how.
Some things that were helpful for me:
-Looking it up on the internet to understand it
-Accepting the help from loved ones
-Going to the doctor
-Seeing a therapist
-Talking to loved one when needed/telling them exactly what you are thinking
-If it it gets to the point of self-harm, remove anything from your access that you would think about using
-I LOVE this one…I even was able to laugh a little, which is always great!! I learned this from my therapist. NAME your anxiety! Seriously… I named mine “Joni”, after Joni Ernst. At this time we were being flooded with political announcements and flyers, etc., and it drove me nuts!! Along with the anxiety, the little voice in my head telling me irrational thoughts…So, when when of those little irrational thoughts crept in, I would just say “shut up, Joni” “Joni, you’re a bitch” (Excuse my language)… (It makes you feel crazy, but aren’t we all a little!…and then you just laugh at it…)
Please, please, please, if you are struggling with depression and anxiety, and you not feel like you can reach out to anyone, know that I am here… judge free!
To all readers: “Be Kind To Those You Meet For Everyone You Meet Is Fighting A Battle You May Know Nothing About”