May is Mental Health Month! In honor of this, I have decided to set myself free from my fear and self-imposed stigma surrounding my mental health struggles. I've chosen to open up and share about my experiences in the hopes that someone who might be going through something similar can feel seen, understood, and remain hopeful about the future. Because in time, things do get better. And also because there is nothing to be ashamed of!
(TRIGGER WARNING: Depression, Suicide, Trauma, Drug Abuse)
I was diagnosed with Dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder) in the early 2000's when I first began therapy. I started therapy because I finally ended my torrid relationship (my several year long daily habit) with drugs, and I was ready to dive head first into healing and working through my issues surrounding my mothers passing and other trauma. After many years of intense therapy, I was able to really understand what my depression is. I was able to work through my many different cycles and understand how to cope in healthy ways. It is something I'm still learning and things are ever-changing. Just like life, my depression has ups, downs and everything in between.
I am someone that suffers from depression and anxiety. I am someone that has had thoughts of suicide. I am someone that has attempted suicide. I am someone that has been deeply impacted by childhood trauma. But more importantly, I am someone that will not be defined by my mental health struggles. It is not the only thing about me. I am a complex human being with many sides to myself. And this is one part of myself that is a struggle and needs constant work. I am ok with that. For too long, I was ashamed to be open about this subject because of the attached stigma. Frankly, I was embarrassed and didn't want to be seen as weak.
My encouragement to anyone struggling with depression, anxiety, or any form of mental illness is to seek treatment. Therapy is a LIFE SAVER!!! I repeat.. THERAPY IS A LIFE SAVER!! Also, not every therapist is meant to treat you. Look for a therapist with the same approach as dating. Try a couple therapists! When they are the right one for you, you will know. Another thing that could help is medication. I personally have never tried medication, but I do believe that it is very helpful for some people. I do take vitamins and 5-HTP which is a homeopathic supplement that increases serotonin and can improve your mood (disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor so I am not recommending anything, I'm just letting you know what I take). I also try to eat as healthy as possible and make sure to allow myself some time for self care. That really really helps my mental health.
One thing that has really helped me over the years is developing strong boundaries with people. That includes my wife, my family, my friends, and even acquaintences. I put my mental well being above all because I have to. I used to think it was selfish, but not anymore. It's about self love and having a healthy relationship with yourself FIRST, so you can then have the same with others.
It's also super important to be kind to yourself. Be kind in the way you think about yourself. Tell yourself that you are human, you are beautiful, you are important, you are kind, you are smart, you are strong, you are loved, you are wanted, you are a valid addition to this world. If you tell yourself these things every single day, then how can you not believe it?
For anyone that needs help with therapy or treatment you can find services at the following links:
LA LGBT Center for services: https://lalgbtcenter.org/health-services/mental-health/individual-therapy
LA County Department of Mental Health: http://maps.lacounty.gov/dmhSL/?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide you can always call:
Trans Lifeline: 1 (877) 565-8860
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255