Tales of tumult
I’ve been a writer since I gained an understanding of sentence-building. Young, starry-eyed Maria would weave complex narratives between super wide-ruled lines, laying the groundwork for what she believed her life would become. She’d be a well-received socialite, perhaps a chart-topping musician or a cutting-edge film director. She’d be beautiful, graceful, and brimming with ambition.
These were the tales I found while leafing through my childhood writing from until about the age of 10. Reading these stories, I felt a deep admiration for the grandiose concept of self I’d fabricated. Sure, I had difficulties throughout childhood – namely with separation anxiety and fears of abandonment that my family proposed I’d grow out of – but they weren’t nearly enough to damage my impervious relationship with my own self.
Things took a dimmer turn while uncovering a notebook from around the fourth grade. Perusing the pages, my eyes locked on a simple but evocative title for a brief piece of poetry: “Depression.”
I was 10 years old.
At that point in my life, a mental health journey began unbeknownst to me. In the coming years I would vomit from anxiety, self-isolate, and tear down what self-esteem I had left. I would collapse at the thought of appearing in public and wear minor mistakes as badges of failure. My propensity toward overwhelm meant fitful anxiety attacks – daily guests that even my loved ones could see.
As my life grew more complex, my shoulders buckled under the weight. Fear melted pounds from my body until I achieved my adolescent physique. Nights approached total sleeplessness. My interpersonal relationships in disrepair as my phobias bottlenecked at the mouth. Words of consolation read as hollow disregard for the perceived reality I continued to live, knowing that it wasn’t true but struggling to believe it. Words of advice rang as insults. I was stranded within myself.
It was only then it dawned on me that I couldn’t do this alone. I wanted to explore options that would supplement my determination that I was ready – that I didn’t want to suffer as I have, that I didn’t want my loved ones to suffer at my hand, that I wanted to and could do something about it. Finally, I sought help that made life marginally less daunting.
How do you know when it’s getting bad?
Honestly, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to identifying and addressing a mental disruption. Whether you’ve been previously diagnosed with a mental health disorder, have recently noticed changes in your behavior or thought patterns, or have no idea what to look for in the first place, it’s valuable to give yourself mental checkpoints – even when you’re not in an overt crisis.
I know I’m starting to feel a bit off when I start to neglect my personal basics. I’ll forget to brush my teeth, I’ll put off that shower until tomorrow, or I’ll let clutter mount in my living space. I’ll look in the mirror and have far more disparaging than kind things to say. Taking care of myself becomes an afterthought as I battle to keep myself functioning at the lowest possible level.
The above may not apply to you. In fact, maybe the complete opposite applies to you. You may have lost interest in old hobbies. You may be more easily agitated or startled. You may find yourself self-medicating or feeling especially vulnerable.
Whatever the case, a valid first step can be to ask yourself where you’re at mentally, at a frequency that feels right. How are you coping with the day? Is anything specific weighing on your mind, from the present or the past? What is your body telling you that you need right now?
It’s easier said than done, but working to alleviate some of these points can diffuse some of the overall discomfort a mental disruption can bring. If you haven’t showered, you can make showering your only goal for the day. If you haven’t made the bed, you can try making the bed – even if you don’t do it perfectly.
The effort won’t be easy to muster. You may stumble and end up entirely forgoing the goal you set for yourself. Regardless, the awareness of what your body and mind need does matter and can slowly lead you to what can help address those needs.
Should you see a therapist or try medication?
Whether or not you decide talking to someone or going on medication may be helpful, remember that your mental health is your domain. I refused to see a therapist or use medication until I began to see them as options that were available to and may work for me – and I came to that conclusion on my own after years of resistance.
If you’re interested in seeking therapy, you can learn more about some different approaches to therapy here. Not all therapists can prescribe medication, but psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners can.
If you’re not comfortable seeking therapy or medication, that’s valid too! You know yourself best, and you can take all the time you need to figure out what may contribute to your general welfare. If you’re not able to access this specific kind of care, we recognize you as well. We believe in and are working daily to provide more accessible and affordable mental healthcare options for survivors of trauma.
What can Leda do to help?
We acknowledge that healthcare, including for mental health, can be expensive and often unattainable. The ability to speak out about and address mental health disruptions in a professional or medical setting is a privilege – having the time, energy, and resources to do so is too. At the same time, it can feel disingenuous to hear others tell you that you just have to lean into a support system. While some have a safe support system with a degree of understanding already, this isn’t true for everyone.
Leda’s services were designed with the knowledge that inclusive, trauma-informed, and accessible solutions are key in addressing mental health disruptions and trauma. Visit the "Our Services" tab on our website for more information about how Leda is addressing trauma.