Our Mental Health Stories

This blog post is a little different from how I would usually talk about mental health, no longer is the focus solely on me but on other people. Mental health can affect us all in very different ways, and I felt it was only fair that I highlighted some of the differences.

Kamina of NinaKardia

What mental health condition/s do you have?

I have experienced depression on and off since I was 12, with moderate to major depressive episodes throughout my teens and at age 21, 24 and 27. During my last period of severe depression (when I was 27, last year) my husband was also diagnosed with moderate to severe depression and a generalised anxiety disorder brought on by some difficult circumstances we were going through.

How do your mental health conditions affect you day to day?

On a good day or during a good period, nobody would know that I struggle with mental health issues. I’m highly productive and socially confident and also kind of a clown. On bad days I struggle with feeling “stuck”. It can be hard to make really small decisions (what should I wear today? Should I put the kettle on first or get the mugs out?) to the point where it’s really difficult to go about a normal day and seems easier to stay in bed. If somebody asks me to make a decision about something or asks a simple question I will panic and not know the answer.

My brain doesn’t seem to work as it usually does, which is highly threatening for somebody who is used to having a sharp brain. I find it really hard to enjoy anything, even things that would typically make me happy when I’m doing well, and feel really really sad and low. I experience feelings of shame and hopelessness that are so overwhelming I can’t really think about anything else. I also feel really really tired for no apparent reason and can sleep for hours. Doing a single activity, like getting groceries or meeting a friend for coffee, is enough to knock me out for the rest of the day and then I have to go back to bed, so I can’t function with the same level of productivity as “normal”.

Highlight an event where your mental condition has had a big role on your actions/the outcome

My husband was working as a church pastor for three years and I was highly involved in the work. In 2015 we made the joint decision that he would leave his job, because his anxiety and my depression were making it impossible for us to function in the role but also making it extremely difficult for us to hold our marriage together while working full-time.

I’m fortunate that my current job is un-demanding and I can usually cope with it okay even on a bad day, but my husband and I are moving towards working as full-time freelancers, so that we can structure our work routines around the need to work less when we’re not doing well, mentally. Day to day it’s not unusual for me to cancel things because I just can’t manage getting out of the house. Luckily I have friends who understand and will respond with something like “it’s okay, we love you” or offer a way to make it easier for me to come.

How are you coping with it?

I have a really wonderful psychologist whom I have seen on and off for about five years – I take a break from seeing him when I’m doing well, but he’s always there for me to go back to when I hit another rough patch. He has suggested medication during the lowest times but we have found other ways to get me through without meds. (Disclaimer: I think it’s wise to take your health professional’s recommendation when it comes to medication, but each time I’ve arrived at that point my psychologist and I have worked together to try other things first, and that has been effective enough for me personally to cope so far.)

I’ve noticed that keeping good routines with a few key things helps me to stay balanced. That stuff includes exercise, quality time with a couple of special friends, doing creative work that makes my heart really happy, being in spaces where I can express myself, and having a pretty regular sleep routine. If I don’t do enough of that stuff I tend to go downhill quickly. I have to be strict with it and think of it as my ‘medication’.

What would you say to anyone else who may be suffering?

Talk about it. Don’t struggle alone. What you are going through is not unusual, and there are things you can do about it. Find a health professional or a couple of supportive friends (or both, preferably) and ask them to help you strategise and be pro-active about getting through. Rest when you need to (hint: this is probably a lot).

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

My psychologist said something to me that I found really helpful: he said that depression is like a broken leg. Break it once and you will probably heal fine, break it a second time and it might heal okay, but if you break it over and over in the same place eventually you’re always going to walk with a limp. It’s important to try not to break yourself too often, to bounce back well and to keep your emotional baseline as high as possible. Once you’ve spiraled into a long-term, major depressive episode like I did, it can be extremely difficult to come back from. So keep good routines, keep focusing on positive things through the bad, make room for a lot of fun in your life and do whatever you can to keep your head above water. It’s important.

Can’t get enough of Kamina? I don’t blame you! Check her out and give her a follow:

Kamina is a creative writer and a minimalist on a mission to help you love yourself, be authentic and live and awesome, unconventional adult life.  For fun she likes reading the internet, being the centre of attention, double denim, bad dancing, pretentious cocktails and kittens. She hands out unsolicited life advice on her blog at www.ninakardia.com.

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Bridget of Livingafairytale

What Mental Health condition/s do you have?

Living with anxiety and depression is a huge struggle everyday. With depression, I am constantly living in the past and with anxiety, I am in the future. I can never live in the moment.

How do your mental health conditions affect you day to day?

As I have gotten older, I have noticed that it has been harder to cope with. I can never enjoy my life right now because I am always thinking about what life used to be like, or thinking about what could happen in the future. I think that a lot of people hear about anxiety and depression and don’t really understand why someone is the way they are.

With anxiety, it is more social anxiety so I am constantly worrying about what people think of me or if I will do something embarrassing in public. On top of that I worry about what bad things could happen to me or my family.

Highlight an event where your mental condition has had an affect on your actions/the outcome

For me, there are some days where I cannot get out of bed or leave my house. Sometimes I will cry all day and not even know why.

People will talk to me, and I will be too busy in my thoughts that I don’t even know what they are saying. On the outside, I look happy and I am very friendly, but inside I am constantly shaking with anxiety. Almost everyday I have some sort of anxiety attack where I feel like someone is pushing on my chest and I can’t breathe

How are you coping with it?

To cope with these two mental health disorders, I take a medication and also go to therapy but I still feel the same. Those two things don’t make this condition go away, they just help it. I also try to workout and eat healthy, but lately when I workout I can’t enjoy the moment because my mind won’t stop thinking. It is almost like a voice that doesn’t stop talking to you.

What would you say to anyone else who may be suffering?

I would tell anyone with a mental health disorder that you are not alone and that even people who seem to have it all together may be struggling inside. I encourage people to get help if they feel like the need it, and always talk to someone instead of bottling it up inside.
Want to find out more about Bridget? Then give her a follow!
Thank you all for taking the time to read their wonderful stories. If you have been affected by anything mentioned in the above blog post please head on over to my blog post The Top 5 Online Resources for Relaxation which is full of free resources as well as helplines!