In a day when people seem to be putting everything about their personal lives on social media for all the world to see, there’s one thing that people still are hesitant to talk about – their mental health.
I know because I am one of those people. It took me several months before I would admit to my family, let alone friends and co-workers, that I was suffering from depression and anxiety. By the time I talked to a doctor about my symptoms, I was in the midst of full-blown clinical depression that left me unable to sleep, eat or concentrate on day-to-day tasks.
Talking to a doctor who prescribed medication and then to a therapist were the first steps to getting better. I also told my family and others about my diagnosis. That proved, in itself, to be a huge relief. Being depressed is difficult, but being depressed and pretending to the world that everything is fine is even worse. Once people knew, I not only didn’t have to put on an act, but also could draw strength from their support.
One of the reasons I didn’t tell anyone or seek help for months was because I was afraid of what people would think; that I had nothing to be sad about, that I was weak, that I would lose their respect. Those are the stigmas that many of us perceive come with a mental illness diagnosis.
I use the word “perceive” because, as far as I know, no one thought anything less of me after I told them about my depression. In fact, people expressed admiration for having the courage to get help for my illness and offered not only emotional, but also tangible, support in the form of bringing me and my family food, just as they would have if I had a physical illness.
I am sharing my experience with depression and anxiety because I know farm and ranch families whose crops and pastures have been damaged or destroyed by the wet fall are under great stress.
I don’t pretend to know the degree of difficulty they are facing, emotionally and financially, and how worried they are about the future of their operations. But I do know that it helps to talk to people about it. That person can be a family member, friend or someone trained in counseling. Sometimes the latter is the best resource because that person can be objective and offer a different perspective on the situation.
Besides talking to someone, the virtue of hope also is a valuable tool to help get through depression. On the days I felt like despairing, my hope that I would get better sustained me. In time, my hope turned into reality.
Besides hope, faith, for me, was the life preserver to which I clung – and still hold on to when I start worrying excessively. I tell myself that God is with me on every step of the way.
What helped me get through my depression and back to feeling well may not work for others because everyone’s situation is unique. But I am here to say that seeking help, in whatever form that works, is imperative.
No matter how bad things may seem now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I encourage anyone who is experiencing emotional turmoil to take that first step.