Shattering Stigmas: Hindsight is 20/20: How I Missed All the Signs by J.L. Tate

Welcome to the first day of Shattering Stigmas! From now until October 22 I’ll be highlighting voices from the book community on mental health. I’m co-hosting this event with Taylor from Stay on the Page, Shannon from It Starts at Midnight, and Amber from YA Indulgences so make sure to check their blogs out each day to see different content.

When you struggle with mental illness, sometimes you can’t help but wonder if it could’ve been caught sooner. You think back and see snippets of the times that could have been an early sign. Often it’s a continual progression over the course of time and there isn’t a single moment that defines the start of your mental illness.

For me, I was never formally diagnosed with anxiety until I turned thirty. Before then the thought of me having anxiety didn’t cross my mind. I simply thought I was just a moody woman and left it at that. Sadly I was incorrect in that assumption and once I realized that I might indeed have anxiety, I sought help. My doctor (who is amazing by the way) prescribed a medication that I began taking daily and saw improvement.

While I could look back and see everything building up to that moment, I still wasn’t sure where it all could have started. I mean, even a span of time where it was slowly changing. I wanted to understand where it crept in and maybe if there was anything that could have triggered it.

I knew there were moments here and there over the years, but I wasn’t full on anxious or depressed during those in between moments, I couldn’t completely figure it out. So, I chalked it up to a progressive change that was impossible to narrow down.

Recently I’ve been reading through my old journals for a side project I’m working on. I kept journals off and on over the years, some that I used to type into an ancient nineties computer and some I wrote by hand in notebooks. The computer entries are long gone in a landfill somewhere, unfortunately, but I still have my journals from 2007 to 2013.

I wrote this in an entry dated January 13th, 2007:

“It’s funny how I get all depressed when I should be the happiest girl ever.”

After that sentence, I list off all these reasons why I should be happy and not depressed. The problem with that list is that it doesn’t factor in the chemicals in the brain. You know,  the invisible stuff that doesn’t have an outside factor and isn’t always controllable by being a “happy” person. It got me to thinking about perception, influence, and misconceptions.

Back then, my perception was that I “couldn’t” be depressed because of XYZ. Due to influence from people I knew, I didn’t believe that it was possible for me to have depression. And then there’s the misconception about any mental illness, that it’s a weakness and it can be fixed by, well, just being happy.

As I read further into these journals, I also came across multiple instances of what I know now to be social anxiety. Of course, growing up that was simply called being “shy” and something you grew out of at a certain point. But I never grew out of it entirely. I learned over the years how to open up more, but it was never fully cured of my “shyness”. Even now, post-medication, I’m still anxious in some social situations.

Looking back at all of it, I can’t believe I couldn’t see it as clearly before. But given the perceptions, influences, and misconceptions regarding mental illness, I understand why I couldn’t see it before.

They say hindsight is 20/20, and it couldn’t be more true when it comes to this. But I can’t say that figuring it out sooner would have made everything better when I was younger. I feel that I probably wouldn’t have been ready for it back then, that I would have ignored it. It needed to click in my mind first.

I’m not saying my journey is the same as everyone else’s, but maybe somebody else who reads it might relate. Maybe for them, it will click like it did for me.

And maybe they can see it clearly now like I can.

J.L. Tate is an author, proud mother of rodents, and a very dear friend. You can follow her writing journey by visiting her on Twitter and Instagram.

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15 thoughts on “Shattering Stigmas: Hindsight is 20/20: How I Missed All the Signs by J.L. Tate”

  1. OMG what you write here is completely me. Just two ish years off.

    I am diagnosed with depression, social and generalised anxiety, but always thought I was shy and moody (I spend 1.5 years in bed except for going to work and the musts of my family and friend, only peer pressure got me up).

    Your story is super recognisable. Thank you for writing it down.

    Liked by 1 person

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