Shattering Stigmas: Handholds for in the Dark by Heidi

Welcome to the eleventh 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.

In honor of Shattering Stigmas, I thought I’d give you a brief history of my mental health, but what I really want to focus on is how to help either yourself or, if you have a loved one whose symptoms manifest like mine, maybe this can help you help them.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been battling anxiety and depression, but I refused to acknowledge it. I pushed hard against anyone who suggested that those were clinical diagnoses that might apply to me – I even ended a friendship over it. I was so afraid of the stigma that I refused to go get help until I was 25. 

The final straw was working at a job from hell. The workload was too demanding and too much for my anxiety, and the disintegrating relationship with my two bosses sent me into a major spiral. I wasn’t eating, I was working out for hours every day, and I cried the entire 45-minute commute home every single day. I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career and I felt stuck, unable to make any changes.

That’s when I finally called my company’s Employee Assistance Program and found my first therapist. She helped me get out of that place, and into my current role. I also switched primary care physicians with my insurance change, and my new PCP set me up with the mental health specialist nurse practitioner at their clinic. It’s been a ride, but I think we finally had a good combo of meds to help me. I have a different therapist, but I’ve been with her for a year and a half now and she’s incredible.

Okay, that was a little longer than brief, but even with all the help, I still struggle. So, here’s a list of things that help me when I’m having a “dark day”:

  1. Tell someone. I know it goes against my natural instinct to “not bother anyone” but I have to tell my husband or my best friend that I am struggling. They’ve both learned how to help in their own ways, so telling them is sort of like flipping on the Bat signal. 
  2. Find something textile to play with. If it’s anxiety, a fidget cube/spinner works to give my brain something to concretely focus on. If it’s depression, a soft blanket or something soft to run in my hand helps me. My weighted blanket works wonders – I sleep with it every night and it’s a huge difference between nights I don’t have it and nights I do. 
  3. When I get anxious- I find a project to keep my head and hands busy. I embroider and crochet, so I keep my current project with me. I also have stashes of coloring books at home and at work – mostly kid coloring books because some of the adult ones are so detailed with such small spaces that it stresses me out even more. 
  4. Get my hair washed.  I am very much a touch person, and recently I was having a very rough week but I had a hair appointment scheduled at the end of it. I loved the cut and color, but the simple act of someone else washing my hair was a huge relief. 
  5. If you know me in real life you know that I tend to keep an insanely busy schedule. My therapist recently asked how I manage to find the energy to function at my lowest point, and I realized it’s because if I schedule appointments or commitments with friends, I will have to go – my personality just doesn’t allow me to cancel unless absolutely necessary. 
  6. My anxiety manifests as perfectionism, which in turn turns into procrastination – if I don’t start something until the very last minute, then I don’t have time to obsess over every detail – which is part of why I was a little late getting this post to Mari (my apologies, friend!)
  7. Eating a good meal. I’m extremely lucky in that I married a man who loves to do what I hate – cooking. My husband does almost all of the cooking in our house, and he refuses to let me skip meals or eat crap food when I just don’t have the energy to care.
  8. Read light, happy books like romcoms or mysteries that read more like a comedy of errors. My go to authors are Janet Evanovich, Jill Mansell, or Sophie Kinsella – I have read almost every one of their books and they’re my comfort crowd. I also enjoy The Cat Who series, but they’re not quite as light-hearted as these three.
  9. Make time to get more sleep. Usually if I’m struggling it’s a combination of factors, but since college sleep has been one of my most difficult challenges. I struggle with nightmares, staying asleep, and getting myself to fall asleep at a decent hour. But if I’m in a bad place, shutting my alarm off on the weekend can be one of the biggest self-care actions I can take.
  10. Turn to my online community. I have found a wonderful group here on the interwebs, and there are several people I can reach out to now. Not many people in my real life share their struggles with depression and anxiety if they have them, but my Twitter friends are open and honest and so caring. My only concern is that most of them are on the other side of the country from me, so I have to remember time zones!

I know this may not be helpful for everyone, but I’ve learned that every person needs to find what works for them – some of these may work for you, and some of them may have you shouting at me. I’m not a therapist or a mental health specialist in any way, but these are simply a few things that help me!

Thank you, Mari, for allowing me to share here! If anyone needs someone to reach out to, or if you have questions, or you just want to say hi, feel free to find me on Twitter!

Want to win two mental health related books? Enter through the Rafflecopter form and good luck!

16 thoughts on “Shattering Stigmas: Handholds for in the Dark by Heidi”

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