I got the privilege to interview a very close friend of mine. Sometimes you meet someone and you just click; as if your own life story was on their bookshelf and they understand you. That’s what Coral has been to me. Many thanks to her for this opportunity…
How would you describe your association with mental health?
When you grow up poor mental health is viewed as a luxury – when your family is struggling to meet basic human needs mental health becomes an ailment for the privileged and wealthy. Not only growing up poor but also Catholic, mental health is not only seen as a ‘luxury’ but shameful and something viewed as a ‘dirty’ family secret. Since I can recall I have experienced this internal battle between my own depression and the negative perception of mental health implemented on me as a child. Now in my mid 20’s with beliefs completely contradictory to those I was raised in, I still find a piece of myself interpreting my depression as a shameful burden to burry within which is completely contradictory to my education.
Have you ever tried to attribute your thoughts and feelings to reasons other than mental health issues? If so, why?
Most definitely! I think a woman’s experience with depression is much different than a man’s – primarily because of the gender stereotypes and characteristics society identifies as ‘female’. Women are inflicted with this intense pressure to always appear cheerful and welcoming, forever donning the perfect smile. A woman experiencing depression will obviously not abide by those guidelines so we are not only carrying the burden of our mental health, in my case depression, but we are carrying society’s standards as well. Prior to accepting my depression I would attribute my ‘episodes’ (as described by my family) as being overly exhausted or not eating enough or healthy enough or being ‘moody’ all of which I have come to learn are symptoms of depression. I think I would create these excuses because of the shame associated with mental health and because people expect certain behavior and characteristics from not only women but from Coral (me!).
How long have you dealt with issues of mental health, whether yourself or others?
I honestly believe I have been experiencing depression since my preteen years but due to the lack of conversation within my family I didn’t have the proper vocabulary to identify what I was experiencing. Now in my adult life I have found solace with my sister who also experiences depression.
What are some things people have said to you that helped you, and what were some things that were not helpful at all?
The two women closest to me, with the exception of my mother who doesn’t view mental health the same way as I do, have undoubtedly helped me. Their help isn’t from the things they say but more so the unwavering support and understanding. When I am experiencing depression I don’t need uplifting words – the power of having women in my life that understand what I am experiencing is invaluable.
“You have the power to get yourself out of your funk”
“You’re choosing to be like this, snap out of it”
“You just want an excuse to be down”
Those are some things I’ve been told that obviously do not help when you’re depressed and are said by people ignorant to mental health.
What would you like to say to your younger self if you had the chance?
Pull the power you have deeply stored within your being – and remember there is an essence to being a woman that cannot be snuffed, especially a woman with experiences both good and bad. You got this bitch.
I’m so excited to share something I have in the works.
I’ll be interviewing some friends, family and others and those interviews will be featured on Fridays (not every Friday because, you know, life).
The interviews will be Friday Features and I can’t wait to share with you their thoughts, feelings and stories.
Standby for some awesomeness.
-Jenn Black Lake, Ilwaco, WA.
This past week has been a battle of will and inner strength. I felt at times my strength was as useless as tissue paper…frail and so ready to tear at the slightest bit of pressure.
The days seemed to prolong itself and I lived in this state of a perpetual rewinding of my fears and playing them back to myself again.
I managed to push them back far enough to laugh and engage with others, but like oil I’d watch it ooze back and surround me in its suffocating grip.
I haven’t been willing to exercise or been able to keep an appetite, which are the things you WANT to maintain in times of dark depression. Things just seem to slip away from me.
This weight is so unbelievably heavy…I feel for those that carry things too…because there is no one else who can.
Today, as I write this, I have Kona asleep on my lap. Listening to her sleepy breathing and watching her side rise and fall in a calming rhythm, I am almost transported to a place of future promise of peace. There is peace for me beyond this past week.
Maybe not next week, or the next…but soon.
Listening to Crystals by Of Monsters and Men…
Sometimes, you should have seen it coming.
The events in life that are just giant piles of “omg wtf”.
It knocks the wind out of you, emotionally and physically.
At first you think, “How can this be happening?” Then, when you’ve had the chance to find the parts of your mind that fell apart, you can look back and just see how it could be. “Of course,” you say to yourself.
It doesn’t change the fact that your mind felt like it was going to break, or that your heart was going to fall from its precious shelf in your chest…Now you have to start over. Get yourself back to the normalcy that you know.
I hate that. The starting over. It takes so long to climb out of that well of self-doubt and depression. I revel in the moments where I’m not anxious about something because those moments are like sugar in my mouth…until I bite down on a grain of sand suddenly.
And here again, out of this endless, dark chasm I climb.
I can say most assuredly that I spend about 80% of my time worrying about tomorrow and thinking about the past. I’ve been this way all of my life.
I have always envied the characters in books who live and breathe by that ‘live in the now’ mentality.
Spontaneity is not a trait I possess. In fact the only thing I can do spontaneously, is worry.
So lately, I’ve been trying to shift my focus (believe me, it takes a lot of commitment) to the present. Enjoy right now. It seems easier than it really is.
One of the things that has helped is getting outdoors to take photos. I have a Nikon DSLR that I have zero idea on how to use but, I’m not trying to work for National Geographic. I’m embracing being a complete amateur and I find myself enjoying the day and the fresh air.
Looking through the lense I forget about the things I have to do, or the things I have been through.
Whatever helps, right? 🙂
This Seaside dude graciously allowed me to shoot him this morning. And that surfer didn’t have a choice.
I grew up in a Christian household. It was church not only on Sundays, but Wednesday and Friday nights as well.
I believed with a fervent passion that comes with being sheltered from everything but church. Everything would be fine as long as God and I were square.
My mother’s philosophy was impressed upon me from early on: If you are sad, pray. If you are angry, pray. If you are happy, give thanks in prayer. Everything in life was a direct reflection of the quality of my relationship with God.
I was told God brings joy, so I told myself I was joyful. God heals, I convinced myself I could heal my deep sadness by prayer.
If I was still sad, I wasn’t praying enough.
Fast forward to now and I am no longer a Christian. I look back and want so badly to tell that lost teenage girl what’s really going on.
It’s not from a lack of disciplined and passionate prayer that I was sad and down so often. I didn’t fail as a Christian.
In reality, Christianity failed me.
It’s discouraging to know that there are those out there that believe the solution to their mental illness could be solved by a simple belief, and that they aren’t serious enough…or that a divine being would allow them to feel this way.
My hope is someone like me, reads this and can understand a little more about their mental health…& that they can find some help outside of the restrictions of a religious belief.
Mental health is a real thing.
And there are real treatments.
One con about my taking an SNRI is I feel less creative.
I spend my free time painting, weaving, and stitching but I feel less inspired to do so lately. It’s especially tough because when winter comes, the rainy days make me want to be creative and well, it’s pretty much winter now in the Pacific Northwest.
I started a painting recently and lately it’s been at a standstill in my dining room, slowly gathering the dust of my rusted imagination. I want so badly to continue but I just don’t have it in me.
I’m kind of numb.
But I’m not in a depressive state.
Maybe it’s a trade I’ll have to be grateful for because I can at least be a functional human in society and not a couch cushion.
Maybe it’s also harder living in a place that demands you live out your passion. The wildness calls to the mind and soul to wake up and be in it…do the thing you were meant to.
Anyone who knows my dog, Kona, would laugh if I ever told them she was a therapy dog. She is fiercely protective, and only trusts a select few humans and dogs. She’s not your friendly, neighborhood pet. She growls at the mailman and the cats in the neighborhood know to steer clear of our house. That’s Kona.
Kona was rescued by my husband 6 years ago, and then 4 years later I would join their little pack. I have loved dogs my whole life but I was nervous to meet her…I wanted her to love me. It took a while, but finally I won her trust and it was one of the best things that has happened.
Kona encourages me to live in the moment and to appreciate the every day, which is so difficult to do. The days where I’m under my shadow, she curls up next to me and sighs deeply, and I can’t help but feel this warmth in my soul. When I run my hands over her fur, I’m engaging in the best form of therapy life can offer.
I don’t know how it works, but I know that my love for Kona, and her affection towards me helps keep me grounded and balanced.
I think “dog people” can understand the indescribable connection we have with our dogs.
She’s my soulmate. A conduit to help express my emotions and a strong source of positive energy. I need her a hell of a lot more than she’ll ever need me.
Dog Medicine by Julie Barton is a book I just finished reading that talks about this very relationship. It’s amazing.
I took this quick photo on my way in to work today.
I’ve always felt as if mentally I belonged in this dreary, grey weather. It’s easier to exist as I am here.
The sunny days bring such demands with it. “Go outside! Enjoy yourself!” it says.
Here, though…I can be completely myself.
The day I was prescribed my SNRI, I felt as though I had officially given up. I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t a normal person that could deal with life…I needed this crutch now. I was so defeated. My Doc told me it was only temporary while I worked with a therapist. As much as I know it can be beneficial, up to now the drugs help me the most.
What doesn’t help though? PEOPLE sometimes.
Let’s be honest, some people just know best, right? They’ve seen it all, and even if they haven’t, they know someone who has so here they are with their golden chalice full of precious wisdom. I don’t even ASK and they pour out their opinions. I typically smile and nod, thank them and move on. However it really doesn’t help me in my quest not to feel like I’m a weak individual with zero will-power.
“Just choose to be happy.”
“We all get depressed! You just have to not focus on it.”
“It’s not that bad; it could be worse.”
-Everyone that has zero experience with depression.
If you don’t suffer from depression, please understand it’s not a choice we made to be bummed all the time. We aren’t wallowing in our misery and we don’t need to “start being grateful and stop pouting”.
If getting over it was an option…oh if only it were.