On Mental Health: If You Got Issues, You’re Officially “Normal”

While going on trips and posting photos of the great times I had has been fun, I need to bring it back to something a little more serious. Something that’s been brewing in my mind and in my heart for quite some time now. Brewing like some good coffee. Okay, sorry …

On October 10th, I discovered that it was World Mental Health Day and since then have come across numerous stories about people’s struggles with their mental health. Actually, since starting here on WordPress, I’ve frequently come across many blogs that serve as outlets for people’s experiences with depression, eating disorders, anxiety, drug addiction, and so on.

A blog about a woman’s experiences living with complex PTSD and depression (click on the pic to get there!)

As I learn more and more about other people’s struggles with achieving good mental health — including people in my everyday life – I realize that it’s actually more rare to find someone who really has it all together than someone who feels like they’re nowhere near society’s standard of “normal.”

I didn’t feel this way for a long time though. I really felt like I was one of the few in life who wasn’t normal. Ever since I could remember, as a young girl, I would get into spells of feeling down and depressed and wouldn’t know why.

It never turned into anything where I couldn’t get myself out of bed or thought of hurting myself. And maybe that’s why I was even more confused about whether I had a problem and if so, what that problem was.

It seems that so many people go through feeling down about life, feeling like they’re not good enough, feeling angry, feeling misunderstood. And many don’t know how to deal with that in a healthy way. It’s so easy to push those awful feelings deep down inside where we don’t have to face them, or even turn to things like drinking and/or drugs to escape. It’s one thing to experiment, it’s another to use it as your security blanket that you can throw over yourself when you want to hide from the world.

I found myself doing just that — escaping from my problems, all the anger, sadness and insecurity that was making me feel like a wreck inside during my teenage years and early 20s, through drinking. At the time, I probably just told myself that “everyone’s doing it.” It’s not like I was getting smashed first thing every morning, nor did I feel like it was an overwhelming physical need that I had or that my life was completely in shambles.

But as time went on, I questioned whether my drinking episodes were all simply social or “just to take the edge off” after a long day. Eventually, I did look at my defense mechanism for what it was and acknowledged that I had turned to drinking as a way to escape the reality I didn’t want to face from time to time. And unfortunately, I know so many others who have done the same to various degrees.

My thoughts from various journal entries over the years.

It was during a part of that tumultuous time that I was in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship, which obviously did not help in getting me to a healthy place where I could deal with the issues that I already had. My mental health was hurt badly through that experience, to the point where I felt so worthless and helpless as a person. It took a long time before I could get it to a state where I felt safe and good about myself. But perhaps more on that another time.

I can write about this now because I’ve come such a long way in my thinking since then. And because I realize now that so many others go through the same thing. I am by no means alone in feeling like I am not perfect and have a lot of things I need to work on.

Part of a poem I wrote during my struggle to get my mental health to a better place.

The impression I give on this blog as a positive, life-loving person is genuine. But I want you to realize that I’ve gotten here through mistakes, lessons learned, and many ups-and-downs that make me appreciate life and the positive influences I now have around me so much more than I would have otherwise. And it still, and always will be, a work in progress.

I encourage you all to understand that everyone is different and that we’ve all had our share of life experiences that have impacted on us negatively and led to our own individual mental health issues, no matter how big or small. Whether you are diagnosed with a mental illness or just have a feeling that things aren’t completely okay in your head, remember that no one is “perfect” and no one feels like they’re society’s unattainable standard of “normal” all, or even any, of the time. And that’s totally okay.

The more we talk about our own mental health challenges, issues, fears, insecurities, and imperfections with those around us, the more it will become normalized and the less afraid people will be of just being themselves.

Thank you for reading with an open mind, and please feel free and safe to share your story here.

- Cafe <3

Blog post: October 10th, 2012 — World Mental Health Day by littleburstsofinspiration
Blog Post: Perfectly Imperfect by vinnylanni
Blog Post: Stop hating yourself for everything that you are not and start Loving yourself for everything you are. by sexandmiami
Blog Post: I am not a loser by bipolarblogging
Photo Credits: We all got issues, Normal is boring

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51 thoughts on “On Mental Health: If You Got Issues, You’re Officially “Normal”

  1. Pingback: Writing From the Heart: Question #1 (This Defense Mechanism Is Toast) | Your Daily Dose

  2. A lot of what you wrote on this post hits home with me. A good portion of my life was consumed with feeling like crap but not that bad that I couldn’t get out of bed or want to erase myself. It was just a constant feeling of gloominess when I couldn’t distract myself with drinking or being around friends or keeping busy. I think majority of people base their whole lives on distracting themselves so they never have any down time to possibly drive themselves nuts with their thoughts.

    • Those can be pretty tough moments, especially when it’s ongoing. You said “was” so I’m hoping that things have gotten better since that time?

      Yup, I definitely agree that self-medication/distraction is the go-to for so many people. But then whatever it is that’s eating at them just floats around them like a dark cloud. And sometimes it gets buried so deep that they don’t even know exactly what’s making them not truly happy or at peace. I wonder if it’s always been to this extent or if in our particular day and age it’s getting worse.

      • I guess my mental state has gotten better only because I took the opportunity to look deeper instead of just dwelling on the surface of my thoughts and emotions.

        I think our present time has much more negative influence and information we’re bombarded with, it can make figuring yourself out much more difficult. I think anyway. On the other hand there’s more information which might make it easier. So confusing..hahaha.. I always have conflicting thoughts

        • Lol no, it makes sense. I think you’re right on both accounts. It’s just that, unfortunately, those who are negatively influenced don’t necessarily get that other type of information they need to combat it.

          I think a lot of times people just need to understand why they feel the way they feel. That’s step one anyways but often the hardest. Sounds like you’ve managed to get through that, so kudos to you :) hopefully you’re well on your way with step two ;)

  3. Pingback: 2012 Wrap-Up: The Top 3 Ways Blogging Has Changed My Life | Your Daily Dose

  4. Pingback: Let’s talk about suicide. Volunteers anyone? | Your Daily Dose

  5. Being ourselves is the way to go. Conforming with today’s society may not always be good for us. We need to follow the things that makes as happy. And when we are happy, people sense that and indirectly we make them feel happy too. Great post!

    • Hi island traveler! Thanks for your comment, I totally agree. Definitely easier said than done in many people’s cases but it’s so freeing when you don’t base your life on what people think of you or what you THINK people think of you.

      Btw, please don’t forget to leave a description of your blog on the post previous to this! It’s a page I made going up on my main menu of my readers’ blogs + my blogroll :) thank you!

  6. Omg I believe we all can relate to such stories, especially in teens days. And thanks to blogging and internet in general, I’ve learnt that there are people out there who are like me and others who are ready to support me. That’s awesome. We are never alone. And indeed, “we all got issues” ^^

    • Hey Daphnee,
      Ya know, I wonder what it would’ve been like for me when I was younger if I had been blogging back then and had that kind of knowledge and support. I really felt like I was alone a lot of the time in feeling the way I did. I’m really glad you don’t!! :)

  7. Excellent post, I really like your serious side. You just went up more notches in my esteem for you, and congrats for working through your own normal to a better normal.

    I’ve been around long enough to have some very close friends who are in AA or something like it. They describe something called, “Oh, that.” New people come in sometimes thinking that the low points of their own life, the horror stories, are so low, so terrible, so “inhuman” that everyone will be shocked and disgusted.

    Invariably, upon finally opening up and telling those horror stories, the (kind, loving) reaction is, “Oh, that… yeah, been there, done that, bought the tee-shirt.”

    The horrors of the world, as with its wonders, are something we all share, something we all understand. It’s that universal heap of shit and sugar called being alive.

    • Thank you WS, that really means a lot to me. Truly.

      You’re right, we are really not alone in the things we go through and the awful things we feel sometimes. I keep thinking about people who I’ve come across in my life who seem so “normal”, so put together, so successful in what they’re doing, and when I get to know them and they open up, I find out that they’ve been through, or are still going through, their own serious issues.

      Anyways, thanks for sharing your story and your thoughtful words :)

  8. Hi Janice, another really interesting post!
    I’m about to tell you, in public on your blog, that I am not ‘normal’ either!! :) my experience is that one of the great injustices in the world is that people suffering from mental health problems seem not to be taken as seriously as people with other medical problems. As such in some communities the issue of psychiatric disorders is even seen as shameful and covered up.

    Around 1995 I started to have very worrying problems after a period of being exposed to events that I wish I hadn’t seen and things that I wish hadn’t happened to me. The problems started a few years after the events and as such, at the time, I didn’t think there was a link. It was many years later in 1999 that I eventually got a diagnosis. It happened one day when I went to see my doctor, really worried about myself, and just bust into tears. I was terrified but I really wasn’t sure what about! She sent me up to the hospital and when I got there I was seen by the consultant psychiatrist.

    After a brief talk I got a big dose of Valium and went home feeling like I’d died and gone to heaven – very pleasant experience if I’m honest but I deserved it. The relief that it gave me was unbelievable! The reason was that it is an anti anxiety medication and unknown to me I was suffering from a major anxiety disorder bought on by PTSD – no wonder I felt good!! For years I felt as if I’d been in a living hell. I had tried hard to bury it, to cover it up, to keep it quiet but it just got worse and worse. The torment in my mind had become so bad that the only thing I lived for was going to sleep with the help of alcohol which, unknown to me, was making me worse. Its very hard to explain but every waking second of my life was unbearable, like torture! When I woke in the morning my first though was always, “oh shit i’m still here”. I then spent the day chain smoking and pacing around my poor mums house. I hardly ate and lost a lot of weight. I had started to contemplate suicide and I think that my visit to the doctor was my last chance saloon!

    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder!! I had heard of it but really wasn’t expecting it! Of course my consultant told me that it was sometimes hard to make a specific diagnosis but that over the years this had probably caused the extreme anxiety and depression that had followed. I had a label at last! I was in fact a normal person!! I wasn’t completely insane after all. There was actually a reason for me feeling so desperate. They say that labels aren’t always a good thing but this to me was great news and a huge relief.

    This was in fact the turning point for me. I was on the radar now and got some of the best help available. It was not an easy climb but finally I could see some light at the end of the tunnel.

    For me, personally, the new medication that I got (fluoxitine hydrochloride) really made a difference. Even within a few months I was starting to put my life back together. People say that they are just a plaster on a wound but I know that I owe everything to those green and yellow capsules! I believe they saved my life, as extreme as it sounds!

    Now, many years on I have everything to live for – my kids are my life now and I have my focus. I still have a few ups and downs and I’m still on my meds but generally things are ok. Sometimes when I think back it frightens me how close I actually was to putting a permanent end to it. Thank God I didn’t and that I’m writing this to you now! :)

    Anyway, I think the message I’d like to send out is that this can happen to anyone. Perhaps I was predisposed to it to some degree I don’t know but life can throw up unexpected problems for us to face at any time. Who knows when and where and who knows how bad. I have never told this story to my in-laws or anyone really outside my immediate family. Even they don’t know this much detail. None of my cousins or work colleagues and none of my friends who know me more recently know this story.

    I guess it comes down to what I said at the start – there is a stigma attached to mental illness. If I had been suffering from a heart condition for example, I’d have had no problem telling anyone. Anyway I just overcame the stigma and told you about it!! :)

    Peter Knight
    pskphoto.com

    • THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING THIS, Pete. You don’t know how much it means to me and seriously, I really commend you for overcoming the stigma and sharing your story. You’re so right, it can happen to absolutely anyone. Someone else who may be reading this might have been feeling like they were the only ones going through the same thing, and now they know they are not alone. So thank you.

      I understand what you mean by receiving that label. I think sometimes I get confused about myself because I don’t have a label. I don’t think I could have qualified for a diagnosis of clinical depression or PTSD, but I feel like I’ve had some mild form of both (the PTSD from the verbally/emotionally abusive relationship — years later, I could/can still get triggered into feeling so bad about myself as I did back then).

      I think meds can definitely help a person, because in a lot of cases there are chemical imbalances that lead to a person having their mental illness. I’ve known others who have done the same; for some it’s worked, for others they weren’t okay with the particular side effects of their meds. But again, it’s the stigma around someone “being on meds” that I think deters many from going that route, even though it may be really what they need.

      And yes, there is definitely not the same priority placed on mental health as there is on physical health. And one of the biggest things that bothers me is how drug addiction is still not seen as being a disease. It’s such a huge problem and people just don’t want to acknowledge that it can happen to anyone, not just the panhandler on the street which is what so many people assume. That is a huge stigma that needs to be brought down for the sake of getting people better.

      I am so happy that your life turned around and that you are here to tell your story. What a tragedy that would have been if we couldn’t have you here as an inspiration :( Thank you again for sharing *hug*

      Janice

      • Its my pleasure Janice. Thanks for your post. It does good I think even now to write things like that down and look back over it again from time to time.

        You are absolutely right about the stigma of being on these type of medications. For example, I just wouldn’t tell anyone at my kids school. Its a shame but I’d just be worried about the presumptions they might make. The problem is I think that there is not enough understanding about the difference between psychosis and neurosis. (generally sufferers of neurosis like anxiety, depression, ocd etc are acutely aware that there is something wrong whereas in the case of psychosis there is often no awareness on the part of the sufferer that they are ill)

        Sorry to hear about your troubles but glad that you found a way around and through them with or without any outside help. Shows your strength or character!! :)

        • Thanks, Pete. I definitely didn’t do it without any help. I think having a strong support system is so important. And people who can help you gain a different perspective on how you’ve been living your life. Sometimes you get so stuck in the same way of thinking that you begin to think it’s normal and won’t ever change.

          I totally understand what you mean about not telling anyone at your kids’ school, but then again, you don’t have an obligation to tell them, right? It still is a pretty personal matter in the end and you should feel comfortable with who you tell and who you don’t! :)

  9. Great post. And I think that you are spot on that we all have something unbalanced inside of us that is uniquely ours to deal with. The pic you posted at the end, of pretending to be “normal,” says it all. We all do it. We mask our downside, manias, anxieties most of the time to the 99% around us. And that get’s tiring (and yes! Boring!) so we switch back to being who we are. As you say, if you accept that, then you probably need less support from addictive substances and behaviors.

    Personally, I definitely have a rhythm. I am rarely “down” but I go into neutral for a few days out of every 10 or so. Just don’t feel like doing anything. And for about 3 days of 10 I’m a powerhouse of positive energy. I guess the other days I’m just “normal” lol. I stopped asking why I get so “lazy” from time to time long ago. Now I have learned to fit my life around it. Something we all need to do. And posts like this help remind us of that. Nice one!

  10. Wonderful post! And yes I agree that it seems easier to talk about all the fun and happy stuff but it’s completely normal to have “issues” that one goes through. October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month and I’ve been thinking about sharing some thoughts and stories but idk if I’m….errr..ready for all that. Partly cuz it’s a downer subject but also because it makes me feel like someone with “issues” who isn’t “normal”. Oh well…we’ll see. Thank you for sharing. Oh and as you probably already guessed, I really like your blog…but what you didn’t know is that I nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award. :) check it out –>http://www.bentobreak.com/one-lovely-blog-award/

    • Hi Mei! Thank you so much for this award! I’m so touched :)

      I did not know that October was also Domestic Violence Awareness month. That is another issue very near and dear to my heart. And sadly, something that so many women go through in silence and without help or hope :(

      I totally understand your feelings of not feeling ready to share your thoughts and stories. I wrote a post on my experiences with the verbally and emotionally abusive relationship I was in, and it’s been sitting in my Draft box for months now. While I think it’s important to share those experiences, I know I have to do it when I’m ready to.

      If you ever decide to write about your own experiences, just know while you may be afraid that the reaction will be of people thinking you aren’t normal, you’ll most likely find that people will be there to support you :)

      Janice xoxo

  11. Quit lying. You’ve always been well-adjusted and smart :-P

    I totally agree with you on everything here. We’re taught to hide these problems. Something struck me around the time I was in my late teens and I was more comfortable talking about my problems I have. I’m a lot happier now. I always tell people not to hide their problems or flaws because that just makes them feel shame. They’ll spend their time trying to hide the problem instead of accepting it and doing something positive and whatnot. There are still a few things I like to avoid talking about completely openly but if I ever get close enough to someone I can tell them. Want to know the craziest thing? Even the things I’m the most shamed about has never driven anyone away and if anything it’s brought us closer.

    Now if you’re going to be Freshly Pressed again this is the post that should get it.

    • Thanks, Tim :)

      Would have been amazing to have this post FP! (Not that I’m complaining of course ;) I just feel like this is a message I want a lot of people to hear, although it’s funny because it’s also one of the most personal messages that I did hesitate about sharing.

      From what I know, you are a compassionate person and I’m sure people have benefitted from your encouragements for them to be okay with being themselves. More of us need to do that for others, I think.

      • What you call compassion I call trying to be human. But thanks :)

        The hardest thing for me is not saying “Told you so” to younger or less experienced people. I bet you’ve had a lot of those moments where you could have said it.

        • There have been times where I could have said it, but you know, after having gone through my own mistakes when I knew that people were telling me to do otherwise was such a humbling experience. It really taught me that we can’t be too judgemental because even if we think we wouldn’t make the same mistakes as the next person, we are still very much capable of making our own mistakes that others would scoff at.

  12. Fantastic post … so current – and I love the headline – sometimes I wonder if I want to be officially normal. So many people work and live with stress and depression today – we put so much on to ourselves and we have to stop at times and look after ourselves – and don’t give a damn about everything else. Personal I had very high pressure job and I loved it. I preform much better when under stress .. don’t ask me why. Then I decide to retire 4 years earlier and I thought I would go mad – but nothing happen. Today I’m so happy that I’m not in the rat-race any longer. Thank you so much for this post.

    • Hi Viveka,
      Thank you for sharing your experiences. There does seem to be so many pressures in this day and age to be a certain person, have a certain kind of job, look a certain way. I’m sure those pressures have always been around but to me it just seems like it’s getting worse. It seems like our society today is so competitive and everyone is expected as individuals to achieve the “right” goals no matter what the obstacles. There are so many, including a lot of young people, who go through depression or other mental health issues because they feel like they’re not in that “right” place in their lives. I think everyone needs people around them who are going to be supportive and boost up their morale and self-confidence through these times of intense pressure. I’m happy to hear that you’re living a more peaceful life now :)

      • I think the biggest problem is ourselves.. we put ourselves under some social pressure – we think people around us at work and at home .. are expecting things of us – and it becomes a buildup – when talking to people around us that is not the case.
        We create our own ghosts and monsters. We have to take a step back – and start rethinking. Maybe start all over.

  13. Love it, Janice. I am a fan of of the mental health topic because I know that it’s something that affects everyone (whether aware of it or not) and, like you said, it’s not often that people are willing to share their experiences of dealing with it. Feelings of shame, anger, guilt, sadness and a general lack of understanding as to what is happening causes people to refrain from opening up. Oddly enough, one of the best ways to cope with certain mental health issues is by talking to others who have gone through the same thing. I think I may have told you before that I went through a period of depression. At first I thought that it was just a phase of life until it got to an ultimate low point. Now looking back, it’s like I was a different person! I lost all self-confidence, became skeptical of almost everyone in my life, I didn’t want to go out or socialize and I didn’t find much pleasure in anything. Smiling was rare and I cried for no apparent reason at times. My mood could have changed from happy to sad with the slightest of triggers. I think while one is experiencing an “episode” they get tunnel vision where a positive outcome cannot be seen even though a positive outcome exists. To be honest, I’m not even sure how I transitioned out of my so-called depression but I can say that a strong support system played a big role. I will tell you, though, that I had some fragile moments when I didn’t think life was worth the misery. All the while we may be thinking we’re worthless or useless and someone else may be looking at us with amazement. Perception is huge. Diversity is inevitable just like change and, thus, people need to avoid being judgemental of the many differences amongst each other and instead accept, understand and appreciate our uniqueness.

    I apologize if this post is scattered – kinda goes with the topic, no?! Lol. My final words: Educate and be educated, spread positive energy through positive words, behaviours and ideas, make those around you happy, help out where/whenever you can and show love and respect to all!

    That’s all for now.

    • Oh man, I’m sorry that I’m not sure which friend of mine you are! (I guess I’ve known a few people who have been through periods of depression, unfortunately). But thank you for sharing, to tell you the truth it was pretty hard for me to put this out there but reading your comment made me feel better about it and reaffirmed why I am writing about it.

      I’m sorry you went through that experience, and am glad you don’t have to be in that place anymore. I know what you mean by feeling like a different person. I look back and am so grateful that I’m in such a different and better place right now. I can’t imagine what could have happened if I had never gotten out of that hole I was in. A strong support system could likely be the most important thing because it’s just so hard to do it alone.

      It seems like there’s starting to be more attention given to this topic and I hope it continues to become more and more normal to talk about it. Thanks for helping to keep that ball rolling along :)

      Janice xoxo

  14. Have you ever heard of ‘Pre-Paid Legal Service’? I don’t know if that service is in Canada or not. Why not Pre-Paid Psychology Service? You pay a fee all year, similar to PrePaid Legal and then can use Psychology visits when ever you fee a need. Like Psychology Insurance. This was my latest get-rich-quick idea as of yesterday! Like your post, we all have some quirks and many times would like to talk to a professional about them, whether marriage, fears, depression, anxieties and so on. What do you think? Are you in?
    ~oh, nice post Ms. Cafe

    • Thanks, Andy, and I think that’s a great idea! :)
      I think speaking with a professional can be really helpful. It’s different than from talking with your friends, who can also help in so many ways but sometimes when the issues are so overwhelming and go so deep, you might need something more. It’s too bad that professional help can’t be more affordable to everyone who needs it.

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