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 come across many blogs that serve as outlets for people’s experiences with depression, eating disorders, anxiety, drug addiction, and so on.
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 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 frequent 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, but it was a constant cycle of sadness, loneliness and anger that went on for years.
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 their days 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 turn to things like drinking or drugs to escape.
I found myself doing just that — using alcohol as my security blanket to hide from my problems and all of the anger, sadness and insecurity that was making me feel like a complete wreck during my younger years.
At first, it seemed as though I was just drinking to be social — I probably told myself that “everyone’s doing it.” But at some point, it appeared that I could no longer have any fun on the weekend, and sometimes even during the week, without alcohol — and usually, a lot of it.
Then, I started drinking at home by myself. I also first justified this as simply “taking the edge off” after a long day at work. But eventually, I had to face the fact that it had become my immediate “go-to” solution whenever I started feeling depressed or cycling in overwhelmingly negative thoughts.
All I wanted to do was numb myself in those moments when I felt like a war was raging in my own head. And so, I would instinctively pour myself another and another until I felt that numbness sink in.
Of course, I never felt better about my problems — but I didn’t know what the alternative answer was.
My thoughts from various journal entries over the years.
I can’t tell you the number of times I said I would never drink again — or at least not let it get out of hand. And the number of times I broke that promise.
There was one time I got to “5 months of (drinking) soberdom”, but during that period I just found myself experimenting with other drugs instead. Anything to escape life as I knew it.
I don’t think I would have met the criteria for physical addiction to alcohol (although perhaps I was psychologically dependent on it). And I don’t say that in an attempt to avoid shame — rather, to explain that you don’t need to be at the extreme end and wearing a label in order to know that your drinking is a problem.
During part of that tumultuous time, I was also in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship, which obviously didn’t help in getting me to a healthy place where I could start dealing with the issues I already had.
My mental health was hurt badly through that experience, to the point where I felt very worthless 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.
Part of a poem I wrote during my struggle to get my mental health to a better place.
I can write about all of 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.
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 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.
– Janice (a.k.a. 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
*This post was updated on January 20, 2016