After the Storm Comes the Rainbow: Battling Depression & Anxiety
In the spring of 2016, I was in the prime of my life, at least I thought I was. At the time I was a Corporate Trainer for my company, traveling all over the country training new employees in cities all across the United States. I was visiting places that I never thought I would. I had a loving family and was surrounded by lots of friends. From the outside you would think everything was great, and that I was living my best life. Yet internally I was broken, depressed, miserable, & felt numb inside. I had been feeling that way for years. I had always suppressed my feelings, and never was comfortable with expressing them. I always thought that I could handle it all. I always knew how to put on a good face, and make people think that everything was fine. Yet when I would be at home, away from it all; I would go back to my unhappy place. I would sit in the dark most nights and cry myself to sleep. I would look in my bathroom mirror and not be able to see my reflection. Honestly, I didn’t know who that woman was, or even how I became her. I was going through the motions of life, but not truly living my life. My goal was just getting through the day, and then start all over again. It was robotic.
The thing about depression is that you come to your breaking point. Mine did come in April 2016. I felt as though my gas tank was completely empty. I was literally worn out, and not just from traveling for work. I was exhausted with life. It was just a few days prior that I had gotten back from Toronto, Canada. As I was packing, I was watching Good Morning America, like I did every morning. Pat Smith (Football Hall of Famer, Emmitt Smith’s wife and former Miss Virginia USA 1994) came on the show, and Robin Roberts of GMA was interviewing her about her new book, “Second Chances: Finding Healing for Your Pain, Regaining Your Strength, Celebrating Your New Life.” After hearing her tell a little bit of her story and how she overcame the struggles she had endured, along with talking about her book, I knew I had to go and buy it before I left for Santa Barbara. I did just that and read the entire book all the way to Santa Barbara. I think at the time I was just looking to find some answers. Trying to find a way to stop feeling so empty inside. The biggest takeaway for me from her book was that its okay to not be okay.
On the way back home from Santa Barbara, I had a breakdown on the plane. I cried all the way back home on that Red Eye flight. It was in that moment that I knew I needed help. I was so depressed and plagued with so much anxiety. As soon as I got home, I google searched for a Christian therapist. It was important for me to talk to someone who had the same religious beliefs as I did. If I was going to talk to a complete stranger about my issues, I wanted to know that at least we had that in common. Despite the emptiness I was feeling, I knew that I would need faith to get through this. The first time I went to therapy, I was so afraid. Even though I knew I needed therapy, in my eyes I felt like I had failed because I couldn’t figure out how to fix myself. After my first session with her, I knew I was thinking completely wrong. Seeing a therapist is like seeing a doctor when you’re sick. Mental health issues are real, and sometimes you need help getting through them. The hardest part of therapy is having to be honest and vulnerable about things that have gone on in your life. My therapist started from when I was young. The issues you have growing up usually go into your adulthood, especially if you don’t face them. Some of the major issues we discussed was me being bullied in school. I was bullied from grade school all the way through high school. Not being accepted or being picked on just for being myself, was difficult. Therefore, I carried that going into my adulthood. I always wanted acceptance. I had a toxic marriage, plagued with emotional and physical abuse; that ultimately ended in divorce. I never really dealt with all the hurt and pain I had endured. Then there was being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Like I had stated in my last blog, I struggled with panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. I was trying to deal with it on my own. I had a lot of toxic friendships. I didn’t know how to say no, and if I did, I felt the need to apologize for it. I was a huge people pleaser. My therapist taught me that I had to stop and face all the adversities in my life that I worked so hard to avoid. I learned that my self-worth was based on my output or productivity, along with the need to always put others needs over my own. I started going to therapy a few times a month and eventually I would go every other month, to once every 6 months. Thanks to therapy I learned how to love and accept myself for who I am.
My therapist would give me homework assignments. That is the thing about therapy. You need to be honest with your therapist, but most importantly with yourself. The hard work comes after your therapy sessions. You have to actually work to improve on all that you discover about yourself. You don’t overcome depression and anxiety. It’s a constant battle every day. One that I’m no longer ashamed of. Mental Health Awareness is so important. There are so many people suffering in silence. I was one of them. You become so good at hiding your feelings. I would encourage anyone to talk to a therapist and get the help you need. Below are tips that have really helped to positively change my life.
Think about this. If I asked you to name all the people that you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself, or would you even name yourself? In order for you to love others, you need to make sure that you love yourself!
When you love yourself, you will do the following:
1. You will see your reflection in the mirror. You recall me saying that I would look in my bathroom mirror and not see my reflection? Once I accepted who I was and learned to love myself, my flaws and all; I can look in the mirror and accept myself for who I am. It is an amazing feeling!
2. Give yourself positive feedback & set goals. I have positive words and favorite quotes on sticky notes on my bathroom mirror. I recently created a vision board made up of photos and quotes of some of the hopes and goals that I hope to achieve. Waking up every morning seeing those goals gives me the motivation I need to get my day going.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others. I’m a firm believer that God has given us all a plan and path to take. We’re all unique and special and must live life for ourselves. It never works when you try to be someone else.
4. Find your purpose! For years all I would do is go to work and come home. Once I found my purpose, it makes me so happy. Being able to compete in pageants again has been meaningful. That and modeling are my passions. Being a breast cancer advocate is my purpose. Being able to help others in turn helps to make me a better person.
5. Laugh at yourself! I do a lot of this now. I finally was able to substitute my tears for laughter. I was my own worst critic and was so hard on myself. So insecure. Now, I just laugh at myself when I do something silly.
6. Stand up for yourself-Say NO! Never apologize for it! This was the hardest for me to do, and it still can be at times. You have to make sure you’re in control of your life. I read a book called “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. This book really helped me create boundaries for myself. It taught me how to say Yes, and when to say No.
7. Small Circle of Sanity. Keep it small, quality over quantity! Have people in your life in which you can help each other grow and keep each other motivated and positive. Also have someone that you can confide in. It is so important.
Never forget that, you didn’t come this far to only come this far. You came this far so you could be strong enough to go further! Storms don’t last forever. The sun will come out again.
For additional information about Mental Health head to www.mentalhealth.gov.