Mental Health Warriors: Seeking Serenity & Harmony
Welcome to my series Mental Health Warriors. Today, I would like to introduce you to Laurie from Seeking Serenity & Harmony. Last time, I introduced you to Meaghan from Naturally Toddler Approved. You can read her personal journey here.
Mental health is an issue that needs to be talked about, no matter how difficult it might be so I put up a form on my blog asking people to share their mental health journey. I am moved by the fact these people are willing to share their stories, even though I know it isn’t easy, just to raise awareness and touch the lives of some that might really be struggling and feeling alone.
Here is Laurie’s personal story about mental health, in her own words.
Do you deal with a mental illness?
Yes. I have long term chronic depression with anxiety.
Help me understand what it is like to live with this?
It has made it a struggle from day to day being able to know my limits and balance my activities. However, it has made me a lot more understanding of others and what they go through. It has given me the desire to be an advocate for others and to spread awareness and education to help others understand the realities of chronic illness and mental health stigmas. There are days when it is hard to just do the basics due to either severe pain, exhaustion or a severely distressed intestinal system. The depression just adds to that.
Have you dealt with this your whole life?
In looking back I had my first run with depression when I was in my teen years. It was not diagnosed professionally until I was in my early 20s. However it pretty much went untreated until I had a psychiatric breakdown in my late 20s. I for one was afraid of the stigma and the what would people think so in my teen years I avoided getting help. Plus I was still keeping secrets about things that would happen to me and wasn’t sure about letting it all out at that time. Knowing who was safe and who wasn’t going to be safe to talk to. Some of it was me, Some of it was difficulty accessing appropriate services. I attribute my stability now to the discovery of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) and the correct medication after much trial and error.
How old were you when you first got diagnosed or got help?
I was in my 20s when it was first addressed I did not get to the point of getting the help that I really needed until my mid-30s.
What are some of the survival skills that help you get through a rough day or rough period?
My old bad habit was eating. Knowing that my obesity only contributes to my health issues I am working on making different choices. I try to go outside if I can and the sun and fresh air give me a lift. Some days it’s a comfortable blanket and a nap. There are times that just getting lost in a show with my husband or teens is helpful.
Have you learned your triggers? Or have you learned how to spot when it is about to get bad?
I have learned my triggers and can sense when I am starting to head in the downward direction. As long as I listen and strive to stay on top of it I do ok.
What is something you can tell people that have family members with a mental illness? Is there anything they can do to help?
Please don’t say things like “just pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or “it could be worse” or especially “Thats stupid to feel or think that way”. Even if you don’t understand how that person is feeling PLEASE do your best to listen, really listen. They aren’t looking for you to fix things. They need to know you are listening, trying to understand and most of all that you really care.
Is there any specific story you would like to share?
I can’t even begin to explain the difference between me now and me In the 80s and 90s. I still have a lot of work to do with my mental health but well I wish then I could have foreseen me now and known there was hope and had known things would be better. Maybe then I would not have lost that precious time with my four oldest children. All I ever did was want to be the best mother but my mental illness really impacted our relationship and had an effect on my children. I wish they had not had to deal with my mental illness. I wish I could have been the mom to them that I am now to my twin teens.
Now my struggle is more due to the physical illness and not the depression/mental health issues. My chronic health conditions make it difficult to socialize. They have made me feel less functional. I finished college planning to go out and get a job in the mental health field only to have my body revolt and now I am trying to find ways to earn money and build a business from home. I also want to use my experiences to encourage, support and advocate for others who are struggling.
Words of advice or encouragement?
Don’t give up. If you feel something is wrong and no one is listening keep talking until someone does. Secondly reach out, there are so many great supports online. Maybe if you can even find a local support group to join. Make sure you take care of yourself and get what you need.
I encourage you to check out this post (and more) from Seeking Serenity & Harmony.
Seeking Serenity & Harmony on Social Media:
Thank you so much, Laurie, for sharing your story with us.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10