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Mental Mayhem

It has been a while since I have written a post. I had been thinking of a subject to write about for a month before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. And as soon as that hit, it made everything I was thinking about writing about obsolete.

It is funny, the timing of the universe. As all of us were starting to face our uncertain futures, I had a psychotic episode. And at the time I was just praying to feel normal once again, when in reality, it was exactly what I needed and had been needing for a while.

Mental health is an extremely important issue to me, and I have realized that maybe I should be more vocal about my own mental health challenges in order to break taboos about the topic.

I have had depression for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I thought I was just sensitive or melancholic, but as I got older, I realized that it wasn't just some seasonal blues or hormones, but something that was part of me and who I am. Yes, I had tried to commit suicide on two occasions, but thankfully both times my intentions were thwarted. I tried to cope with all the emotions with alcohol for a while, but eventually I had my first real breakdown. I was 25 when it happened, a psychotic episode that sent me to therapy. And all I can say is THANK GOD!

Growing up in a Mexican household, no one talks about therapy or mental health. It was just parts of life that were supposed to be sucked up and dealt with. I realize now for a lot of families that means multiple family members with alcohol and drug problems or other addictions. I noticed it to be true in my family, and I didn't want to go down that path too. I had to find a way back. So, I went to therapy and went back to doing yoga. This helped me recover so much of me and my life when I was 25, and eventually put me on my current path.

The thing is, depression is a battle. And it is different for everyone. For me, it is a constant battle. And that battle is defined by action. For me, depression leaves me lethargic and numb. It isn't a sadness, it is an unfeeling abyss of emptiness. When depression get its sharp claws in me, I can't leave my bed. I find nothing amusing, and live in a mental feed loop of harsh self-judgements. That is exactly how I started my COVID-19 quarantine.

I had wanted to heal my heart from some left over childhood trauma, in order to be able to really start dating again, when I made some cavalier decisions that led to a complete breakdown. So I found myself, not wanting to do anything and in an endless negative mental loop with no out. I was not only trapped in my head, I was trapped in my house, with ALL my triggers.

I have learned over the years that I can usually bring myself back with constant action. So, I am always working out, going somewhere or doing something. The motion, the action, keep me balanced. But under the quarantine, I had to get creative. It took everything I had in me to get moving. I exercised 3 to 4 hours a day. I made endless meals, I picked up skateboarding, and did a number of art projects. I read books, educated myself on new subjects, all while just trying to escape the demons of my own mind.

As the weeks marched on, I almost gave up. I felt that I would not be able to save myself again. But then, I decided and I knew, I would. I realized what I was needing was kindness. I needed to be kinder to myself. So, I started to do a more restorative yoga practice, finding more time to sit in nature and to understand that I am only human. I also started to take ashwagandha, which allowed me to sleep. Something I hadn't really been doing for 6 weeks. I finally started to get some relief. I started to find joy in some of the simple things that have always brought a smile to my face. I went to my acupuncturist, and had a treatment that made my heart lighter. And the thing that I did that really gave me a leg up this time was that I was honest with my friends and family.

When I was 25, I told no one about my plight. I went to therapy alone, let no one know my battle and struggled to fight on my own. This time, I told my 3 best friends and my mother. I felt it was time for my depression not to be a stigma to me. The reaction I got from my friends and family was heart warming. They have been super supportive, and open themselves about their own struggles with mental health. That is when I realized, we should all be a little more open to sharing. Not only does it help us, but it helps our loved ones. No one is without struggles, and for those of us with the tendency to compare our lives, we tend to forget that.

This week I went back to work for the first time in almost two months. I returned to work thankful and humbled. Thankful that I have had two months to restore my mental health, which I had no idea had been crumbling until it crumbled. It hurt every day, and my healing journey is not finished, but I feel a slight sense of renewal. A renewed sense of what my mental health is worth. And I feel humbled at the fact that I am not in this alone. With this terrible global pandemic, there has been so much more connection. I had forgotten what true human connection felt like, and have found that in this mess of a situation.

I write this not only for me, but for those who have either felt alone or misunderstood during these quarantine times. You aren't alone. You are strong and can make it through, if you need help, reach out and ask. We are here for you. I am here for you. Because you all have been there for me. Much love and stay safe.

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