I’m having a bad mental health day. It’s one of the worst kinds, in my opinion, because it’s the kind that has no real cause. I don’t know why it’s a bad mental health day; it simply is.
It could be a number of things. Perhaps it’s because I’ve not been taking my SSRI at consistent times each day, causing my brain chemistry to get a little wonky. It could be because my kids spent the last two nights at their grandparents’ house and now are very clingy to me today. It could be that I didn’t sleep well last night, or that one of my friends is suffering and I don’t know how to help her.
It could be all of those things, but I’m pretty sure it’s none of them. The source, whatever it is, is out of my reach. Beyond my consciousness.
And it’s days like this, when there is no discernible source of my mental health struggles, that I feel incredibly lost and broken.
Most days, when my anxiety is out of control, or the depression that always lurks just on the periphery starts finding its way into the spotlight, I can point to something specific — something that explains how I feel. There is comfort in that. It makes me feel like there’s not “something wrong with me” (a term I’m trying to release from my vocabulary), and that, instead, I’m just a typical person responding typically to hard circumstances.
Days like today, when I can’t point to any source of my prickly feelings, I have to confront the fact that I’m not typical. I have severe, chronic anxiety and mild, situational depression.
My mental health will always be a struggle. It’s not likely something that I’m just going to wake up and not deal with it anymore. It’s a journey I’m probably going to navigate for the rest of my life.
It’s hard to not feel the shame and stigma of having “bad mental health” when I say that out loud.
A lot of millennials like me were raised to have a complicated relationship with our mental health. We watched the grown ups around us treat mental health like a dirty little secret, something you should take care of but probably shouldn’t talk about. Many millennials had parents who threatened therapy as a form of punishment, or as something that “troubled kids” have to do. That stuff didn’t exactly engender a lot of positive regard toward things like therapy and anti-depressants in our generation.
Despite that, we’ve become the generation who has led the way in de-stigmatizing and legitimizing the importance of taking care ouf or mental health. We talk openly about it. We share our struggles. We encourage others to start the journey. I’ve devoted my platform to sharing about my challenges with my mental health, opening up to thousands of people every day about the very personal work I’m doing in therapy.
And still, on days like today, when I’m anxious and depressed and utterly overwhelmed for no reason other than I’m just a person with bad mental health, I feel my self-worth take a nose dive.
I feel like a failure. I feel like I’m not doing enough. I feel like something is wrong with me. Maybe most of all, I feel like there isn’t any hope.
I know I’m not alone in that feeling.
Depression and anxiety are great liars, telling us horrible untruths that we all too quickly believe. They want to rob us of our humanity, our dignity, and our sense of peace. They make us doubt our own experiences, our own understanding of the world. They make us doubt ourselves.
So, dear reader, I say this as much to myself as I do to you — you’ll never shame yourself into better mental health; you’ll never silence the depression or anxiety away.
Only love can do that. Only deep, profound, unapologetic self-love and acceptance can do that. Accessing that deep love, honing it and perfecting it, may take a lifetime. It may take lots of therapy, and meditation, and journaling, and medication. It may take more energy or dedication than you think you have.
But I promise you it’s worth the effort. It’s worth persevering through.
I’m going to end my day by taking a bath and reading a good book for awhile. I’m not going to worry over the chores that didn’t get done today, or the fact that I didn’t play with the kids as much as I would have liked. I’m going to allow myself to just end a sad day on a happy note, because I deserve it.
You deserve it, too, dear reader.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks about women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the FREE newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.