I’m the eternal optimist. Seriously, I’ve had people at my new job tell me, “I can’t imagine you in a bad mood.” I take that as a high compliment. It means a lot to me to hear that.
Right now, I’m not feeling optimistic. Right now, I’m feeling bipolar.
And that feeling has been present a tad too much lately.
Mental Health and My Circumstances
But, let’s back up. As frustrated and broken and out of control of my emotions as I feel, it’s actually rather logical that I’m a little off-kilter. In fact, it’d be concerning if I wasn’t feeling the strain right now — I’m human, after all. In the last six months, I’ve:
- Had a slew of health problems, including a horrible foodborne illness and two fights with bronchitis;
- Lost a job;
- Gained a job;
- Made progress on a very big project that’s very near and dear to my heart;
- Put that project on hold to focus on my well-being;
- Battled issues with my apartment;
- Learned a lot about healthy, mature, adult relationships;
- Watched several people I care about very deeply, navigate some truly major life trials.
I mean, there’s more. There’s small things and big things, all adding their own degrees of emotions all over the spectrum. I handled it all without any major meltdowns. I had about a week of truly severe, I-can’t-even-deny-this instability when I was unemployed, but overall I’ve been “tough.” And I’ve done it all without a relapse of my eating disorder.
Mental Health and Stress
The reality is, mental health and stress go hand-in-hand. I’ve been through some massive ups and downs in these last few months. All the stress — good stress from the many massive blessings in my life, and bad stress from the obstacles I’ve been fortunate enough to overcome — adds up over time.
I want to take a moment here to say that I am very blessed. I have a pretty fantastic life. I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t feel that way. But, the nature of my difficulties, and the challenges many others face, is that sometimes we can’t control how we feel. Even when life is wonderful, we need a leg up now and then.
And life’s up and downs are even more volatile when your brain’s chemical balance can turn on a dime.
Asking for Help
So, I’m going back to therapy on Thursday. And we’re going to discuss psychiatrist referrals…so that I can explore my options. I’ve been managing my bipolar disorder, and its off-shoot of bulimia, without medication for years. As much as part of me feels like I’m admitting defeat, logic tells me that I’m not. As much as I’m caught in a limbo of trepidation, I’m not a coward. I’m being brave.
Whether I step back into the world of medication (which is overwhelming since I could end up on anti-depressants or anti-anxieties or anti-psychotics or mood stabilizers or a combination of them) or stay the course of “self-care” and therapy, even being brave enough to admit I need help is huge.
Sometimes, admitting defeat is the best thing you can do for your well-being. I don’t always have to be okay. I don’t always have to be tough, either. And this isn’t just for my homefries who share in the, uh, blessings of mental health irregularities. You don’t have to be bipolar or depression or anxious or borderline to ask for help.
So, please, do me a favor:
If you’re facing struggles, whether it’s due to a diagnosed mental illness, or other circumstances in your life, be willing to ask for help. And I don’t mean you need to head to the therapist at the first signs of trouble. Help comes in many forms. Here’s some ideas of ways to open up and find support:
- Talk to a friend. People are actually really wonderful, and true friends will stand by you when you need it most.
- If face-to-face doesn’t feel right for you, try a phone call.
- If a phone call doesn’t feel right for you, try a text.
- This also applies to family members, significant others, and anyone else in life that you feel you can lean on.
- Reach out to your spiritual resources, if that’s your thing. My pastor has been an invaluable resource for me in the last year.
- Check out support groups. This is a great option if you have trouble reaching out to people you know. (Been there. Sometimes it’s easier to open up to strangers who don’t have existing expectations of you.)
- Consider some of the resources listed below.
- Or, if you’re reading this, reach out to me. Seriously. There are few things in life that matter to me more than helping people. Not sure how to get ahold of me? Leave a comment. Even better, here’s my email: kelly.m.rivard (at) gmail.com.
But, please, whatever you’re going through, just be willing to ask for help. No one is meant to handle their struggles alone, and regardless of how defeated or broken you feel, you deserve to have some help with your burdens.
- Lifeline — The National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
- Veterans Crisis Line — Instant support and resources for those who have served in the military.
- NAMI — National Alliance on Mental Health support and resource directory.
- Mental Health America — A directory of support groups for those facing a wide array of difficulties. There is also a hotline number to call if you need to talk right now.
- The Hope Community — Geared toward teenagers and young adults, this community is for anyone who’s dealing with any sort of struggle in life. There are live hotlines, forums, and much more.