I remember the day my doctor told me,  “Sharissa, you are depressed.” Ironically,  I went home that day and cried for hours, thinking: “me? I am depressed? how could I be depressed?”  I know, I know, THERE’S YOUR SIGN!

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

I didn’t understand what it meant, the label specifically. What does it mean to be “DEPRESSED” (don’t you feel like it should be a shout word?)? I was 18 at the time and had started having these terrible episodes of not being able to breathe and then being completely exhausted from the pain in my chest. I would have to sleep the rest of the day/night right after it would happen. I would lose all power and strength. I didn’t know what was going on or why it was happening. It took months before I finally went to a doctor and explained my symptoms. I was diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder and Depression. At that age,  I had never even heard of “mental health” or “mental disorders”. Looking back on my life now, I realize I had a lot of examples around me growing up, but I never understood that there was something “wrong” or that there could be something imbalanced in my brain. I later went to school to become a psychologist, thinking at the time that I could help other people. What it did instead was teach me all about myself, and my own brain, and how I operate, and how I could CHANGE that!

Not knowing then what I know now, when I was first diagnosed, I took medication after medication to stop the attacks but the only effect of  the medication  was  that it made me feel suicidal. I would get to the point that I would plan how to take my own life, then I’d go back to the doctor and ask them to change the medication. When I finally gave up on medication and focused in on things like talk therapy, I learned how to control the anxiety and panic attacks.

Though, it is interesting to point out, that no one ever thought to ask me about my diet, what my digestion was like or even questioned the fact that at 18, I had already been on acid-blocking medication for 3 years.

Depression and Anxiety often go hand in hand, and for me,  that was certainly the case. I had to learn all those years ago, that if I wanted to get out of the cycle,  I had to learn to recognize the signs. It is incredibly difficult to help yourself during this time, as you often do not know it is happening until it is way too late. For me, I learned the things I do or more importantly do not do, when my mental health is not the best. Then I told the people closest to me what those things were. Now,  not only do I watch out for these signs,  but other people do too.

It is so important, during mental health awareness month and every other month, that we continue to talk about our struggles and reach out for help. Most likely someone you know is going through or has gone through a similar thing and they can help you. Tell people your triggers, or find them out for yourself, keep notes of the things you start or stop doing so other people can help before it gets bad. We are all struggling in our own way and it is increasingly important that we know we are not alone!

I am proud to say now that I can keep most of my anxiety in check but the real difference came after I healed my gut. I learned from talk therapy that I had to work on the inside before I could fix anything on the outside. I now rarely have panic attacks (and if I do,  they come with JUST CAUSE–*hero complex*) and when I do, I can manage them a lot better and they do not often take me down. If this is something you are struggling with, know that your gut produces the majority of those happy hormones and if your gut is not happy, your brain cannot be happy either.

If you want to talk more about this, give me a call! I know this battle and I know how hard it can be, I am blessed to be surrounded by people who know the signs and are willing to help me but I had to ask first!


mental health month