Recently, on my Instagram page for my photography business (centeredimages) I put a feeler out asking what we all wish people would be more open to talking about or talk about more often. I got so many amazing answers, and a lot of them were repeats. It has definitely given me a solid foundation for content creation. The response I got the most, which was no surprise to me, was mental health. I’m giving you fair warning, there may be some rather crude language in this post. WHY THE FUCK is mental health still such a stigma? Why are we still making people feel bad and feel weird about the state of their mental health or even just their emotions? This topic really hits home for me. It’s probably the topic that I have the most experience with. I won't share all of my mental health struggles with you today (you’d be here reading until 2021 because I wouldn’t be done writing until 2020).
I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression since I was a teenager. I had some close friends, but for the most part, I would say I was a total loner and people didn’t naturally gravitate towards me. So for lack of better words, I was not what you would consider “popular.” This was a real downer for my self-esteem, and because I didn't have the tools or knowledge to love myself, I tried fitting in with people who didn’t know how to respond to my lack of self-understanding. But also, kids can be fucking mean.
Things weren’t comfortable at home either. I came from a broken home, and my mom and I did NOT get along. Just so we are clear though, my parents love(d) me, and I do not feel like I came from a bad home. I was just gravely misunderstood, had a bad relationship with my step-father, no relationship with my father, and my mom didn’t necessarily love herself which led to many many years of discomfort between us, and a heart problem that will take lots of years and nurturing to heal. I’m not here to play the blame game though, I just want to give you a little back story so you could understand a bit of my depression and where it all began.
I would say that my anxiety is what gets the best of me most days. There have been a few times, actually most recently, where my anxiety had been so severe that it was literally controlling every move that I made. I even had to have my husband drive me to an engagement session because I was hyperventilating just thinking about the possibility of “failing” my couple (stupid of me, but that's what anxiety does). For those of you that don’t “get” or experience anxiety; Hallefuckinglujah. For those of you that don’t get or understand it and want to lend an empathetic heart in the future to those who do experience it, here is an excellent example of what it physically and emotionally does to your body:
Imagine, a small box just slightly bigger than your body, made of shatterproof glass. You are placed into this box, and the box is sealed up. You have just enough room to shift your body around slightly, but you can't stand up, and your arms and feet are snug against your core. But before you were placed into the box, you were given a drink that was designed to make your heart race just fast enough to make you feel sick to your stomach but not entirely break a sweat. Imagine now that the air in the box is getting thin. You want to escape the box but you cant, but you can see the fresh, clean air all around you, after all, the box is glass. Now, you get to sit there as your insides start to burn, and the only thing that you think you can do to escape is crawl out of your own skin. You feel trapped, you feel helpless, you are out of breath, and there is nothing that you can do. THIS is anxiety.
I’m not suggesting that there is nothing that you can do about anxiety. There is very clear science on coping mechanisms for anxiety and depression, and there are many instances where the chemical imbalance is so off in our bodies that we need medication to help us through (I’ve taken plenty). But the fact still remains that we experience it, and when we do its a shit show. So why the complete lack of empathy from society when SO many of us struggle with anxiety and depression? For me, and I know many others, there is an overwhelming sense of shame like I’m supposed to portray that I’m this perfect person all the time. And why wouldn’t I/we feel that way? We are constantly surrounded by ideas of perfectionism. Que the Instagram photos, happy smiling faces on facebook, beautiful, successful people on television, and tabloids that will out all these people if they even THINK about straying from their so-called perfect life for one second. I suppose you could call me a bit of a hypocrite then. I don’t necessarily want to post all of the struggles that I go through on social media. Then again we all know those people who literally post every second of every moment of their day looking for some ounce of attention from the outside world (I honestly can't stand this). But I think there is a level of transparency that we all need to start having with each other if we want to start feeling united.
Ok, I don’t want to make this all about the giant suck-hole that social media is. I have a solid love-hate relationship with the internet “my precious.” I’m DEFINITELY going to get into social media though in some later posts because it literally controls like 90% of our lives. I really just want to tackle giving people a sense of community right now in a world that is just never satisfied with anything you choose to do regarding your emotions. Have you noticed that? Or is it just me? Like there are 8,000,001 self-help books out there so that you can STOP being depressed, but probably next to no books out there that just say “yea man, depression fucking sucks, we all experience it, and we are so not alone, so let us just love each other during the process.” We don’t need more books to teach us coping methods for anxiety and depression. We need more books telling hard truths about life and the value of being vulnerable with each other. A lot of those who struggle know what they need to do, its the taking action part that is hard.
That was always the most obnoxious part of depression for me. The doctor would be like “well Chelsea you’re depressed, have you tried some exercise?” And in my head I’d be like “gee doc, ya know, I would just love to exercise you see, but this little asshole called depression isn’t allowing me to….which is why I came to see you.” Or “next time, try journaling about things to get your emotions out,” well that would have been great, but I was too busy hyperventilating. I promise I’m not trying to make excuses for the struggle, but that's why we feel so darn alone. There are all these great ways to cope with your anxiety, but if we're honest (or maybe it's just me) when it comes down to it, you’re just frozen.
If anxiety and depression are health-related issues that just encompass an array of emotions, and if an attribute that makes us human is to feel, then it's about time that we start showing a greater understanding towards each other. This applies to so many different health-related experiences as well that at the end of the day, ultimately unite us, but we waste our energy using it to divide us. There is nothing more powerful for healing than understanding, compassion, and empathy.
If I keep writing, I’ll end up with a book, so I'm going to just cut this off here. We will dive deeper into the intricate web of depression, anxiety and mental health at another date. For now, if I could challenge you to do one thing to remove the stigma surrounding mental health, it would be to embrace yourself. Stop loathing yourself for your feelings. One of the most beautiful things I have found in Discovering Chelsea is that I no longer have to feel shame for my feelings. I know that I feel them and whether they serve me or not, they are still there, so I will honor them and feel no shame. Say “I honor my feelings” and then be vulnerable. There is space for you to share the true inner workings of your heart and receive energy for you to heal, while also returning energy and giving power to others who may be struggling with the same thing. Its time to end the stigma.