Talking about mental health is beginning to become more socially accepted, but accepting that you have a mental health issue is still incredibly tough. If you think you have a mental health issue, check out my top tips on starting the conversation, and try to remember that you are not in this on your own.
This week, I am talking mental health with Kelli Anne from Fearlessly Flawed Feminist. Hi Kelli Anne, please tell me a little about yourself.
I am the writer of Fearlessly Flawed Feminist, a lifestyle blog that includes my journey as a 20-something, who is a feminist, Christian and trying to be fearless about not quite having it all figured out yet. I also integrate my mental health struggles in that because I have learned how important and empowering it is to tell my story. Currently, I live in the beautiful Savannah, GA, but was born and raised in NJ, and went to college in NC. I also read A TON, so if you were to ask me my favorite book, my typical response is “how much time do you have?” However, I highly recommend This is Just My Face, Try Not to Stare written by Gabourey Sidibe, a wonderful, body positive book written by a sarcastic, funny, tell it like it is woman.
What is your mental health diagnosis?
I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was in high school, around 15 or 16, and I have also been treated for PTSD from an abusive relationship.
What does this mean in simple terms?
Honestly, I don’t really think there are simple terms to describe depression or anxiety, or even PTSD because it looks so different for each person. However, for me, it looks like days where I don’t feel like doing anything, lacking motivation to do things that I was once so excited about, feeling like the world would be better off without me, constantly checking over my shoulder to make sure the monsters aren’t waiting for me, and occasional nightmares. I think those are the simplest terms.
How old were you when you began to have symptoms?
Probably in my teens. I was diagnosed about 2 years after people started realizing that I needed help; I just wasn’t ready to hear it yet.
Does your illness affect your ‘normal’ life? How?
Depression is quite a unique opponent. It can reach out its talons when you least expect it, and hook into you. Sometimes it prevents me from getting out of bed, other times I don’t want to see people or even do the work that’s in front of me while I’m on the clock.
How long did it take you to seek help?
A couple of years. I was of the “depression is someone else’s diagnosis and I’m just a little moody” school of thought.
What treatment(s) have you found works best for you?
So far, therapy and Lexapro have been my life savers, at least in the medical sense.
Do you find the current provisions for mental health in your area are good enough? How do you think they could be improved?
Honestly, I can’t answer that question because I am lucky enough to have a good therapist and psychiatrist, both of whom have been able to help me work through my mental health. I am also one of the fortunates who can afford private mental health care and haven’t experienced state funded mental health care.
What has been your hardest/lowest/toughest/most desperate moment/time?
The times when I was sitting with a pen in hand, writing my goodbye/suicide letters.
I am a recovering self-harmer. So also, the times I felt that I needed to cut myself to justify the hurt I was feeling.
What has been the best/most helpful coping strategy/strategies for you?
Connecting with other mental health bloggers, journaling, writing, and actually being a social worker and helping other people in crisis.
What has been the hardest part of your journey?
Wanting to relapse into cutting myself again has been particularly difficult. There are times when the urges are really strong and I feel as though I can’t get past them.
There was a period of unemployment and lack of motivation after college, about two years ago, that was pretty difficult. I was running out of money fast and had no job prospects, so things looked pretty bleak at the time.
Have you found those around you treat you differently?
Sometimes men will make jokes or be rude about it; my abuser would use it as a threat or say he wouldn’t touch me because I hurt myself.
What do you wish people wouldn’t say to you?
Not so much say to me, but believe about depression. And that is that depression is something that can be magically cured with a plucky good attitude and a new outlook on life. Depression is an illness, even if you can’t physically see an injury. It’s not an excuse to get out of things that you don’t want to do. It’s an illness that can impair a person’s ability to walk, talk and function, just like a broken leg or a concussion.
How can those around you help you?
Continue to be my rocks, my shoulders, my boulders, my lights. Support me, and listen to my story because it’s personal and mine and if I’m sharing it with you, it means a lot.
What is the one thing you wish people would understand about your mental health struggle/mental health in general?
A smile doesn’t mean that everything’s okay.
Are there any websites/groups/etc. you recommend for helping coping with/understanding/information on mental health issues?
To Write Love on Her Arms and their founder Jamie Tworkowski have kept me afloat for almost 7-8 years.
What is the best advice you have for someone with a mental health issue?
You are strong, you are beautiful, you are a warr;or.
Thank you for speaking so candidly during your interview, Kelli Anne.
Check out other wandering minds interviews here. Remember, you are not alone.
Currently living in Savannah, GA, Kelli Anne is the founder, author and creator of the blog Fearlessly Flawed Feminist. She works for the local rape crisis centre in Savannah, and is also working on starting to freelance write in addition to her blog. Kelli Anne is an avid reader, lover of all adult colouring
books, especially ones featuring The Golden Girls, and empowering sayings, and crafty painter. She is also a proud guinea pig mom to Peanut, who might be a rodent but is still adorable.