The Mental Space

Generally, I’ve been keeping a positive outlook on things, but I am human, and I do struggle keeping my positive attitude going at times. Today is one of those days so I am writing a post focusing on what is often the elephant in the room, mental health and wellbeing. Some of this might border on TMI, so fair warning if this isn’t your jam, you don’t have to read it.

I have often struggled with depression and anxiety throughout my life. The first time I remember struggling with my mental health is in the 3rd grade. It was a very rough time for my family, with Dad having been out of work for 18 months, and I was being subject to some bullying at school, mostly because having clothes that fit was a struggle, and I was very smart and intelligent but due to it being the late 80’s I didn’t qualify for gifted instruction due to small town nepotism mostly. I took it out that year by sending hate valentines. I was just mostly done with the bs of some of my classmates. Was it healthy no, and I did see a counselor for awhile after that. Things then stabilized for me during late elementary.

The next time I struggled was middle school. So many young teens struggle during this time, our bodies are changing, and very often students are cruel to each other. We had moved during 7th grade, and moving uprooting from the friend group I had established. I got in trouble at school a couple of times, once resulting in a suspension, mostly again because I was tired of my classmates BS. Once again I saw a counselor and once again things got better once I got to HS.

I then was okay through HS and most of college. Like anyone who is getting ready to make that transition to full adulthood, I was struggling with some anxiety during my final couple of semesters in undergrad. I saw counseling through university services, and this was the first time they recommended medication. This was the first time I was put on Lexapro, and it did work well for me, and got me through that transition. Eventually I thought I was okay so I went off the medication.

I’ve always kinda teetered on the edge, not really depressed, but maybe a little, waves of anxiety depending on what is going on, but never feeling like I needed to be on medication most of the time, or seeking counseling. Part of the problem in this country is getting appropriate counseling can be so very hard. A lot of employers have EAP services, but these are a stop gap at best, most only provide for 10-12 sessions a year. Finding counselors/psychiatrists that take insurance is hard because reimbursement rates are so low. Then throw in that for me at least some of my struggles are rooted in my self-identity finding an appropriate counseling that I feel comfortable with is a tall order.

Late 2020 I was a mess. So anxious I could barely function, depressed on top of it, trying to search for my identity and where I was. I reported into EAP, and that helped and I saw my awesome primary. I went back on Lexapro, and honestly it helps me function, I honestly don’t know if I will ever come off of it, it helps so much, especially with the depression end. EAP helped me figure some things out that I am not cis, that I am really bi, but I have no desires to really be sexually active. Still figuring this part out, but at least I know I don’t have to fit into societies molds anymore. However, I ran out of EAP sessions.

Late 2021 the anxiety came back in full force. Teaching right now is stressful and anxiety inducing. I try not to let things affect me, but when teaching is your only life-sustaining income, it does become worrisome and you take things seriously. Perhaps I took things too seriously. So late last year I put in some inquiries with Equitas Health, a health system based out of Columbus, OH that caters to the LGBTQIA+ community. I was able to get in to see a psychiatrist fairly soon early in March, and I am still on the waitlist for counseling (it is long).

I’ve had anxious non-stop thoughts, so I am now on Zyprexa for that, that helps me shut down at night, and that with the Lexapro means I am mostly even, but there are days, like today that I just feel a little extra down and unmotivated to do anything. Maybe it is the loss of teaching, and boredom, though I know I cannot be “on” for the 8 hours that teaching requires. I know that it is the loss of my independence, and although I know I am actively working to gaining that back, it doesn’t make it any easier. The pain that I am in physically doesn’t help with that, and I am in some physical pain today.

Another overlooked part of mental health, especially for women is the menstrual cycle. Right now I am overdue for my period, and I generally get grumbly when it is overdue. I am fortunate that I have a mirena IUD that helps with the crazy periods I was having before I got it, but it doesn’t solve all the issues. I know that hormones related to the menstrual cycle can influence general mental health, and maybe that is part of my problem today.

Overall I know I am fortunate, in the times in my life I have needed mental health care, I have been able to access it, both financially and access wise. Not everyone can get that access and that is the true tragedy. I am also able to access high-quality medical care when I need it at a price that will not bankrupt me. I am currently waiting for appropriate care of my choice when it comes to counseling/therapy and I am in general managing. I suppose I can take the occasional down day.

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