Mental Health

When your mental health takes a nosedive

Photo by Chris Loomis.

The past month has been a special version of Hell. I seriously injured a rib while helping my neighbor move a heavy chair. I knew the moment it happened that I was in trouble. When you feel something inside you go *pop*, reassess all your life decisions.

The pain spread from my rib to my back to my neck. I no longer slept through the night. I woke up at 2 AM and cussed at my TV for hours. I wandered through my days like an angry zombie … but I didn’t eat human brains. I didn’t eat anything, because OH, HELLO DEPRESSION! I WAS WONDERING WHEN YOU’D SHOW UP AGAIN!

As most of you know, I’ve suffered from depression since I was fourteen. This is nothing new. It reached its climax … valley … I don’t know which metaphor to use … when I lived in Phoenix and took some pills and drank some vodka and, oops, emergency trip home to stay with my parents.

Ohio has been a revelation for my mental health, possibly because I’ve come to realize I actually dislike sunshine and love rain and snow. I also love the small town lifestyle. I signed my first book deal here for the Bite Somebody series, and I have  my family nearby. All these things put depression in the rearview mirror. But now, thanks to some unfortunate life circumstances and a rib injury, it’s back.

What do I do when my mental health takes a nosedive?
1. Hide in my house.
2. Drink gin.
3. Read Sherlock fan fiction.
4. Stop writing.
5. Stop eating.
6. Stop smiling.
7. Reconsider medication.

I haven’t been on antidepressants in over three years, and weaning off of them last time scared the bejeezus out of me. Am I at the point where it’s time to revisit medication? Well, that’s still up for debate, but as my friend put it last week, “At least you can acknowledge when you need help.” Many people with mental illness seem incapable of reaching out for help. They wander through life in a sort of denial haze telling themselves they’ll get better, they’ll get better, when they actually need support.

Photo by Chris Loomis.

Medication isn’t the only answer, of course. There’s therapy and exercise and dietary changes and getting rid of alcohol (a HUGE depressant). There are any number of treatments for mental illness, but so many people don’t even want to admit they have a problem in the first place.

It’s been a long time since I had a “problem,” but that doesn’t mean I’m depression free. Whenever I speak about depression, I make it damn clear that there is no cure. You don’t just get kicked in the head by a horse and feel all better. Depression is a lifelong battle with peaks and valleys (see, I can use metaphors). I’ve been lucky to be on a peak for a long time, but now, I’m visiting the valley … and that’s what this is, a visit. I won’t be building a house here anytime soon.

It has been a month since my unfortunate *popping* incident. Two weeks ago, I wanted to cut for the first time in years. I saw my doctor and promised not to cut myself and spent a week on Effexor before its side effects freaked me out. I went to the gym today for the first time since my injury. I stared at Benedict Cumberbatch giggle gifs on Tumblr and watched the entirety of Yuri On Ice all over again. I’ve been talking again, too, smiling again, and I’m working on eating. Oh, I’m even sleeping again, and nightmares notwithstanding, it’s good. It’s all good.

I’m climbing out of the valley, slowly, but this has been an important and eye-opening reminder that mental illness is indeed the monster under your bed. It waits and it waits, until it grabs you by the ankle one morning and says, “You didn’t think I’d gone, did you?”

We need to take care of ourselves, mental illness or not. We also need to admit when we need help. See doctors. See friends. See God. When your mental health takes a nosedive, know that you are not alone. We all have bad days, weeks, months … Please don’t fight the fight by yourself. When you’re depressed, find the thing that makes you happy and surround yourself with that thing, even if it’s a good book. Even if it’s the sound of rain. Even if it’s ice cream. I’m clawing my way out of the pit. So can you.

13 thoughts on “When your mental health takes a nosedive

  1. I’m just guessing here, but I bet a lot more people have mental health issues than are generally known. Most of of us are taught from an early age that we must hide our pain, fear, even terror, because it makes everyone else uncomfortable. I am always impressed when people like yourself have the courage, and the kindness, to drag these issues out of the dark. I’m proud to know you!

  2. An insightful, sensitive and well-written post. With good reminders. I deal with some of the same issues myself and echo the earlier poster’s comment about admiring your courage and kindness.

  3. Three years ago I broke some ribs by falling over a very cute dog.I too heard a crack. I couldn’t breathe or move. Found out at the ER, there is nothing they can do for broken ribs. I “slept” in an upright chair for weeks because I could NOT lie in a bed. (Watched a lot of old movies). One time I sneezed and screamed in pain. Then I got stomach flu and learned even more about pain, throwing up with broken ribs.This pain depressed the hell out of me. Living with that kind of pain, you have every reason to feel as you do. It’s AWFUL. I’m so sorry you’ve been visiting the valley. I’m so thankful you are willing to share your pain and be vulnerable. When people learn there is great power in vulnerability, there will be more empathy and love. Thanks, Sara. You always inspire. xoxoxoxoxo

  4. A beautiful blog dear. I’m sure it was helpful for you to write it and will be helpful to many who read it. You know our prayers are with you each day and we’re always here for you. So glad you’re climbing out of the valley. Love you so much!

  5. Wonderfully written. I go through peaks and valleys, too, and in my work for NAMI, I talk with people whose loved ones are in crisis and as a college counselor, I see college students facing terrible times. It’s a hard road for everyone to navigate. However, you sound like you know how to navigate it. I’m so glad to “hear’ someone tell others that it’s work, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Many good thoughts to you!

  6. Thanks for sharing. Sue Ellen Allen somehow connected me with your distribution and I enjoy what you both write.

  7. i just went back on anti depressants.. made somewhat more difficult by the fact that the previous two medications made me worse (this one works, but the side effects are a bear).
    i found you from A)3 (I’m fabricdragon there, same as everywhere) and wish you luck in finding a good way to fight back to good days. (and having injured a rib… ow, yeah)

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