I want to start this by saying I have never been diagnosed with depression, alcoholism, or a mental illness by a professional (lol, or a non-professional, come to think of it). But I think that my life experiences have given me some room to speak about these things.
Reading a post on Facebook, made me want to share some of my thoughts. I loved how the author compared how our society is totally ok talking about cancer but not the brain. The full post is definitely worth a read.
I never really paid attention to how the media portrayed alcoholics, addiction, mental illness, etc, until I got sober. Even I didn’t think I had been an alcoholic until AFTER I hopped on the wagon. The alcoholics portrayed in shows and movies were living on the street or coming back to the hospital again and again to get more meds. They never looked like me. When the leads in the show or the movie drank, it tended to be glorified. Even when they get drunk, it’s seen as fun or a way to blow off steam. Yet, without my beer goggles, I can count how many glasses they drink. I can see how binge drinking or their “functional alcoholism” majorly shakes up their lives.
As I’ve spent a good deal of the last few years working on my own personal growth, I’ve read a lot about taking care of yourself and how so many things impact our lives. I know for me, if I don’t get 7-8+ hours of sleep, I am much more susceptible to discouragement, beating myself up, poor work, and a decrease in creativity and productivity. There have been several times where nothing was getting done, I was exhausted, but I kept putting off a nap. “It’s fine, I can handle this” but I really couldn’t. Every time I’ve taken a nap when I’m lacking sleep, it makes a difference.
I also have recognized that even things that don’t seem like a big deal, have huge implications. Facebook is a big drain on my brain and my mood. There is so much negativity. Even if I’m only on Facebook for a few minutes, if I’m looking at my full feed, later I’m irritable or down. I have to take care of myself and severely limit my time on Facebook to work-related things or looking at things that build me up, not down.
I think a good comparison (which I am absolutely not the first to make) of mental health, specifically depression, is a migraine. If you’ve never had a migraine, you have no idea the debilitating power it can have over a person. To folks who haven’t had one, it’s just a headache…”just take a pill, you’ll be fine.” But to those of us who have experienced it, we know it exists in a category all its own. I think depression is the same. I do think there is a mental/chemical aspect to it, to a certain extent genetic as well as due to environmental influences. But if you haven’t experienced depression, it’s easy to think “just be happy! Think of all the things you have! You don’t have anything to be sad about!” But again, those of us who have experienced it know it’s not that simple. I do also believe we can have some control over it. But I think at the end of the day, it’s something to talk about, to try and understand.
Sharing about my alcoholism has been one of the greatest things that I’ve done. It has opened up so many doors of conversation and made me think about things differently. But, I can also attest, it’s scary, it’s not the normal thing to do. Then again, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve had that have opened my eyes to think about things differently.
It’s a huge topic, way outside the scope of this blog. But I wanted to take a minute to share some of the things I’ve been thinking about…and really, encourage more conversations about it. It’s not easy by any stretch, but it’s worth the work.
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