Mental Health Awareness Month and the inherent problem with The Cheerful Times

Hello, everyone! It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? This is pretty similar to how I started my last post over two years ago. The post in which I told everyone I was finally coming back after the two+ years since the post before that one.

Are you sensing a pattern? I’m sensing a pattern.

There’s actually a very good reason for this. I didn’t realize it at the time, however. In my mind, I was too busy with life. Sure, I certainly have been busy, but that’s not it entirely.

The truth is, I had been (and still am) living with depression. I just wasn’t aware of it until about a year and a half go.

Having a blog called The Cheerful Times seemed fraudulent at best. How in the world could I fake a smile and pretend everything is sunshine and rainbows if you just believe it to be with all your heart and the spirit of pretty flowers and Disney Princesses? “Look at me and my arts and crafts! Look at me and my dog! Aren’t I so happy? You can be happy, too, if you just adjust your completely controllable attitude and life outlook! Follow me on my wonderful journey of positivity through The Cheerful Times!”

A blog that was once my passion project felt more and more like condescending, delusional garbage. It pained me to think about it, and it was exhausting just imagining the act of trying to gather up enough physical and mental energy to put on my cheerful-sona to write a post that me of a few years ago thought would cure the world’s ailments. Who did I think I was?

This, of course, was me thinking in polar opposites and not totally being fair to myself. While there are a few old posts and wording on The Cheerful Times that are sprinkled with toxic positivity (like having a post category called “How to be Happy”, as if it’s that easy), that’s not all this blog was or is. And that’s not really who I was — or am — as a person. I’m just doing my best. And I like to write. And I like to craft and explore and redecorate and be goofy and look at photos of my dog and maybe even be a bright spot in someone’s day.

So, why am I telling you all of this?

First, it is incredibly important — crucial — even lifesaving — to have open conversations about our mental health. Back in October, I wrote a Facebook post on this and my various diagnoses for World Mental Health Day. It sparked really meaningful conversation among my Facebook friends and family, and I knew that when I felt up for it, reposting it on The Cheerful Times could potentially help more people either understand themselves or their loved ones. And now, since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it felt right.

Before I pass you off to my post below, I want to add that with all this in mind, I plan to revisit the format of The Cheerful Times. I still love the name, and still feel it is right for me. But I may tweak old posts and categories to reflect the mental growth and maturity I’m continuing to experience since launching the blog more than eight years ago. I can’t nor want to promise regular content again, but know that I’ve been doing decently well on my personal mental health journey and you may see me around here more. After all, I have several exciting topics I can write about now, like buying my first house last year (during a pandemic no less) and starting my retro-inspired wall art Etsy shop, ArtOnABagel.

Be well, check in on yourself, and please don’t hesitate to share this post if you feel it could help start your own important conversations around mental health. I’m not even going to hide part of this post under a “more” tag, if you’re viewing this from my main page, because making sure more people read this is infinitely more important than getting more clicks and view counts.

Love always, KB

———

Originally published on my Facebook, October 10, 2020

Hello friends, today is World Mental Health Day. I’m diagnosed with ADHD, depression (dysthymic disorder, if we want to get specific, and we do, because this is how we help people) and anxiety.

I am not embarrassed if people know this. I am not embarrassed that I’m living with these disorders. I’m not embarrassed by any of this! And it shouldn’t be weird that I told you.

We need to normalize talking about our mental health (for those who feel comfortable doing so). This is how we help others realize what is and isn’t okay, and that having mental health obstacles isn’t shameful. For example, I know of three people who were diagnosed with ADHD because they recognized themselves in the experiences I shared in a conversation, on Facebook or in an Instagram story, etc. In fact, I realized I might have ADHD after seeing a post on Tumblr that dove deeper than the surface level stereotypes. And the only thing embarrassing about that is admitting I had a Tumblr. Your words, your experiences, your openness have a ripple effect and can change the lives of others.

And then there’s also the importance of representation in entertainment. I think it might have been after watching a TV show that it finally clicked that I should tell someone, like [my husband] and my psychiatrist, that I was starting to suspect I might have been living with depression for years. I don’t remember which show it was…I think it might have been Diane’s storyline in the last season of BoJack? But whatever it was, I’m glad it was the final thing that sank in and made me take some action.

IT’S NOT “NORMAL” to feel like you’re the biggest fraud in the world every time you muster up what little energy you have to smile and say “I’ve been good!” every time someone innocently asks “How are you? How you’ve been?” for literal years. Such a casual question that I would absolutely dread (and still do — just re-reading that made me anxious) but I didn’t know why. I didn’t have some big traumatic event happen to me (this is pre-pandemic by the way!), so I was furious at my brain for being so lazy it couldn’t even feel happiness anymore. Like, your life is great, what’s wrong with you? But chronic depression doesn’t really have a logical reason for doing its thing.

It’s never too late to talk to someone, to take steps forward. I noticed something wasn’t right when I suspected both my ADHD and my depression and went to a health professional about it. And I continue talking to a health professional about it. And if you don’t like your health professional, try to get another if you can. The first doctor I told about my suspected ADHD frowned and said “but didn’t you do well in school?” Good lord. Doctors shouldn’t be the ones spouting stereotypes back at you. I sat in my car in the parking lot and cried, because it had taken months for me to build up the courage and energy to even make the appointment. So I decided to see a specialist instead (I recognize my privilege in being able to do so) and after the evaluation he said “Wow, how have you been living undiagnosed for so long?” Validation is nice.

Taking these baby steps make all the difference in your life journey. You deserve to improve your quality of life. Part of my journey is medication, which isn’t for everyone but has been working for me and I’m not ashamed because there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I cried after a week+ of taking my antidepressants because I had forgotten how it felt to be genuinely happy — to have your default mood be something other than “emptiness with a side of vague sadness” — for years. It seems like that would be obvious to notice in yourself, but it gradually sneaks up on you and becomes your normal without making itself known. Don’t deny yourself peace. You deserve it. I’m not there yet, I’m actually going to talk to my doc about changing medications because it’s not working as well as it did at first. But eventually you’ll find your perfect thing. I’m happy to be on my way and hope you allow yourself to be too.

This is long and not super fluid, but I hope it helps someone — whether it’s a realization about yourself, or just getting a window into the world of others. I’m not sure how to end this, so thank you for reading and being a friend, and be good to yourself! There’s only one of ya.

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