This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and aims to reduce negative stigma around mental health through education. Obviously, I cannot speak for everyone, but this is how I’ve been dealing with my adjustment disorder.

Adjustment disorder is caused by a highly stressful life event (or multiple events) that induces strong emotional and/or behavioral reactions. It is a pretty generic descriptor, but what it meant was that I struggled to cope well with recent life circumstances. I had difficulty sleeping, cried often, and lost myself in melancholy. I felt despondent and frustrated with my inability to move on productively.

Eeyore and Winnie the Pooh

Yesterday, I completed an eight week class on depression and anxiety provided by my health care plan. The class focused on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which utilizes rational analysis and subsequent actions to combat automatic negative thoughts. These thoughts can be self-defeating (I’m worthless), assuming (He doesn’t like me), or predictive (I know I’m going to fail) and thus, harmful to one’s well-being. While it is true that most people have had such thoughts at one point or another, the difference is how one lets these thoughts affect one’s actions and beliefs. Those who have depression cannot “just think happy thoughts” and be cured. CBT encourages identifying feelings, patterns, and thought distortions, followed by steps including reframing and meditation practices to manage these triggers.

Anxiety Girl

Another emphasis of the class was self-care AKA doing something nice for yourself each week. It meant reminding myself that it was okay that things do not always go the way I planned them. It meant that even though I had a vivid nightmare about being forced to confess my anxiety/depression to a group of prominent strangers, it was okay to reveal that I am not perfect and still deserve respect. These concepts took some time to wrap my head around, but again, dealing with mental health obstacles is a process.

Hyperbole and a Half
Hyperbole and a Half

Being in class was helpful in that I could also listen to what other people were going through. Some struggled with depression for decades; others had panic attacks. I could relate to feeling like I had to frequently force cheery dispositions and perfectionist ways. Hearing other people’s experiences in class gave me some relief and also gave me the resources and confidence to manage my own reactions. I hope that by sharing my own progress, I can offer the same encouragement towards a healthier mind. Be kind to others, but more importantly, be kind to yourself.

Ellen Degeneres