Chrissy Teigen recently authored an article in Glamour on her experience with Post Partum Depression. One of my good friends drew this article to my attention. We were both in disbelief that someone as obviously hilarious, fun and seemingly, as happy as Chrissy could have been silently suffering from PPD after the birth of her daughter, Luna. It just didn’t make sense. Chrissy is married to John Legend, she takes on a high energy – lively role as the host of LipSync and yet, she describes an honestly, harrowing battle with depression. She describes how on some days she couldn’t leave the couch and John would have to sleep on the couch with her because her body ached and no one knew what was really happening to her. She describes how dark her days were and how short tempered she saw herself become and how she continuously felt as though John would leave her. But he didn’t.
After reading the article, mental health awareness became significant and a necessary and important discussion to be had.
So recently, I’ve been tossing around the idea of what is it to “overshare?” And I’ve found myself become more and more private with matters which are closest to my heart. I am constantly avoiding any public sharing on my opinion, my joys, my life and lovelife. And writing publicly, as a result, has also suffered the same blow. It was only the other day when Nale told me how much this mere blog had helped her with x,y,z – that it’s, meaning to me – came to light again. I had forgotten.
So this morning, unexpectedly, after months or maybe a year of an internal turmoil of what to do with this blog and what to write about came to mind. Writing, for me, is an intimate experience. Expression sometimes, is illusive. I spend months-years, not knowing how to articulate certain truths.
I want to share something today, sticking with the idea of documenting my truths (and drawing on the idea of mental health):
Anxiety is one of my friends. We have an intimate relationship. We go everywhere together. This morning I woke up, extremely anxious. It’s a feeling that I suppose, plagues a lot of us in our twenties especially. Worrying about how things are going and how they are and how they will go.
Each morning – most mornings – and different points of the day, I have to “centre” myself in dismissing anxious feelings. This morning I woke up and literally, had an internal conversation with myself dismissing and calming down my own fears. And I suppose it’s not always easy to do so. I know it’s not always easy. Some days, you’re on top of the uneasiness and other days, you’re really submerged deep in hysteria. It can really get to hysteria, I promise.
And when I draw back to Chrissy where we know her as a fun, happy, hilarious person and throughout her PPD – our view has never changed of her despite her reality and battle with depression – it makes me realize how truly dangerous it all is. Because you truly never know how much a person is doing to simply, cope.
My coping strategy with being anxious- is reiterating that my fears are there to cripple me and give me a lesser life. Anxiety does not feel good. It feels incompetent, it feels scared, it feels nervous, it feels untrusting, it feels at a disadvantage and it feels incapable. And those are not good feelings to harbour – and so, just like this morning, I try and find the source of my anxiety (often before engaging with anyone) and I dissect why the source births feelings of fear, the origins or basis of that fear and whether I can map that basis to a childhood experience which might have caused mistrust and fear. Our experiences are often, the anchor to the reactions and perceptions we have going forth. To me, it’s important to know where my sore point is so that whatever feeling of anxiety I have – I can decide on its validity or whether this is an invalid feeling rooted on past trauma and has really nothing to do with the current situation.
Trauma I’ve learned, personally, is a very serious thing. I used to think trauma means rape, hijacking, tragic death – but was told that trauma can simply be, continued exposure to high levels of stress. Stress! How we underestimate and probably even glorify being stressed! “Being stressed means you’re putting in the work. If you’re not stressed, you probably don’t care enough or work hard enough or have big dreams.” What a dangerous view.
So over the last few months or years perhaps, I’ve been exercising my relationship with mental health and learning to be two steps ahead of my anxiety (and sometimes maybe even, depression) because in my view – allowing in anxiety for too long can give birth to feelings of hopelessness and depression. And it’s hard. It’s very hard.
Choosing positivity and happiness, is a conscious choice. You choose it the second you wake up with feelings of unease. You learn (if you’re lucky because clinical depression is not a choice at all) to be in control of your outlook and mind. And that’s what anxiety takes from you – your own outlook. It saturates it with feelings of “oh, I should probably end things with him because relationships are sources of pain anyway” or “I should stay in bed because I am going to fail anyway.”
There has never been an encounter where being anxious and remaining anxious has made me perform at my optimal. There’s good anxiety or nervousness rather, like the one I know so well – when I was about to speak to a room full of people at a public speaking competition. Wow. I remember that feeling so well. I would always look at all the other contestants and scan them. The real anxiety there, would be because I wanted to do well – really well. I wanted to win. And it would make me so cold. Literally. I’d be cold and I wouldn’t eat. Eating made me feel heavy – how dramatic right? And I would have to always,always, alwaaaays go empty my bladder so that my body would be light and at complete, EASE
And that’s what it comes down to for me, knowing your ease. For me, it’s a gentle internal nudge of myself in saying “don’t be scared.” It’s recently become, reading. I’ve been reading a book called THRIVE by Arianna Huffington and there’s a wonderful chapter called “Wisdom” in it which really taught me so much. It was my refuge on anxious nights after a long anxious day.
I’ve never done anything incredible when I was plagued with fear or worry. Fear and worry is crippling which is why it’s so important for me to let them go. Love drenched in fear, is not lovr. Work done through fear, is not the best work often.
Now I am not going to claim that I know everything and I am above anxiety and “I have the cure” or I have the “Recipe to overcoming anxiety” because those closest to me know it’s a constant battle. There have been times when I’ve been so upset and hysterical behind closed doors – run down by fear and worry. And it submerges you. And it can be very scary.
There’s a quote by John Rodger in THRIVE (Arianna Huffington) which I loved so much, it goes:
“If you walk in with fear and anger, you’ll find fear and anger. Go into situations with what you want to find there… when you worry, you’re holding pictures in your mind that you want less of… What you focus upon, you become. What you focus on comes to you. So hold in your mind what you want more of.”
God. I could tattoo that on my face, legs, arms, thighs, fingers. It taught me so much. So much. What you focus on, comes to you.
Focus is learned. You train yourself. I am trying to train my mind to only be home to nourishing thoughts. Affirmative thoughts and when the immenient thoughts of fear and worry come, I want to be able to assert and ascertain whether they are crippling or cautionary. Gut instinct is important. Oprah Winfrey speaks of listening to the whispers in your life. She asks “What are they telling you?”
And of course, whispers are not always affirmative. Sometimes, they’re saying RUN. But is that “RUN” – one that is birthed from crippling fear, insecurity, trauma – or is it a instinctual cautionary warning that I need to heed?
That’s always the confusing part, but I think we always know. I think so. I think as much as we are still learning ourselves – Over the years, we become a little familiar and in tune – enough to know a little more about ourseleves.
So that’s that, I woke up anxious. Another day of anxiety in the morning. Writing has made it far better. I am ready to change my perceptive today – another day – because ultimately, I want to perform at my optimal. I want to have full control over my experience of today.
So to those of us, who have to make conscious decisions daily on our happiness – I say there’s nothing to be ashamed about, honestly. And don’t we feel ashamed? We do. Some days, I am so annoyed with how weak I feel on that day as if everyone else is happy and bouncy like Chrissy. But we know now, that even the Chrissy’s are going through depression, anxiety etc.
It’s important to talk about it. It’s important to discuss mental health. To make it less taboo. It can be very scary. So when you’re low, the last thing you need is to feel low and alone. You need to be understood and feel like you belong.
I suppose, existence over the last few years can make us all prone to anxiety and depression. Economic and financial uncertainty, terrorism and international conflicts (God, North Korea and America currently), political instability, racial tension , crime – all these things can give you a pessimistic mindset and on top of that, a sense of urgency to “get out”, “do more” – FIGHT and giving birth to feelings of hopelessness, worry and fear.
Believe me, I know what I am talking about there because lately, political climate and racial tension and what the economic climate means for my future and.. and… and… are some of the things making me sweat at night and in the early mornings.
But that’s the journey, I guess, rising above all the challenges – even those which manifest behind closed doors. Maybe it’s time to swing open those doors – and let some light in…