A couple weeks ago I posted the following on Instagram:
Want a truth bomb? I have a history of anxiety and mild depression. For the most part yoga has helped me manage it. However, lately I've been feeling overwhelmed and can't remember the last time I slept more than 5 hours in one night. My caffeine intake has increased and my self care has decreased. A couple days ago I felt out of control and knew exactly what I needed to do. I rolled out my mat, did a brief asana practice and then finished with a long pranayama and meditation practice. Afterwards I was able to think clearly and regulate my emotions better. It's a routine I need to adopt with more regularity as I'm starting to juggle more life things. With a post like this I can't fail to mention that yoga will not fix or cure everything. For now it helps me, but that might not always be the case. I was once on antidepressants. It was a stigma I didn't enjoy carrying around, but I needed them. Yoga is a powerful tool, it's just not the only tool. We're living in stressful times and it's okay to feel what you're feeling. It's also 100% okay to reach out for support when you need it. Be excellent to each other, but also be excellent to yourself.
The outpouring of support and comments from this post were surprising. Every comment was heartfelt and backed with love, but it wasn't something I expected when I composed the post. I put this post out there because it was real. Social media gives us a unique opportunity to share real moments with others. Social media is regularly used to highlight the fun, exciting, happy moments of life. I might post lots of pictures of me doing pretty yoga postures or doing something cool outside, but each post is a teeny, tiny snapshot of a short moment in my life. I think it's important to also highlight the real, sometimes ugly and sad moments too. Hence the above mentioned post.
I am absolutely grateful for all the loving comments from people on Instagram. It fills my heart to know so many people care for me. I didn't feel brave or courageous. I was just posting something very real about how yoga has helped me. I was posting something very real about something I try to manage on a daily basis. I was posting something very real with the hope others would feel comfortable posting something real, sometimes ugly, and sad too. Due to my post it became very clear there's so many other people trying to manage anxiety and depression just like me.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It might be one month in which suicide is talked about more openly, but it's time to break the stigma. My Instagram post made me realize how many people are afraid to share their experiences with mental illness. I totally understand. It's an uncomfortable secret that often feels like it should be left buried. But here's the thing, those of us who have and do suffer from mental illness are not alone. When we step out of the shadows and open up it becomes clear that there's many of us going through similar struggles.
I am not saying it is easy to open up about mental illness. When I was in college my depression was so debilitating I would spend all day in bed. I could not physically get out of bed. I had spent endless hours taking technique classes and faced rejection after rejection before I got into my college's dance program. Then my depression and anxiety took over and there I was missing all the classes I had worked so hard to get into. I was ashamed. I was frustrated. I felt hopeless. But I eventually got help. I was prescribed medication and it's exactly what I needed. I was opposed to taking antidepressants, but I needed them. There should be zero shame attached to receiving help when help is needed.
I recently saw Phantogram in concert (it was amazing by the way!) and Sarah Barthel shared with the audience that she had lost her sister to suicide in early 2016. She expressed she was still dealing with the loss of her sister and all her fans felt for her. While sharing her story Sarah said, "It's okay to not be okay." It's so true. It's absolutely okay to be way less than okay. If you're not okay please know that it is a legitimate feeling. If you're not okay and want to talk please reach out. There's a lot of amazing resources available if you need help. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is dedicated to helping those in need and is a leader in erasing the stigma of mental illness.
We're all in this life thing together. Let's help each other through it.