How I’m Taking Control of My Mental Health

Long time no chat, friends! This is the longest I’ve gone without sitting down and blogging since I can remember and first and foremost: I’m sorry.

First: I’m sorry for the ramble-y nature of this post. I’m writing stream of conscious and very heart-to-heart focused. I’m not aiming for polished. I just want to get my words out!

Secondly, I do know that as of late I’ve definitely dropped the ball when it comes to blogging, and I’ve gotten a lot of nice emails and comments from all of you that have gone unanswered (it’s on my must-do to-do list for the week!).

For anyone who has hung around here for the past few years, you might recall I’ve had some struggles with my mental health in the past. It’s one part the winter blues (or seasonal affective disorder, if you want to get scientific), one part yes-man syndrome where I am constantly saying yes to things I shouldn’t, and one part just being the stereotypical lost and overwhelmed 22-year-old.

TW: Detailed descriptions of depression further down. 

The good news: My mental health isn’t anywhere near where it was two years ago. In fact, I’ve been on an upward climb since I left school.

But, unfortunately, no upward climb is without it’s occasional dips and valleys, and this winter I experienced my biggest valley since I started getting my mental health in order. Now, I don’t want to be dramatic or oversell what I’m trying to say. I wasn’t in-bed-depressed-not-able-to-eat-or-shower-or-function like I have been in the past, but I was, and maybe still am, definitely down.

Now, for anyone who hasn’t experienced depression, it’s a bit hard to explain, and from what I’ve gathered from friends who have shared their own struggles, it is a bit different for everyone. One thing to note, though, is depression isn’t just sadness. It can feel like sadness, but depression is its own beast entirely.

For me, it’s sadness with extra and much more dramatic twists and turns. It manifests itself in three main ways: An infuriating cocktail of insomnia and fatigue, major anxiety spells and attacks, and a lack of interest in just about anything, including the things that I love the most like blogging and spending time with my friends.

Hence, why I have been neglecting the blog recently. And I do want to make clear that I haven’t fallen back into a true depression, but I’ve explained it to friends before as once you’ve experienced depression, it’s easy for those same feelings to be your new low. Instead of just feeling a bit stressed or overwhelmed, your reactions to what’s going on in your life are a lot more extreme.

Where in the past this time of year I’d feel a little extra tired and maybe a bit anxious, now I’ve got a new standard for what “feeling down” means. And, unfortunately, it’s a lot more drastic than most.

This past winter was anything but a cake walk and I had a handful of difficult experiences that were hard for me to process, and as a result I internalized the bad things without working through them.

Instead of recognizing and responding appropriately I allowed myself to withdraw into my negative feelings and that’s when things begin to get dicey. I’ve spent enough time dealing with myself that I was able to catch things before they got too bad this time, but I did make a plan of action because self-care is important.

Number one step in my plan? I’m pausing my pursuit for future partnerships here on the blog. I’ve got contracts with brands that I love through June that I’m excited to complete, but other than that I’m no longer going to accept any more paid work with brands for the time being.

Blogging has always been my fun thing, my escape, but lately it’s been fueling my anxiety. More specifically, my inbox has been fueling my anxiety. This might sound dramatic, but I’ve had full-blown-can’t-breathe panic attacks checking my blog email and it got to the point where it just isn’t worth it.

So to anyone who has tweeted or emailed or messaged or commented and felt ignored: this is why. I haven’t been in a good place, but I’m getting back there and even if I was rotten at showing it you mean the world to me.

It’s crazy to me that my favorite thing in the world was causing me so much stress, so I took a step back and looked at the big picture. When I started blogging, I thought I’d feel successful when I began to work with brands. And financially, that had made me “successful.” I was proud to be a full-time blogger in college, and be able to support myself off of my passion.

The thing is, I no longer gauge my success by how much money my blog can bring in. Instead, I just want to begin to post consistently again, to engage with all of you who have made my life so much brighter, and begin writing for fun, not money. I want to blog because it brings me joy, not a paycheck.

When I started blogging I was in college and needed that extra income, now that I’ve got a 9-5 that I love and I have been saving my blogging money for the last three and a half years, I can afford to take a break and I think I really need that right now.

What that means for the blog?

  • More casual posts like this one. Sure, there isn’t really a point or takeaway, but I am able to open up and share the way I used to.
  • More regular posts. Now that I’m taking a month or two to just blog for fun, I’ll have to worry less about what I’m posting when and how I can fit in sponsored content. I’ve always talked about brands I’ve believed in, but with that said in the past I’ve talked about brands that yes I believed in, but I’d never normally talk about on the blog. In the future when I begin seeking sponsorships I’ll be a lot choosier.
  • A shift in content. I used to blog with my main focus being connecting with all of you. It wasn’t about getting the most shares on Pinterest or making sure everything was perfectly polished for SEO. I want to focus again on just writing about what’s on my heart instead of recommending product after product or trying to be ahead on all of the blogging trends.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love working with brands and bad experiences have been few and far in between. The thing is, it got to an unhealthy point. I can’t have a full-time job and then treat blogging as my full-time job, too. I’m often working 14 hour days between my job and the blog, and then anxiety would leave me sleepless at night.

I do plan on working with brands again come summer. I’ve had such amazing experiences and have met incredible people through my partnerships and that’s something I’m so grateful for. You can love something but also need space from it, and that’s where I’m at with partnerships. When I do start working with brands again, I’ll focus on working with just two or three a month rather than trying to secure as many partnerships as possible.

Another thing I’ve been doing is writing more. I don’t get much from talking about my feelings with people. In my experience it actually tends to make things worse for me. I have a wonderful support system, but I’m a private person (believe it or not) and would rather not have those conversations in real life.

Instead, I’m writing poetry again. I’m writing lists. I’m doodling words in my notebook. I’m just writing.

And to be honest? Even writing this blog post has been therapeutic.

Other bloggers will likely understand. It sounds crazy but it’s often easier to open up to everyone reading here than it is to open up to the people in my life.

There’s a safety in knowing that my words are going to hundreds of lovely, anonymous people and with states and countries in between us I won’t have to worry about answering uncomfortable questions or seeing any of you awkwardly squirming as I reveal my demons.

Just another reason to love the world of blogging.

Thanks to everyone of you who has made this community a safe space to express myself and know I’ll find support, you are my sunshine and moon and all of my stars.

Finally, I’m checking in on myself. Anyone with a regular schedule probably knows how easy it is to go on autopilot and go through the motions without ever evaluating how you’re doing. At my worst, I’ve gone days without ever really thinking or acknowledging what I was doing or feeling. Instead, I would go through the motions, do the work I needed to do, and call it a day and let the process repeat.

Now, I’ve got an alarm on my phone and at 7 at night every night I take five minutes to evaluate how I’m feeling, how I felt throughout the day, and what sparked those feelings. It might sound silly or like your feelings should be obvious, but if you are in that cycle it’s so easy to let life happen to you and never take control of or acknowledge your feelings.

So again: Thank you. Thanks for giving me the space I took from the blogosphere, for always being supportive, and for making my dreams come true by reading this blog. I love you all like crazy.

Photos are by Desiree Sandlin Photography!