Slow Walk to Mental Health | Laura Cook

Sometimes life moves by and sad things happen quickly; you get in an accident and everything changes at once or your grandparent passes and you don’t get to say goodbye.

There are some things in life, however, that happen so slowly, sometimes you have to wonder how things changed without you having noticed. My depression was like that: a slow moving snake, slowly working itself into every aspect of my life.

At first, my dating relationship was the only thing that suffered as I became disinterested and unhappy. Then my schoolwork focus and interest decreased rapidly. I was always the most upbeat and silly person, but my inner “happy voice” was getting quieter and quieter.

My parents thought maybe it was just stress, but I knew it was something I had never felt before, a sadness that was deeper and more heavy. I finally had to tell my mom, “I don’t know what’s wrong but I’m always sad. I think I need to see a counselor.”

And so began my journey into the magical world of mental health.

I spent weeks talking with a counselor about what was going on, possible causes, and ways to help myself cope. Since that initial few months of therapy, I have gone back in times when I need some insight into what is going on in my life, or when I feel overwhelmed by emotion.

It’s now been over 10 years since my initial entrance, and I am becoming more self-aware (and a whole lot less anxious about therapy) every visit. I’ve learned that there are certain times of year that are more difficult and I need to be more aware of (anyone else struggling with seasonal affective disorder?), but there are also times that will just make me sad because they are simply sad (the anniversary of when my grandmother passed 4 years ago).

The best tool that I learned to use during my 10+ years in mental health is practicing the self-awareness I mentioned above. When you can learn to be on the lookout for how your body and mind are reacting to situations, you can learn to prepare for where things may go, or how to cope with and redirect said emotions and thoughts. Other tools include being open with one or two close friends (I’m really struggling right now and could use encouragement and/or prayer), and having a checklist of coping skills to use (I will go outside and walk for 5 minutes when I feel unwanted). A friend recently shared this list that I think is top-notch.

And these skills of self-awareness and coping tools won’t necessarily come naturally or feel like a “Disney-kind-of-perfect.” It may take easing into them one at a time, but practicing healthy responses to sadness while learning to be on the lookout for warning signs, are steps to having a healthier mind and body. So keep your chin up and keep moving forward with the help of friends and family.

You are awesome (and don’t forget it)!

-Laura Cook