Coping with mental health is hard at the best of times, but coping with it alongside a chronic illness and in the middle of a pandemic takes a very brave kind of person!
User Mau shares her experience of living with chronic fatigue syndrome and depression and how her rock bottom made her realize she needed to make a change.
Mau, 36, lives between Canada with her mother and the States where she stays with her fiancé. Day to day, she writes, reads, and plays games on the PC that she put together herself.
She is passionate about learning and also spends time taking classes, like psychological first aid which she has found to be very helpful, especially on TalkLife. Despite her chronic fatigue, Mau still manages to work a few days a month.
"I go into a home healthcare office and help with billing and computer data entry things. My mum actually runs the office and I used to work there full time before I ended up getting on disability, so the whole office has a family vibe. It’s less about the work and more about the atmosphere that gets me in."
Like Mau, for many of us, it is the people that can really help get us through the tricky days. Having a support system can make a world of difference when battling your body and your mind on a daily basis.
Talking about depression
Mental health is a topic that for many isn’t formally introduced at a young age, but still plays a big part in their childhood. Mau tells us about witnessing her mum's mental health for the first time as a child.
"My first experience of mental health was seeing depression in my mum, although that was before I knew what depression was, I was very young. All I knew was that she was sad and slept a lot."
Those who have grown up with a family member who has suffered from depression may well know the confusion they feel as a child, seeing a person they love, withdrawing, sleeping more, and sometimes acting completely different from the way they usually do.
It can often only be years later that you realize that the person had depression. Talking about what mental health is and how it affects you to your children can be really important so that they get a good understanding of what is going on from a young age.
If you think someone in your family might have depression or want to have a bit more knowledge of how to tell your children what is happening to you, you can find some useful information here.
For some people, mental health and physical illness come at different stages, but for Mau, they all hit at once.
"My onset of both depression and anxiety as well as the chronic fatigue syndrome all hit when I was 13. That was when I really felt a shift, and started going to therapists and psychologists and trying different things."
Having two such major things come at once meant there was a lot of added stress and anxiety for Mau growing up. She found that the people she surrounded herself with at the time did not give her the support system she needed to navigate it, and for the most part, it was just her and her mum.
At times that could be really tough. At 17 things got too much and she had her first suicide attempt. Her second was 5 years ago.
"The one five years ago was pretty bad. I ended up in the hospital for a couple of days after. It was my rock bottom. After that I started trying to make changes in my life and going to mindfulness workshops, getting more serious about therapy, and reading self help books."
Through this experience, Mau got to a place where she was ready to make the changes needed to become healthier in her body and mind. Since then, she has managed to make and maintain a better friendship group and find support in many different places. Her firm belief from her experience is that "it can get better, it just takes some work but it is possible."
If you are in a similar situation, you can find plenty of support in various places. Going to your doctor, talking to friends and family, and seeking professional support are just a few of the ways you can get more help if you need it.
Chronic fatigue in lockdown
A few years ago, things around the world changed drastically for everyone. As the pandemic hit many people were forced to face themselves in ways they never had before. As millions of people spent their first days in isolation, Mau just had another day at home.
"It felt like not much changed for me because I was used to spending loads of time at home alone. It felt like everyone was having trouble living what I go through day to day and that was strange and interesting to see, but then after two years I am just as stir crazy as everyone else!"
This opinion is shared by many who went into a lockdown, almost relieved to find that other people were finally experiencing the same things as they did. However, like most people, Mau was feeling very pent up by the end of it.
Finding a community
One of the things that Mau found during the pandemic that really helped her mental health was TalkLife.
"I’ve been on TalkLife for at least two years now. It definitely helped with my self-esteem, being able to help other people and realizing I have things to offer. It's also been really eye opening, getting perspective on what other people are going through, which either makes me grateful for what I have or inspired seeing how little others have yet they are still so positive and helpful."
Through TalkLife, she was not only able to meet new people and get support for herself, but she was also able to offer support to others and gain some really useful experiences to learn from.
"I’ve learned it’s important to be mindful, especially on the internet where things can be misinterpreted. For example, if people have past traumas or particular triggers, it's really crucial to try and be aware of those kinds of different factors when offering support."
Mau’s very perceptive outlook on speaking to people online from around the world can hopefully help many people in their social interactions. Everyone will have been subjected to different things in their lives and consequently, they will all have different needs and boundaries.
It is very important to respect that when speaking to anyone, whether online or in person. She goes on to highlight that she "believe[s] that everyone is worthy of support, and just because someone is lashing out, doesn't mean they are a bad person.’
As Mau says, everyone is worthy of support, and sometimes the people that are hurting the most are the ones who might lash out. TalkLife offers that safe space to all those who want a bit of extra help, no matter what is going on.
A positive outlook
After 23 years of struggling with her mental and physical health, Mau’s determination and incredible bravery has helped her get to a place where she feels much more stable. She now has an amazing support group, and even finds time to support other people from all over the world. She leaves us with some of her unwavering certainty that anyone can get to a better place.
"I am aware of the privileges I have, but at the same time, I don't believe I am the only one who can have a happy ending. I believe it's something everyone can find, it might just take different levels of effort and support depending on who you are and where you are from. I definitely want to help to be a support for people in this process, and just continue to help people on TalkLife and see how far I can go with that!"
Thanks to Mau for sharing a very inspiring story that shows that with the right mindset and support, mental and physical barriers can become easier to handle.