Hey guys! This next post you are about to read really hits home with me. The guest writer is my sister-in-law. I have known Ashley since 2013. We became friends and then family. She is an amazing creative!!! She is a hairstylist, dog mom to my nephew Gunner, sign painter, baker of amazing cakes, and a wonderful wife to my brother. I knew she struggled with anxiety, but this post goes to show that we NEVER really know what someone else is dealing with behind closed doors.
Ashley and Corey on left. Gunner on right.
Ashley, I love you and am so proud of you for opening up and sharing your truth with us. I am thankful that you are strong enough to talk about very real and emotional experiences. You are loved.
I am not my diagnosis by Ashley Hughes
I don’t open up easy. I don’t like being out of my comfort zone. I don’t like sharing myself fully with others. It’s scary and messy and I’m not a fan of the feeling. That being said, here I go about to open up and let complete strangers in. Why you might ask? Because over time I’ve realized that my story might help someone get help. So here goes.
There’s a huge stigma around mental health and because of that stigma many people go without help. At some point I was one of those people but I’m not anymore. I officially got diagnosed almost two years ago with a word that I hate so much. Yes things have been difficult… difficult because some people know now, difficult because I had wasted so much time on struggling and drowning in silence, and difficult because for the first time in my life I had to be honest. Honest with myself, honest with my family, and honest with my doctors. That honesty is terrifying but the trust that goes along with it is freeing. Because of this honesty my therapist literally saved my life. It was terrifying but if had to do it again I would still randomly call out of work for an emergency appointment that would be nothing but tears on her couch and would end with me in an intensive outpatient therapy. I don’t regret committing myself…honestly I regret not doing it sooner.
I knew I had a problem but there was so much going on in life that I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. I just wanted to pretend like everything was okay and that’s exactly what I did for years! When I say years I mean it. Literally since middle school and until recently I’ve had a mask hiding what I’ve dealt with on a daily basis. When you wear something for so long and hold onto something so tight to hide yourself it gets heavy and it gets to a point where it breaks you. I had a fear that if let go and let someone truly see me that they wouldn’t want me. But fear is a tricky thing and it’s fueled by anxiety so the only thing I was really losing in that thought was myself. I couldn’t hide myself anymore because it was harming the most important thing in my life. It was harming my relationship with my husband. Something you need to know about that man is he is a pure saint sent straight from God. No lie. Every high and low, he’s been there holding my hand and guiding me through. Something that special is worth letting go of what’s crushing you. What was crushing me was a diagnosis I didn’t ask for and I never wanted. I knew I had struggled with depression and anxiety but I certainly didn’t want an official label from a doctor saying that there was something actually wrong. The label wasn’t just depression and anxiety, it was bipolar. Terrifying right? That word bipolar has such a negative feel to it doesn’t it? In my mind it did and sometimes it still does. Because it meant that there was something wrong with me. It meant that everything I had been feeling and struggling with for as long as I could remember was real. Now that I knew what was wrong I had the resources to deal with it
Hindsight is always 20/20 and my struggle with mental illness is no different than most, but one thing above all that I would go back and do differently is speaking up about my struggles sooner. Letting people in fully and not hiding behind what I thought they wanted to see. Mostly it would be me being honest with myself about how bad it really was because the choice to get help is always there, but if you think that you don’t need it you won’t be fully receptive to it. And yes, sometimes I hate the word that has been slapped on my mental illness. I feel like it looms over me in a sense and that it haunts me more than I wish it would BUT the thing is is that I am not my diagnosis. I’m just me.
SOB: Even when it hurts – Hillsong