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01 August 2019

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8/1/19 #SameHere Hero: Rachel Lake

Today’s #SameHere🤙Hero: Rachel from @she.gets.real

 

And boy does Rachel get real. Of the Hero stories that have been submitted, this is up there as one of the most detailed ones we’ve received. It’s clear that Rachel has lived a challenging life, but one she’s reflected on, & done a ton of work around, to get to the place of understanding she is at now. Her perspective is literally a breath of fresh air.

 

Brought up in Southeast Asia, home life for Rachel was hard, having to put up appearances to the outside world, while also dealing w discipline that often took the form of physical abuse.

 

Like many, after college (away from home), she buried herself in work, & found a little escape in the “success” that a career in sales gave her – & what she was able to project to the outside world once again.

 

Her story is an incredible read bc it’s takes you trough the path of how home life, various experiences, & keeping up appearances kept building up this chronic stress inside of her – which led to ideations, & even self-harm.

 

The beautiful thing is, she’s learned how to manage what she faces very well – even breaking down her mental wellness plan into 5 main areas that are fascinating to read about. Like all of us, she doesn’t say she’s “cured,” but rather she’s learned how to be her healthiest self.  I love that she’s got a blog: shegetsreal.com & I look forward to doing more w her down the road. She’s got an incredible story to read, & so much to share to help the global community surrounding MH! Please welcome Rachel!

 

“It’s hard to say exactly when my depression & anxiety took root. I remember that my mother used to call me her sunshine when I was really tiny, but by around age 5 or 6 I was already pretty melancholic.

 

When I was 3 years old, my parents moved my 3 siblings & me to Southeast Asia where my father pastored a church. Our home environment was rigid; there was emotional abuse as well as a lot of suppression. Fear & shame were used to control & manipulate us. Even from the age of 3, I learned that others were always more important than me, that my feelings were not valid & all that mattered was how I presented on the outside.

 

Women in particular were expected to be self-sacrificial, submissive & people pleasing. We were often punished with a wooden spoon & I recall being forced to hold my ankles while spanked & threatened with more lashes if I cried out. By the time I was an adult, I was completely oblivious to my true emotional needs. I had never been taught that I had those, much less how to identify, communicate & meet them.

 

After being homeschooled for most of elementary school, I attended an international school for high school where my classmates were from all over the world. I was lonely & felt like an outsider. I began to experience feelings of despair. I had a deep longing to run away & hide. When I opened up to church youth group leaders I was told that this was demonic & people would lay their hands on me to ‘cast out’ demons. The summer between high-school & college held another major transition, leaving behind a country I called home & coming to the United States to for college. I knew not a soul & I had no family close by. This was when I first started having suicidal ideations & these fantasies quickly turned into something of an addiction for me. Soon, a deep depression had set in but due to the sheltered environment I was raised in, I had no clue what I was experiencing.

 

My junior year, I finally went to the student health center thinking I must be ill, my energy levels had gotten so incredibly low. The wise older doctor, God bless him, told me my body was perfectly healthy & sent me off with a referral to the mental health folks. This was my first inkling that there was something bigger going on.

 

I wish I could say that my path towards recovery started there. Unfortunately, I did not have the best experience with my first therapist, & it was years before I would see another one. I was happy to have a diagnosis, but I did not yet understand the significant role a good therapist could play in my recovery.

 

After college, I turned to my career for fulfillment & it helped for awhile. I buckled down & focused on building an image of success. My inner world was hopeless & self-loathing but I saw work as an escape, as a way to feel like I had some worth & purpose. I felt good about myself when I started experiencing success, but in the world of sales, there’s always someone better than you, always someone to beat, & I soon realized that feeling was short lived; I was only as good as the numbers I put up today. The grind, the climb, it consumed me but it also sucked my soul.

 

The week of my 26th birthday was the first time I cut myself. I felt stuck in a life I wanted out of, consumed with the need to quiet the noise, so I compromised with razor thin shards of glass that brought the pain to a skin deep level that I could pinpoint & I managed for awhile. But a couple of years later, after suffering a miscarriage, I fell completely apart, sank deep into another bout of deep depression. I was having panic attacks & was regularly self-harming. I stopped fantasizing about killing myself & started considering suicide as a real option.

 

After playing out innumerable scenarios in my head, I finally realized that if I was going to survive, I needed help. I ended up finding a terrific cognitive therapist who gave me some amazing coping tools & for awhile I was prescribed anti-depressants, all of which helped get me on the path to recovery. Over the years that have followed I have continued the work, taking it one day at a time & using my tools, vigilantly monitoring my thoughts, feelings & behaviors.

 

One of the best things I have done for my depression & anxiety has been around my personal spiritual practice. Beyond therapy, I needed to reconnect with my soul. I began with yoga classes & short guided meditations & gradually my spiritual practice began to deepen. As is apt to happen, my path crossed with some incredible spiritual & life coaches & incorporating energy work has brought deep healing.

 

I’m not cured but there are choices that I have made which have served to alleviate so much of the suffering, things I have let go of which only served to compound the effects of an already intense illness. Listening the to still, small voice within who knows what I truly need has altered the course of my life & given me access to peace & joy even while living with depression.

 

I work on myself daily. There are 5 areas that I focus on which help me to manage my depression & anxiety.

 

Sleeping — I am one of those who needs my eight hours (or more). While in my sales career, I ran my body into the ground averaging 4-5 hours a night. This plus the stress of a being on call pretty much 24/7 had me running mostly on adrenaline for thirteen years (my system is still recovering, seven months after leaving this career.) When I am rested, I am much less prone to anxiety & overwhelm, which is a slippery slope to the dark side.

 

Eating— For years I was either barely eating or over-eating depending on how my anxiety/depression manifested. As a single working girl, food & nutrition were never a priority for me, but I have learned that when I’m not eating healthy or regularly I am much more likely to give in to anxiety &overwhelm. I have had to teach myself to listen to my body & give it what it needs when it needs it, while allowing space for indulgence from time to time. A girl needs her chocolate!

 

Movement — Yoga has become my dear friend. I’ve never been the athletic type; running & the gym are boring & hard for me to do consistently, but yoga surprised me! Like that blind date you think is gonna suck that you end up falling head over heels for. I love the intentionality of yoga, the merging of the mind, body & soul, the emphasis on presence & mindfulness. There are so many options for physical activity, the bottom line is we need to move our bodies, release stress & get the endorphins flowing.

 

Professionals — My recovery roster has included therapists, personal development seminars, anti-depressants as well as life & spiritual coaches. As I grow & heal my needs change. Cognitive therapy combined with anti-depressants were great a first step for me as I began my healing journey. Today I have weekly sessions with my spiritual/life coach who helps keep me accountable for my happiness & helps me stay focused on creating the life that I want. In the future, if I need to go back to a more traditional therapy model or go back on medication I will do so with no hesitation. I think it is important for each of us to figure out what works best for us at that time.

 

Stillness — Meditating is such a scary word for so many people, so I like to call it ‘stillness.’ This can be as simple as sitting in silence for five minutes in the morning. I don’t have to reach nirvana every time (I haven’t yet) but I do get something every time, even if my monkey mind won’t sit still. I started with apps, guided meditations & my practice developed from there to simple prayers & sitting in silence for a few minutes. This practice allows me to observe what is going on in my system so that I may take control back, keep my mind from running away & thus protect my energy. This simple intentional practice helps me stay in the driver’s seat of my life.

 

Last year, after experiencing some monumental breakthroughs in my own recovery, I decided to leave my sales career to focus on my lifetime dream of writing as well as mental health advocacy. I launched a blog (shegetsreal.com) where I share my healing journey through depression & anxiety in very raw detail.

 

This is a big deal for me. I’m a pretty private person & stepping out so publicly with my story has been uncomfortable, but there is a pressing need for authenticity around this subject. It’s uncomfortable to talk about, especially suicide. But we NEED to be talking about it. Depression is extremely isolating. I suffered alone for years all the while surrounded by people who loved me. We can share statistics all day, but until someone feels like someone out there understands, it is not going to make a difference to those who feel so alone in their pain.

 

Most people were quite surprised when I started sharing my story. Even many of my closest friends had no idea the depth of my struggles until I wrote about it in the blog but I’ve had a positive response overall. With a couple of exceptions, my immediate family has been pretty quiet since I came out publicly with my story. It took me a long time to share it because of the fear of how they would respond. This has been the hardest part for me because I wonder if I am an embarrassment, ruining some image of what they want our family to be perceived as. But at the end of the day, I cannot stay quiet. There are too many who suffer in silence. I was one of them. I don’t feel that I have a choice but to do my part to bring awareness to this issue, to be brave enough to share my #SameHere 🤙story so that someone who is where I was, knows that they are not alone & that it can get better.”

One Comment

  • Kelli Cutshall says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. The work you’ve done and your bravery to be transparent and real are admirable!

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