“Trash Talk” is a monthly column about life, the lessons learned along the way and some goofy connections between that and fantasy football. Now in her second season of fantasy football writing, Trash Sandwiches discusses her mental health journey and what to expect during the new chapter at In-Between Media.
Mental Health Is an Ongoing Journey
As May came to a close, so too did Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the month, it was amazing to see so many people openly talking about their experiences, whether in articles, videos, podcasts, group chats, tweets – whatever the platform.
It was a reminder that you are never struggling alone. There is probably someone else out there who’s been through a similar situation or felt similar feelings. And even though we all have unique experiences within that, there is at least someone out there who cares.
It was also a reminder that mental health is an ongoing journey, and here’s a little bit of mine.
Thriving or Surviving
When May started, I was in a bad place. It was heartwarming to hear so many different stories and see people thriving and connecting. Of course, some are harder. As an empath, I hate to know that my friends are or have been suffering. Part of me wanted to share my experiences. I wanted to have a similar story that ended in triumph or even just a better place than it started.
But in those early days of May, I was having a hard time merely surviving. I started keeping a multi-year journal a few months ago, where you write a short line or two about each day and can see year-over-year.
My entry for May 1 reads: “Feeling like I’m drowning but can’t be bothered to care.”
Part of that was chemically-induced. A couple of weeks prior, I had started taking a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), more commonly called an antidepressant. And unfortunately, starting new medications like that can often make things worse as your body and mind adjust. This is really crappy, especially because most people are starting them when they’re already in a less-than-great place.
So although I started taking meds to help reduce my depression and anxiety, I felt worse than ever in many ways during those first few weeks. The depression became numbness and hopelessness. The to-do lists continued to pile up, along with the accompanying anxiety. I felt a paralyzing sense of overwhelm by everything I should be doing and simultaneously unable to do anything beyond the bare minimum. That mentality naturally spiraled into other areas of life. I was eating poorly, if at all, not sleeping enough, self-isolating and doing a host of other things that I knew were making things worse. But it was the path of least resistance or rather the path of bare-minimum survival.
It’s been a month since that low place, and I am doing better. I still struggle with some of those things, but thankfully the medications have settled in and are helping enough for now. I say “for now” because, as I mentioned, mental health is an ongoing journey, and I know that mine is far from complete.
While my “garden-variety” depression and anxiety are mostly under control thanks to therapy, SSRIs and some coping skills, I know there’s a lot more at play in my brain. I haven’t gotten any formal diagnoses, and even with them, I may never fully know what’s happening in my brain or what’s “wrong” with me.
But I am working on figuring it out. I know that I’ve experienced painful trauma, an abusive relationship, more than my fair share of grief and unhealthy boundaries (or lack thereof) with countless family and friends.
However, taking what I’ve been through and what I feel and turning it into a neat little diagnosis is hard. Mental health is rarely “neat” in that way. Symptoms can overlap, and it can be tricky to parse out anything specific.
What seems like depression could be grief. What seems like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) could just be a triggering situation. What seems like paranoia could be your mind protecting you from becoming vulnerable.
Then again, it could be depression, PTSD and paranoia.
No One Is Alone
I am very thankful to have a great therapist and doctor to guide me through this journey, as well as an amazing support network of friends, family and even this fantasy football community. I’m in the process of getting a psychological evaluation, which will help us to better determine treatment and meds.
And just putting a name, or names, to something like this can make it less scary. I remember the “aha!” moment of when I realized I struggled with depression and have for years. It didn’t cure my depression, but it did help to give me a sense of internal peace. It gave me a name for what I’m going through, and it reminded me that I am not alone.
No one is alone in this journey of mental health. Yes, it is personal. You have to do the work, and you have to figure out what works for you. Maybe it’s therapy and meds, maybe it’s just some really good coping skills.
But even though you have to do a lot of the hard work on your own, there are so many people out there who care about you, who have gone through some of the same experiences and who want to see you succeed.
Enjoying the Offseason
This is where I’d normally talk about fantasy football and try to make some connections with my writing above. But amidst everything else happening in my life, fantasy football has taken a back burner. And although the “dynasty doesn’t take an offseason” crowd may be loath to admit it, that’s totally fine!
It’s the offseason. Personally, it’s hard to get really excited about a sport that’s still months away. And moreover, it’s always OK to prioritize mental health or even just life outside of this game-within-a-game hobby.
I’ve still been participating in some drafts and loosely following along with major storylines, but I’ve disconnected a bit.
I got into fantasy football because I love it. So rather than forcing myself to do more, make more trades, join more leagues, create more content or even feel guilty about not doing more, I’m allowing myself to take a break. I’m giving myself permission, as well as the time and space, to focus on other parts of my life.
By doing so, I hope to reinvigorate my love for this hobby. But if that doesn’t happen when the biggest NFL storylines are bottom-tier teams signing bottom-tier players and the fantasy football community is endlessly quibbling over who will finish as the No. 1 overall player at positions in eight months, then frankly I don’t care!
This pause comes at a perfect time with the other transitions happening at In-Between Media (IBT). Things are changing with the way that we create and distribute content, and my column is evolving with it.
I’ll still continue to write, although I likely won’t be writing anything about fantasy football during the offseason. I plan to resume that when football season resumes, and until then, I’ll continue writing about life and the stuff that happens along the way. I truly hope you will all follow along as myself and everyone else at IBT as the company begins this exciting new time!
Thanks for reading about my mental health journey! If you like my kind of trash, you can read more here and follow me on Twitter @trashsandwiches.