You’re connected to After College Transition because you want the best resources for equipping students to thrive in their post-college journeys. I’m excited to share about a new IVP title that just released this week!
If you haven’t seen The Gap Decade by Katie Schnack, you need to add it to your must-read/must-recommend list for anyone you know who is in the process of “adulting.” They are not alone!
I had the honor of endorsing The Gap Decade (see my shameless plug below). This book will keep you turning pages and laughing until your sides hurt.
With complete hilarity and brutal honesty, Katie Schnack not only normalizes the awkwardness that comes with adulting, but she also inspires action; her willingness to tell the naked truth forces us to take hold of our own journeys and find hope in the struggle. Buckle up for some belly laughs and get ready for a binge read – you won’t want to put this book down!
Katie has generously agreed to share a sneak peek by including FREE access to an excerpt from Chapter 16 “Free Yourself From the Shame Around Mental Health. Because Who has the Time for Shame Anymore” (see below).
We both agree this chapter features a topic that concerns all of us who work with young people. I hope you appreciate Katie’s humor, even as she tackles a topic as serious and sensitive as mental health.
Enjoy! Don’t forget to order your copy…and a stack for all of those 20somethings you love!
Adaptation from The Gap Decade by Katie Schnack
Adapted from Chapter Sixteen, “Free Yourself From the Shame Around Mental Health. Because Who has the Time for Shame Anymore”
There is still a lot of stigma around mental illness, unfortunately. Even with all the internet positivity, awareness months, and people beginning to open up about their suffering— which are all wonderful steps—we still have a ways to go in society to be more empathetic and understanding of people who are struggling in this way. Myself included.
See, I have a stigma against my own mental illness, which is pretty ridiculous. Even writing the words “mental illness” makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s not that, not for me. I don’t have a mental illness, nah. I just get deeply sad where it hurts to exist or panic like an asthmatic ape in times of great stress. But despite how much I appreciate when others are open and honest about their struggles, I have had trouble admitting I have anxiety and depression. Which just seems silly. This is a real thing. Denying isn’t helping me, you, or the person reading this who is silently suffering and full of shame and embarrassment and confusion over why they can’t just “get it together” like everyone else appears to do on the internet. (Lies.) Personally, I am working to fight against my own self-imposed stigma in a way that is right for me. I think in situations like this, where you are trying to just manage your junk the best way possible, that is all you can do. Do what is best for you, and be kind to others along the way.
In working to fight for my health and bust through my old, creaky personal stigmas, I do a few things. I remain open about my struggles with my circle of friends, with my family, and in my writing. I don’t dwell on it or get dramatic about it, but if I am having a bad mental health day or can tell I am slipping below the surface, I tell my people. I tell my friends or Kyle, and they simply pray and listen, and it helps. And then I do everything I can to get my head above water again quickly, whether that be get some rest, exercise, change what I eat, or remember to take my medicine.
For me it’s important to be honest and open about when I’m struggling because during the times when I was hyperventilating and in so much internal pain from a panic attack I felt my soul explode or my skin hurt from the amount of depression weighing down on me, I would tell myself these lies: I am the only one. I am the only one who can’t hold it all together. Nobody else gets this nutso. What if someone saw you like this? What is wrong with you? I am the only one.
What kind of messed up internal trash talk is THAT? But when I hear or read about someone else being raw and upfront about their mental health struggles, I breathe a huge sigh of relief. Every time I am reminded it isn’t just me gives me the life-giving strength to keep walking through the dark days and work toward a stronger, more stable, and truthful version of myself.
I once heard a powerful testimony of a girl who had severe onset depression during her third pregnancy and had to step away from her other two children and go receive longer, inpatient care. And when I heard that, you know what went through my mind? Not judgments. I didn’t “tsk tsk” at her like cranky Aunt Karen. Instead my heart was filled with compassion for what she walked through and the strength that must have taken to not only endure that hard season but then use it to speak to other women and inspire them.
I also thought, I get it. I get how she could get that low where she had to make the extremely difficult decision to step away from her two other little babies for a few weeks and get the help she needed. And I was so grateful she shared that story, which I know must have been so challenging for her to do. But I needed to hear about her dark days, then her strength and triumph as she stepped back into the light, and I am sure other women listening that day did too. And I realized if I can have compassion and empathy for her and her story, I certainly should try to do the same for myself.
Being reminded that it isn’t just me who has low moments is life giving. I need all the reminders, folks. And if you are struggling with mental health right now, here is a loving piece of written proof it isn’t just you either. It can feel so isolating, so hopeless, but it isn’t. Next time you are lying face down in the kitchen crying into your unwashed floor, I am right there with ya, sister. Been there, done that, cried on that floor. Used my tears to then wash it. You are not alone.
My bout of depression in Memphis was a doozy. Quite simply, it hurt to exist, and doing any tiny task took about ten times the strength and effort. I was exhausted by simply trying to function. It was pretty dang awful and scary, but mostly it just annoyed me—and my upstairs apartment neighbor who could hear me weeping.
It annoyed me because I was in that place again. I was so tired of being depressed. I was so tired of stupid panic attacks. I was so tired of having to deal with it once more and making poor Kyle have to deal with it. I wanted it gone from my life for good. I never again wanted to wake up with a chest tight with dread before my feet even hit the floor for the day. Instead, I wanted to wake up every morning and feel like a glittery Richard Simmons on a good hair day during his bestselling workout video wearing his best leotard. That is the level of life goals I aspire to. Instead, I just felt like the version of Richard Simmons who has hidden from society so long someone felt compelled to make a podcast about it. And I was mad about that.
I don’t know why people have mental health problems. I also don’t know why people get irritable bowel syndrome. But what I do know is they are both just physical illnesses that happen in your body and are usually just a product of your genes. Or jeans, if you wear them too tight and it starts to get to you. And nobody ever says if you poop weird you must be less of a Christian. Nobody shames you for not just trying to pray away your uncomfortable gas situation. The same should be true for mental health issues.