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Throughout my thirties I have become passionate about mental health.

  • Sharing my highs and lows in life with anyone that needs uplifting
  • Supporting my local mental health providers
  • Cheering on my peers as they make their journey through this world
  • Helping to connect people with mental health professionals

are all ways that I find pleasure and beauty in mental health.

Is happiness simple?

It sounds SO simple, and maybe it is to half of the population out there, but to me, it didn’t click until I turned thirty – that the only thing I need in life is undoubtedly – peace of mind.

In reality, I don’t think a lot of people know this (or at least young people). That’s not a dig, that’s just a belief that I have that reminds me that – hey Jena, you aren’t that different. And forewarning, I am a tad unique and choose to live an unconventional life but that’s another topic.

This is not mental health advice

The following is in no way intended to be mental health advice. It is a personal story. Any individual needing mental health services needs to consult with a medical mental health professional. You can even use my mental health care directory to find a counselor.

my mental health journey
Jena Smith

Here I am working on my peace of mind – while having a piece of pizza – while on a boat. I gave myself a spray tan using a photo editing software.

My story of finding peace of mind

I am not a mental health professional and have zero experience in the field other than my personal history of seeking mental health counseling for depression and anxiety in my teens and again in my late twenties.

Growing up is forking hard.

Figuring out what you need in life (peace of mind) and how to obtain it, is challenging. In my twenties I thought peace of mind came from a brand new car, a new house, a pile of money and giant list of friends that had the same fabulous things. *Vomit. I was struggling to fill a void and trying to fill it with things.

AND I always thought I was the only one struggling. I think too often many young folks think the same thing and sadly aren’t able to find the hope they need to make it through their difficulties. What helped me make it pass the feelings of “I am the only one” and “know one will ever understand”, was talking with a mental health counselor.

However, actually getting to the right counselor was a hurdle all on its own.

My twenties were full of highs and lows. I was figuring out who I was, what life was and wasn’t for me. I had always had a direct path and goals to achieve. By my late twenties, I found myself totally stuck. I had achieved all of my goals, I was exactly where I had worked to be and yet, I was miserable.

I could not find joy in anything. My depression became severe, the worse it had ever been. I was in a place where I felt zero motivation, struggled to get out of bed, feared everything and was mentally frozen. It took a very low, low for me to wake up and ask for help.

Knock Knock, Can You Help Me?

Asking for help was my first step, but I still wasn’t ready to accept help. Why was that? Because it all seemed terrifying and exhausting. Just telling someone I was struggling was painful enough. I’d rather die than let anyone know I was not perfect, that I was flawed in the worst way (“worst way” was my thought at the time – not my thought today). It took me a couple of attempts to find the right help.

FIRST ATTEMPT: Where the hell do I go? I’m straight out of college, know nothing about how to seek a counselor so I go to urgent care.

That’s where I would go if I had the flu and this was flu of the mind, right? Wrong. Urgent Care was a bad choice. They had no idea where to send me. They seemed baffled by my issues and made me feel 1000% worse.

I thought “maybe I was right, there really is no one that feels the way that I feel…”. However, they did tell me they would refer me to the mental health center.

Okay – that sounds scary, are they going to lock me up? I was told to wait for a call. “A call” never came. Enter deeper depression.

SECOND ATTEMPT: My mom of course wanted to do everything she could to fix me. So, I decided to see her psychiatrist. I then began a medication routine for depression and anxiety.

It helped for awhile but it was exhausting trying to figure it all out. Just living at this point was exhausting, trying to fix myself on top of that was misery.

Don’t be discouraged though – I do find help and I have a point with all of this.

THIRD ATTEMPT: I finally reached out to the local mental health center. I wanted to talk with someone, someone I felt I could trust and who understood me. I didn’t feel that with the psychiatrist.

I was connected with a professional counselor and saw her a few times per week until she was no longer employed at their office. Uggh. Now what?

FOURTH ATTEMPT: I knew at this point that counseling was helping, so I got the name of a counselor from the phone book (smart phones weren’t around yet).

I distinctly remember a conversation I had with this counselor about what I was searching for. I remember having a hard time describing what I needed and laughed when I said “happiness?”.

I asked as though it was a question, is happiness something I can be searching for? That sounds so silly. It had honestly taken me all that time just to realize that what I was simply looking for happiness, peace of mind.

To me happiness was a feeling that I had years before. Before I had the diploma, high profile job, new car and new house. So why weren’t all of those things bringing me joy? Well, that’s what I was able to work through with my counselor and continue on to finding freedom in my mind. A joy, that I didn’t think I would ever possess. I have peace of mind today and I know that is all I will ever need.

Sticking it out made it all worth it

I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without continuing to seek the right help. I don’t think it should be that difficult for folks to know what type of counseling is available in their area.

If you need to talk to someone

When you are ready for help, you shouldn’t have to wait for a phone call that never comes. It is important for there to be resources for people, parents, teachers and urgent care centers that can show who the mental health counselors are in their communities.

I am a health workforce researcher – I work to know where health professionals are working in areas in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. With that knowledge, I knew I could develop a resource for the public, to help my peers find a mental health professional when they need one. This is the actual web app that I developed called The Bright App, I hope it is used by folks in Montana to find the right help they need.

If you aren’t in Montana, try Psychology Today.

Click here to load this Caspio Online Database.