I’ve been talking about different aspects of wellness each month, and this month the topic is the extremely important topic of mental health. After I heard the news about Kate Spade and then Anthony Bourdain, I knew that it was time. This is something that I can talk about from experience.
There is such a stigma around mental health. It is fine to talk about the fact that you have high blood pressure or a bladder infection, but mental health is such a no-no topic. And that needs to change.
I’ve written a little bit about my mental health struggles before. It isn’t something I am ashamed of, and I don’t have a problem talking about it. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety since I was in my late teens. I went through 2 really bad bouts (the second one much worse than the first). At one point I couldn’t go into crowded public places because I would have full blown panic attacks.
I took medication for depression and anxiety for almost 10 years until I decided I wanted to try to get off of them (*please note I did this with the help of a doctor and I very very slowly tapered off). I have now been off the meds for about 2 years and so far am doing ok, but I do keep a check on myself. So just because you might have to go on medication, it doesn’t mean you always have to be on it (although you might, and that is OK too). Taking medication for mental health is just like taking medication for high cholesterol or diabetes. It is all to keep us healthy, and that is what is important.
If you feel like you could be having some issues and don’t know what to do, these are a few of my suggestions. Please keep in mind I am not a doctor. These are from my personal experiences.
It is OK to not be OK
It is 100% OK to not be OK. I think this is the number 1 most important thing to remember, for anyone. It is OK to not be OK. There is nothing wrong or shameful or embarrassing about it. We are human and our feelings are our feelings. But we need to try to be able to recognize that we might not be OK. Sometimes that isn’t always easy.
Keep a check on yourself
If you are feeling down or something doesn’t feel right, keep a check on yourself. Maybe try journaling. Get your feelings out. Cry if you need to. Don’t hold it in. But try to pay attention to what you are feeling and how long it has been going on. Also think about why you are feeling that way.
Talk to someone
Whether you are feeling a little sad or a little down (or more), if you can, talk to someone. Let them know you feel that way. I try to let my husband know if I am feeling down, just so he knows. We weren’t together when I went through my two major battles, so he hasn’t really been through it, but I just let him know so he is aware.
Exercising tends to make me feel better, especially with my anxiety. Both times I was having issues, I stopped exercising completely. The first time I was encouraged to start back. It was really hard, and I didn’t want to. But I drug myself out of bed and did it. And after a few weeks, it was a little easier. Sometimes you have to force yourself to do it, if and when you are able. Maybe get someone who can be your exercise buddy, and they can be there when it feels really hard to encourage you.
I wrote about my new found love for Headspace recently. After having done it for a few months now, I honestly feel like my anxiety is a little less. Yes I am still anxious, but it doesn’t feel quite as intense and it doesn’t feel quite as often. There are meditation packs in the app for sadness, anxiety, stress, grief. Give it a try. The first 10 days are free.
If you think you might need to see a therapist, do it. I saw a therapist for about 2 years. To be honest, she really didn’t help me. But I don’t think she was all that great at her job, if I am being really honest. I’ve thought about giving therapy a try again, but I haven’t yet. However I am not counting it out as something for the future.
Remember that you aren’t alone
No matter what it is you are going through, you aren’t alone. You have people around you that love you. And millions of people are suffering with mental health issues as well. Doctors and medical professionals are out there waiting to help you.
Now, it is all well and good to tell people that if they need help to reach out. But so many times people that need help either can’t reach out or won’t. When you are in that place, you just retreat into yourself. We have to take care of each other, and sometimes that means helping people that don’t know they need help or can’t help themselves.
If you know someone who is struggling, or who could be struggling, here are a few of my suggestions:
Is there someone that you haven’t heard from in a little while? Reach out to them. Call them, email them, text them. Just let them know you are thinking about them. Even if that person isn’t having any issues, it is just a nice thing to do.
Ask how people are doing, and really listen to their answers. Have those deeper conversations. If you are concerned, point blank ask them. Don’t think you are being intrusive. Just do it. If you offend them, oh well. You could be the life boat they need.
Are they sleeping a lot more than they used to? Are they not sleeping at all? Have their appetites changed dramatically? Are they not interested in things they used to be? Do they seem much more withdrawn? Or maybe erratic? These are all signs that something isn’t right. The first time, I didn’t sleep much and gained weight. The second time, I slept all of the time and lost a bunch of weight. These changes signify something bigger is going on. Maybe it isn’t mental health related, but either way something is probably going on.
Do they seem overly emotional? For me, everything that happened was amplified by like 1000, and when I am having a bad (mental) day it is like that. So if someone said something a little short, it was like they screamed at me for an hour. A look that was less than a giant grin felt like they were throwing daggers with their eyes. The other side of it is, maybe they are completely devoid of emotion – completely shut off. Either of these things could be signs that something is off.
It can be ANYONE
Mental health doesn’t just affect the rich or the poor or the young or the old. It can be anyone. Just because someone seems to have it all, or have it all together, doesn’t mean a damn thing. So keep that in mind. Just because someone doesn’t “seem like the type,” they absolutely could be because EVERYONE can be the type.
This is really important – people who are depressed (or have other mental health issues) don’t always seem to be having problems. You become really good at faking it until you are behind closed doors. Just look at everything that people have said about Kate Spade – she was happy and cheerful and bubbly. So just because someone’s outside persona is still happy, that doesn’t mean that is how they feel on the inside.
If someone you love is having an issue, be there. Whether than means sitting in silence with them or watching a movie or whatever, be there. In fact, be there more than you think you should. Let them know how much you care and that you are 100% there for them.
So these are just a few of my thoughts from my personal experience. And if you have more questions or want someone to talk to, email me. I’m here.
WELLNESS CHECK IN
So last month’s challenge was to take a look at your fitness goals and maybe do some re-evaluating. Did you find that you are right on track or that your goals no longer fit with where you are? I think checking in with our goals every so often is a really good way to not only stay on track but to make sure that we are doing what is best for us. If you set a goal to run a half marathon, but you are finding that your ankles aren’t handling the intense training so well then maybe you need to re-evaluate (this really did happen to me a few years ago).
For this month’s wellness challenge, I am challenging you to do two things:
1. I want you to take a little time and do something good for your own mental health. Maybe that means practicing a little self care. Maybe you spend a little alone time, or spend time with friends. There is a lot going on in the world, and it is important that we take care of ourselves. Be a little selfish and do something good for YOU.
2. I want you to think about the people you love and think if they might be having any issues. Either way, reach out to them. Just tell them you are thinking about them. Everyone can use that kind of text, no matter what is going on.