Wow. What a year. We have been saying that for a whole year. And some of us have been dealing with many changes including working or doing school from home, being apart from family and friends for safety precautions, limiting our travel and down time due to safety restrictions, reducing physical contact (I’m a hugger), and being overwhelmed by statistics and concerns. Add those things to the every day stuff we deal with and, whew! We are holding it together. Or are we? Are you? I am not.
May is Mental Health Month. And we all know that doesn’t apply to us. Those poor souls having mental health issues… that friend of mine who lost her job and is depressed, my poor great-aunt stuck in that assisted living and is lonely, that person dealing with addiction again… these people are me, I am having a mental health issue. I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge, my business is still here, wonderful friends and family, a loving dog who idolizes me (ok, he idolizes my husband), and all the creature comforts. What do I have to be depressed about?
Doesn’t matter. Those things don’t matter when it comes to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addictions, PTSD or the genetics we are born with. Mental health can be affected by trauma, family history, a chemical imbalance in the brain, stress, abuse, just about anything. It is how your body and your emotional self deal with the factors. And many times, you need assistance whether it’s counseling, medication, stress reduction, or other therapies. Take the first step, like I have, and call your doctor. Talk with her/him about how you are feeling. They will do a physical, maybe a lab test, and ask you questions about your feelings and anything that could be contributing. Plus, they will help you decide if a mental health professional (counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist) may be necessary.
Friends and family are great and are there and want to be supportive, but have you told them how you are feeling? Have you given them the opportunity to help? Are they qualified or prepared to help? Consider professional help as well. They are trained and educated for this. Do you ask you friend about that weird shaped and colored mole, if it’s cancer, or do you go to the dermatologist, the professional? Yes, I ask my friend, then I call the dermatologist.
But there is such a stigma about mental health. You must be crazy. You must be out of control. You must be handled with kid gloves. You must be talked to in a quiet and concerning voice so you don’t lose it. Right? Is this how your friends talk to you about your possibly cancerous mole – is it contagious, are you going to die from the mole, do we not talk about it because it is so concerning? We don’t need to acknowledge my depression every time we speak. But it is also ok to ask me how I am, just like you always would. I will probably say, “good, how are you?” just like I always do. Don’t treat me differently. Don’t avoid me because you are afraid of upsetting me. Don’t think I am so fragile. It isn’t your job to fix me. It isn’t your job to walk on egg shells. I am getting help and your job is to continue to be my friend or family member or client or neighbor, just like we have been.
One in five Americans experience mental illness. Almost one in 25 has a serious mental illness. Keep in mind, different people deal with issues differently. I am sad. Some have anger. Some turn to drug use or other addictions. Some have eating disorders of overeating, stress eating or anorexia/bulimia. Some are genetic or the chemical imbalance is significant now.
I am dealing with depression, not directly COVID related. I have a lot of loss in my world and am processing it differently this time. Not sure about you, but I ride a simple roller coaster of emotions sometimes for a week or so (sad, frustrated, happy, hopeful, hopeless, etc.) but always come back to being ok. This time it has been 6 months. Time to find some help. The roller coaster has been running too long and way too many dips and turns. Need to level off and regroup. And I am taking this opportunity to share my experience with you. Maybe you know someone dealing with something similar. Maybe they are having a difficult time. Maybe they have been blue for too long. Maybe significant, unhealthy weight gain or loss. Maybe severe mood swings. Talk with them. Tell them you care. Offer to help make the call for a doctor’s appointment. Remind them you love them and this is important to you and for them. They will probably deny it. After all, the stigma is strong. Be stronger for them. But also, don’t get sucked in. You can only offer help, they have to accept it.
If someone you know is having a tough time and has made statements about harming themselves or others, please call their doctor or 911 immediately. Take it seriously. Don’t wait for it to pass. Help them get help.
Some resources I found to share. This month I challenge you to assess your mental health. Take inventory. Be safe, stay well and strive for healthy – mind, body and spirit.
National Council for Behavioral Health - information
Depression and BiPolar Support Alliance – confidential online screening questionnaire for depression and anxiety (No personal information needed. No registration.)
MedLine Plus – general mental illness information
Mayo Clinic – symptoms of mental illness
Stacy Ford ATC, LMT, Co-Founder of Complete Wellness
Stacy & Tracy Blog on Complete Wellness Quakertown, llc...
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