On Mental Health


I talk a lot about mental health care as a way to normalize it. I check in to my therapist on Facebook some days and type, “YAY! Therapy Day!” I reference self care and mental health at every turn. I do everything I can, as someone who struggles every day, to normalize that for others. And I do it because I’ve seen people before me do it. I’ve seen people before me proudly referencing their own mental healthcare protocol. People who need mental healthcare are becoming more and more open about it at every turn and it’s a beautiful thing. We are learning to love ourselves, and to not think of us as any “less” just because we need to actually address our mental health in the same way that some people need to address their cholesterol or allergies. We all are exposed to similar things in life, but not all of our bodies and brains are built the same to handle it.

We are normalizing ourselves. We’re learning to no longer feel shame.

But it occurred to me the other day, it’s not just us that needed to shift perspective.

I do not really suffer from Fall allergies. I know a lot of people who do and they’re starting to feel bad right now and they’re bracing for the full impact of the season. The other day I found myself thinking, “Thank GOD I don’t have to deal with that. I’m so lucky that my body doesn’t react that way to those allergens.”

You know what I didn’t say to myself?

“Oh, man. I’m glad I’m strong enough to deal with allergy without sneezing. It’s too bad my friends aren’t as strong as me and that they need medicine to help them.”

It occurred to me that we who suffer have been working on recognizing we’re not weak and we’re letting go of our shame. But, people who don’t need therapy or medication to prevent the crippling weight of mental illness, some of them still think that is somehow a testament of their own strength. If someone copes with challenges in life without therapy or medications, they think they’re just stronger than the ones who can’t. Many take ownership of the success like it is 100% in their control. And by doing that it inherently puts the failure of other’s in a different light. If you are successful because of your own strength then I’m a failure because I’m weak, and that’s the toxic connection that makes people scared to seek out help.

And I’m not saying everyone has this idea, but I still too often hear snark from people who make remarks when a celebrity comes out as suffering with mental illness. “Oh, really? They’re depressed? That must be a tough life…” Or even in my own casual acquaintances before I’ve heard people kinda joke about a family member’s depression, “She doesn’t even work. I’m working full time and I don’t need anti-depressants.”

Those of us who are sick are trying our best to undo the shame, but those who are well haven’t all gotten the memo.

3 thoughts on “Perspective.”

  1. I like to use the allergy analogy when trying to describe my mental illness. (Lucky me, I have both!) It’s ongoing, it’s something I have no control over, it’s something I need medication and/or lifestyle changes to mitigate, and it’s probably going to be like this forever. People aren’t special or “strong” or deep because they happen not to have to deal with those illnesses in the first place, or because theirs are mild enough that they don’t need to see a healthcare professional to treat them.

    Also, I think it’s so funny that we consider mental health to be separate from physical health, because hello? It’s my BRAIN that’s broken. My brain is most certainly a part of my body, just like my bones or my heart!

  2. I saw an article this morning that said that Tylenol helped in a clinical study with anxiety and emotional pain, suggesting that mental health and physical help are much more alike than many people think! I like the allergies comparison. I find that I’m hardest on myself about equating mental health with strength or weakness. I don’t do that for other people, but somehow I’m supposed to fix it myself. Of course I am a bit bad about self medicating for physical injuries & illnesses, so perhaps I am consistent, after all!

  3. A large reason I’m leaving the full-time corporate world is health. In the past years my mental and physical health have suffered. I was at a very low point, I didn’t want to be left at home alone because I was afraid I would hurt myself. Thanks to lots of meds, I’m much better, but I am just not the Superwoman type. And it’s been hard to come to terms with. Little voices in my head say “come on, you only have ONE kid.” But I’ve learned that I cannot manage my one child and her school, and a full-time, chained to my desk 8-5 kind of job, and have my house in some sort of order. And they are all circular–a disorganized house makes me anxious and everything is overwhelming and I want to hide in my bed, which just makes the mess pile up more, which makes me more anxious. I have bad chronic headaches, which makes me more depressed, which makes pain worse.

    I’m learning to accept my mind and the physical limits it gives me, and work within those.

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