Mental health is physical health.
I preach that a lot on my social media because, simply put, it’s true.
At the risk of sounding educational and writing this like a school paper, I want to inform you of just a few things.
- Mental health is physical health. I said this already. Got it. But knowing this could help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. There are still so many people that believe depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. are all made up and that people with those illnesses are crazy. And that’s another thing: stop calling people crazy that battle with mental illness. It’s not appropriate nor is it even remotely accurate.
- Mental illnesses are not only mental, they are physical as well. Ask anyone with an anxiety disorder. I’ll use myself as an example. I battle with pretty bad social anxiety. It keeps me from having a job like any other “normal” person. When I go out in public, I feel physical symptoms. It’s not just “Oh man I’m so nervous!” It’s also sweating, racing heart, and dizziness. That doesn’t even include the symptoms from a panic attack I may have.
- Depression can be fatal, just like any other physical illness. Yes for real. Suicide is not just something people do to “get out,” “get bailed out,” or do just for “attention.” I can promise you if someone dies by suicide, they suffered… bad. Suicide is the final symptom of depression, and some people never reach that final symptom, but that doesn’t mean they don’t suffer too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen on social media, even on my friends list on Facebook, that people still believe that suicide is selfish and that the person that passed away “took the easy way out.” Come on. That’s not fair and it’s undermining the battle that the person fought literally on a daily basis.
- “You’re making it up to get out of doing (this) or (that). Just smile!” Okay… first, that’s just not that easy and you know it. Second… don’t you think if we could “just smile” and everything would be fine that we would have done it a long time ago? Depression takes away your energy. You have to make yourself do anything. So no… we’re not just “making it up” to get out of anything.
Think of it like this.
There are people in the hospital with cancer and they of course are getting the help they need. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking ANYTHING away from anyone and their battle with cancer and chemo. But just like you can see cancer on an MRI or PET scan, you can also see depression in an fMRI or PET scan. The scan can pick up abnormalities or different brain activity in someone with depression compared to someone without depression.
People with cancer go to the hospital to get treated, and so do people with broken bones. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, to the person battling with it, it’s big to them (Again, I know cancer is a major problem compared to a broken bone, I’m just using a broken bone for the example). Just because depression is “invisible” to other people (because as we know, depression shows physical symptoms as well), does not mean you don’t deserve the help, whether it be with therapy, medication, or even ecotherapy. Broken bones heal and they’re good to go after a month or two. But unfortunately, mental illness is an ongoing disease.
Please stop thinking depression or any other mental illness is not as important as physical health, but it is physical health. The brain and the body should not be categorized into two totally separate types of healthcare. Mental health is physical health and physical health is healthcare. Healthcare is healthcare.
The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
There is no health without mental health.
I’ve had a hard time letting go throughout my entire life. With people, with things, with memories, with actions or behaviors… it’s just hard for me to let go. I’ve always held on so tightly that it affects my own mental health, and if it’s holding on to a person, it doesn’t affect them. And that affects me too. I would get angry that I was hurting and they didn’t care. I would get angry that I check on people but nobody would check on me; honestly, sometimes I still do.
I’ve learned a lot in therapy over the years, and there’s not a session that goes by that I don’t learn something else new or that I am reminded of. But one thing that has stuck with me since I heard the metaphor from my therapist: some people are rocks. Yep, rocks. You can ask a rock to move and it won’t. You can cry in front of a rock and beg it to love you and accept you and it won’t. You can ask a rock to check in on you from time to time just to feel some validation and it won’t. You can yell at a rock and ask it to do anything for you to help you feel loved, and guess what? It won’t.
People, their behaviors, their attitudes, their lack of love, and situations can all be rocks. Friends, family members, romantic partners, bosses, whoever… they won’t show us that love that we fight for because they’re rocks. They won’t do it because they can’t. And they certainly won’t. So let’s help ourselves out and realize that rocks can’t change. Rocks can’t show love. Rocks can’t reach out to us and check on us from time to time. I can’t say why some people are like this because I’m not some superhuman behavioral scientist that understands all people, but I can tell you that when you’re own mental health starts getting affected, it’s time to let go. You’re… we’re… not going to get the love we desire from someone who is a rock.
It’s so difficult to remember and to realize when we have to let go, but we have to do it. You know that photo that depicts a hand holding tightly onto a rope, but the rope is cutting the skin and making the hand bleed? (I’ll post it below) It’s so accurate, isn’t it? Once we let go of the rope, our hands aren’t bleeding and sore anymore. Same with the rocks in our lives… when we let go, we won’t be hurting anymore. We won’t keep expecting results when the rock can’t and won’t produce those results for us.
Once we let go, we won’t suffer anymore. We’ll learn to provide the love we want so desperately for ourselves or we’ll even find a person that can provide it.
Trust me, I know how hard it is to let go. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes and I’ve even lied to myself and said I let go when in reality I didn’t, and then when I wanted those people to love me (again), I got hurt… again. So yes, letting go is so so difficult, but it’s vital to our mental health.
One of the best decisions you’ll make in your life is letting go of something that will not change. Wish them the best (or don’t say anything, whatever is best for your situation), delete their number from your phone, and move on. Take it a day at a time, but watch how much better you’re going to feel once you do it.
Is this the new normal?
There’s no way to know that, but there is hope in knowing that this virus will die down. One thing that is important to remember: if we want to flatten the curve, we have to listen to the guidelines given to us. There are a lot of people out of work, so this causes a lot of anxiety for the future, but especially for the present. We are in a time when we do not know what tomorrow will be like; will it be better and the curve is flattened, or will it be bad with a lot more deaths?
These thoughts can definitely cause some anxiety. That’s normal. So if you’re experiencing some anxiety, stress, depression, etc., find some positive coping mechanisms to help you get through the days. For some, that might be tending to a garden and for others, it might be playing video games. There’s a lot of hobbies or things to do. Find something you have been wanting to try and do it and remember it’s okay if you’re not good at it in the beginning. Don’t let that stop you from trying. Do what it takes to keep your mental health as balanced as possible.
Some things I do are play video games, read books, watch movies/tv shows, go for walks with my dogs, write, go for rides with the dogs, sit outside and listen to music and/or natural nature sounds, and take pictures of blooming flowers. These are my regular hobbies, but especially while quarantined, they help keep my mind off of any negative thoughts that may be trying to develop.
Practicing meditation can be extremely beneficial as well. Meditation can be anything that puts your mind at ease: mindfulness meditation, prayer, even relaxing on your front porch.
It’s okay to admit that you might be experiencing anxiety. It makes you human. But making sure to distract yourself from those anxious thoughts, taking proper precautions to help flatten the curve, and even getting help from a professional are things you can do to help reduce those anxiety levels. Also, making sure to only share accurate information regarding the virus can help reduce anxiety levels.
The CDC has a lot of great information and list of resources to help you during this difficult time. Read it here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
This way of living does not have to be our new normal. If we take those proper precautions to reducing the spread of this virus, we can get back to living our normal lives. Remember, we’re all in this together.