Monday was Mental Health Day where social media was blasted with stories and awareness and although I am a few days late, I still would like to participate in this discussion. Stories are so powerful and hold a great opportunity for healing for both the writer and the reader.
This post may rub you the wrong way, you might think I believe mental health is not real. What I am actually explaining below is how I feel that mental health is as real as any emotion, thought, or physical illness. What is real anyway?
Yes, I believe depression is as real as a broken leg however, you are not a broken leg; your body has a broken leg. It is temporary and if you go see a trained professional it is their job to heal and fix the broken leg. Mental disorders like obsessive compulsive and generalized anxiety disorder work the same way. It may take multiple doctors and treatments but you can find healing because you are more than any illness or disorder, you are not stuck. From my experience it is not a one time fix all situation. It takes time, love, and patience. One week after you get the cast removed from a broken leg, you probably will not be running around and back to your old self again. You continue therapy and taking care of yourself. I imagine you learn a lot about yourself in this process, maybe how to avoid breaking your leg again or you realize the things you took for granted.
I could write about the handful of mental illnesses I have experienced and how real they felt in the moment but that is behind me now. I silently work every day to keep my shit together. I avoid gory movies because I am susceptible to anxiety and death trauma. I do not drink often because I know alcohol is a depressant. I exercise because it is a natural mood lifter (seriously, read the studies!). These are some examples of choices I make to mentally feel my best even though I have lived with crippling anxiety and depression. I’ve tried the medications and they did not work for me, so I had to figure it out myself through counseling and spiritual work.
When it comes down to it, thoughts are just thoughts (something one of my grief counselors told me which used to piss me off because I didn’t get it). You do not have to hold onto the thoughts in your mind. Turning a thought like “this is really scary I am going to have a panic attack…” to “that’s interesting that this situation gives my mind anxiety, I don’t feel like choosing that right now I can think about something else…” takes some serious practice but hey, if I can do it, I believe anyone can.
Here is a list of things that helped me snap out of it when I felt my mind taking over:
- Choose a different thought.
- Call a friend. You don’t have to tell them why, just hear someone else’s voice.
- Watch a video you think is funny.
- Take a break and go for a walk.
- Get grounded: walk near so trees, take off your shoes and get out of your head.
These choices seem very easy, and they are. When it comes down to it, you are choosing to do/think of something else and not give in to listening to the mind all the time, be the observer of the thoughts, that is who you really are.
Most of the quotes and ideas inspiring this post comes from one of my favorite books, The Untethered Soul which played a huge role in my healing process. I recommend you check it out if this resonates with you at all.
Lastly, if you do feel captured by your mind with no way out there are services exactly for such purpose. Specifically the Nation Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Mental illness is hard to live with but I do not believe that you have to live with it all of the time. People are good and we are here to help each other by sharing stories and really listening to one another. Reach out and do whatever it takes to find healing whether it’s publicly or confidential. You will find your way out.