Normalizing the Conversation Around Mental Health (Part 1)
Updated: Nov 2, 2022
What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candour, and more unashamed conversation. – Glenn Close
Sitting here, I’m feeling a fatigue that has nothing to do with sleeplessness or exhaustion from physical activity. Instead, the effects of bone deep tiredness have so much more to do with the world around me. Where I am, here in Florida, we’ve just seen a chunk of our state pummeled by a hurricane that left behind power outages for over 2 million people and utter devastation in some areas that will take years to rebuild. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, multiple years of wildfires are now being, unsurprisingly, shown to have negativitey impacted children’s ability to learn. Closer to the middle of our country, there’s been unprecedented flooding in the past few months to contend with as well.
Now that our world has become so interconnected and information can be rapidly shared, we’re also regularly seeing and reacting to the wars, protests and inhumane treatment that citizens on the other side of the world are being subjected to. All of this is coming to us on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic stress which seems to be never ending. Our levels of anxiety and depression as a world are higher than they’ve ever been. It’s a lot to take in - mentally, emotionally and intellectually.
Do you find yourself in an incredibly overwhelmed place these days? Well, know this - you’re NOT alone. Thankfully, mental health awareness is having a moment right now. And as Lizzo says, “It’s About Damn Time!” Since we’re all in a space of feeling more angst than we’ve likely felt before, let’s embrace this opportunity to TALK about it to one another. Yes, I know it can be REALLY scary to allow ourselves to be vulnerable when all we really want to do is curl up under the covers and never come out OR stay so busy in our lives that we never have to sit down and think about the things happening around us. We need to start being OKAY with not being okay. Not sure how to begin? I’ll start.
Recently, I had surgery to fix an injury that had become the source of chronic pain. Although the pain is gone, I’ve been feeling very depressed and a bit anxious during my recovery. It’s not happening as fast as I’d like and I’m not certain that I’ll be the same once I’m fully healed. Some days I’m incredibly frustrated and unmotivated and getting out of bed on those days is a huge accomplishment for me. Guess what? That’s not at all unusual (see this article) and it’s perfectly okay that I feel this way. Talking about it, acknowledging where I am is the first step towards moving myself into a healthier headspace.
For you, that might mean talking to your doctor when you think medical intervention in the form of medication or referral for additional services might be warranted. For example, there is some overlap in the symptoms of hypothyroidism and depression. Knowing that, your doctor might perform some tests or refer you to an Endocrinologist to ensure your hormones are functioning optimally. Start now by figuring out exactly where you are. Here’s something to help : Online Self-Assessment for Depression and Anxiety.
Next, don’t be afraid to tell your family and friends what’s going on with you. It might help you to better get along with those closest to you. Plus, when you share what you’re feeling and experiencing, it helps you to build connections with others who understand. Either because they are having the same experience or because they know someone else who might be. Connection leads us to finding a community that can be supportive and understanding. Being part of a community can be an in-person experience like going to a class, workshop or event. It could also be joining a group that meets regularly such as a walking group, a support group or weekly fitness or yoga class. It might also be a virtual or online experience such as joining the mailing list and online community of an author or educator whose work inspires you.
In the next post in this series, we’ll talk about some of the tools we can use to check-in with ourselves, we’ll learn how to develop a plan for supporting ourselves and maintaining our overall health in good times and challenging ones. Until then, remember to love yourself and let the rest fall into place.