I already know what you are thinking when you saw the heading of this piece. But it’s not what you are thinking. Mental health and the people suffering from mental health issues have often been referred to as crazy or at least that’s the first thing that crosses our minds when we hear the word mental health. Gone are those days though, mental health issues are becoming a serious matter as the food we eat on a daily. More and more people are opening up to suffering from mental health issues, issues as deep as depression. People from different social statuses, the rich and the poor talk about having to battle mental health issues.
As much as this information is talked about out here, it is still not welcomed in our homes, workplaces, churches as much as we would like it. The minute mental health talk will become cliché or music to our ears is the day we will have lost it. This should be a constant conversation in every space we exist in as humans.
I am not going to claim that I am a mental health expert in any way, shape, or form but what I can do is share my own personal experience, hoping that it can resonate with someone. About a year ago, when the pandemic hit, everything else seemed to be crumbling around me. Things at home were not looking good, still not looking good, the friendships in my life that felt reliable were beginning to weigh me down. I’ve felt alone before but not to this degree, the pandemic heightened everything. Childhood traumas and experiences became part of my daily thoughts. I didn’t know where or who to run to. My soul was crushing, my mind was playing games on me. I couldn’t take it anymore. I gained an incredible amount of weight, a friend used that to crush my already dead self-esteem.
Nothing was working in my favor, not work, not friendships, not the relationship, not family. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. In all this, I wanted to and I am grateful for my health amid a global pandemic. So… I went into hiding, still kind of in hiding.
Long story short, I ended up seeing a therapist otherwise known as a counselor. With therapy, I never looked at it with a side-eye except that I never in a million years thought that I needed a therapist to cope but when darkness approaches, it seldom makes a sound. It just creeps silently towards you like a cloud of smoke. Suddenly, you can neither breathe nor see. This is the reality that no one is talking about.
I just always thought I am doing just fine and everything that comes my way ranging from grief is something I can toughen out. Am an extrovert, there’s no way this could happen to me, or so and so has this, and that therefore he/she cannot be suffering from mental health issues are some of the myths that we need to debunk when it comes to issues mental health.
I recognize that my issues are nothing compared to what the majority of people have been or are still going through especially over the past year with the pandemic hitting. When it comes to mental health issues, am learning, the first step is to extend a hand of empathy but for us to empathize with someone’s experience, we must be willing to believe them as they see it, and not how we imagine their experience to be. If you follow through on mental health topics and online and offline you realize as a society we really lack empathy.
We lack empathy but we have a bag full of unsolicited advice and opinions, ‘Just get over it, you are pretending for attention.’ The list goes on and on. If you’ve been in the pits, a messed up, dark place of mental health, you know just how dark it can get, and believe me your unnecessary meddling does more harm than good.
Always choose silence more than you choose ignorance. Silence is sometimes better than being LOUD and WRONG like so many are. We cannot all be experts especially with sensitive topics such as issues of mental health but you can choose to educate yourself.
Certain questions come up during therapy that we can always ask each other to lighten the burden and stigma of mental health.
- How are you feeling?
- How is your heart today?
Sometimes, we feel like people with mental health issues look like this:
- Being visibly sad/low
- Struggling to maintain hygiene or appearance
- Isolating oneself
- Not being able to do daily tasks or work
- Lay in bed all day doing nothing
But…Depression can also look like
- Overcompensating with humor
- Making an effort to make others happy
- Pushes through work and chores
- Doing ‘fun things,’ but not being able to enjoy it.
- Repressing feelings as to not burden other people
Signs you might need a mental health break
- You’ve been getting sick often
- You feel overwhelmed and depleted
- You haven’t been able to enjoy things.
- You haven’t had much time for yourself
- Your sleep/nutrition has been poor
- You feel unmotivated and lethargic
- You’re relying on unhealthy coping skills.
- You’ve had trouble focusing on things.
The idea that talking about mental health is attention-seeking is poison. People die in silence every day due to this judgment and people then finally say, “I wish they spoke up.” Let’s talk about mental health and not leave it until it’s too late.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month so please take advantage of the energy and tell your story. This is the month to find solutions to problems you may be suppressing. The only way to eradicate the stigma around mental health is for everyone to tell their story of pain but also of triumph and this is the month to speak.
Find resources online or people you can reach out for help. Here are a few resources I have for you;
Red Cross Helpline: 1199
Sending Love and Healing you way.