It is no secret what day of the week it is anymore. Every day as a hashtag. Scroll through Instagram in the morning and have subtle #reminders that it’s, duh, #mcm – #mychefishotterthanyourchef it’s MONDAY. It’s not, actually. Today is October 11, 2019 – a Friday (which is actually my work-week-Thursday) – and yesterday was World Mental Health Day. If you ask me, this should be every single day, but I’ll take it for now. I remember taking a home economics class in 8th grade. There I learned how to cook a meal (it was pretty elementary compared to my skills at the time), watched that birthing video, and last but not least, I learned about health. Health, in this curriculum, was not just physical health. It was physical, mental and emotional.
There was a large drawing of a pyramid with three levels, almost like that terribly wrong daily food chart, and those three words written in each block: mental at the bottom, emotional in the middle and physical at the top. To this day, I recognize emotional and mental health as the foundations of physical health. Your mental state is a wonderful tool; it completes the jurisdiction of the mental health like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle fitting into place ever so effortlessly. For the most part, your physical health is under your control. Your emotional health is also, for the most part, under the control of your own will. Mental health, for what we can control, there is a hell of a lot of what we cannot control.
The brain is such a fascinating little lump of synapses, fluids, genes and algorithms. The stigma attached to anything less than pristine mental health is
so yesterday. Today, there is a day that the world can celebrate together with a common core: accepting that mental health is also accepting the fundamental challenges of mental health conditions. “They say it’s inherited,” – said the naysayers. Not really, but you know. Can mental health conditions and disorders be genetic? Yes. I am not keeping statistical analysis on what would be a flawed demographic data of mental health conditional patients by number, but if I were to do that, I’d say 1 out of 2 has a mental health condition that is beyond their control. Just like any other possible genetic combination for your traits, it is possible (and probable? Sure!) that your mental condition is in full swing because of your pre-disposition with a diagnosed, direct family member.
World Mental Health day was pretty interesting to watch as an individual with diagnosed anxiety. Ed Sheeran and HRH Prince Harry looked like long lost brothers bonding over their commonality. Let’s back up for just a second here too. Prince Harry, a royal man, was quite brave for breaking the stigma in his own rights of sharing his mental health challenges with the world. Diana would have been proud. As I was born in England, I can attest to the odd and unique tailored approach to mental health. The idea that someone would speak out about their mental health was unheard of, so to have a member of the royal family … that was huge. HRH Prince Harry, along with Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, began a campaign in the United Kingdom by the name of Heads Together. Resources became available on how to live with, deal with and support others who were living and dealing with mental health challenges. If we were to rewind twenty years and take social media back in time with us, I would have needed this site. I still do, if I’m honest.
It is not easy living with anxiety, but I am finally managing it for the first time in my life. I recall anxiety from early elementary school days and deep into adulthood. We all have a precipice that takes us to the brink of awareness, I believe. I know what mine was. I went to therapy once a week and found a healthy combination of medicines that worked so that anxiety was not ruling my daily life. Nothing quite like being a working mom of two that has crippling anxiety so bad on some days that you can’t explain why you cannot get out of bed. It’s a beast. It does not help that I carried postpartum depression into clinical depression. I never asked for that. I thought I was happy. I thought everything was fine. But I had to learn and truly accept that I was not in control of these conditions. Thankfully, through a healthy routine of cognitive behavioral therapy with my psychiatrist and exercise, I was living with and coping (the most important word in this blog post) with anxiety and depression.
Even today I have triggers that cause ebbs and flows in these conditions. When my kids go to spend time with their father, I take a little dip in the valley of despair. Then I pick myself up (100% with the help of Sammy) and shift focus to the end of the week. In between then, I clean the house, do a thousand loads of laundry and save a shit ton of money on groceries until they are home again. At some point, I realized how normal I
was … am. Coping with anxiety and depression was normal, acceptable and okay. There was no need to fight it any longer. I had to accept that it would be here to stay. I have seen the same psychiatrist for years. He still reminds me that I need to be at peace with my mental health and the treatment of both conditions. He’s having me back every 3 months again this year due to the complete and total spiral of depression after our miscarriages. Spoiler alert, I’m back into the infertile category again. Any way, that’ll be a different post. This makes me even more normal.
Make mental health a topic of conversation. When you ask someone, “how are you?” ask them like you mean it. You should want to know that they are mentally okay as much as they are physically okay.