Why Mental Health Is Important

Hi I’m Natalie, and I have anxiety. Chances are, if you’re already reading this, you already know that.

It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, and I wanted to take a few minutes to drive home the importance of mental health.

Because of my experiences with anxiety, it has given me the drive to speak up about the subject. This is one that is extremely important to me. Dealing with a mental illness is a huge struggle — whether you have anxiety, an eating disorder, or depression.

With anxiety, your brain continuously constructs the worst case scenarios, sending your brain into a frenzy of what ifs. While anxiety is the mental illness I continuously struggle with, many others deal with mental illnesses on a daily basis. For example, those who deal with depression often have trouble getting out of bed. Those with anorexia destroy their body in the attempts of staying slim.

However, there is still a stigma floating around about those who deal with mental illness. You know, that if they are feeling upset, then they should stop complaining and just suck it up. That those with anxiety should just stop “worrying so much.” That self care should be the last priority on your list — even if you’re throwing up because of anxiety.

Frankly, those stigmas should go to hell.

But, sadly, they do exist.

This is why every week needs to be Mental Illness Awareness Week. This is why I continuously stand on a soapbox to remind readers that it is okay not to be okay. It is okay to put yourself first, whether it may be avoiding a phone call to get extra self, taking a break to eat, or doing something nice for you.

Mental health is honestly so important, and I feel we as a society often forget that. Sure, we’ve come a long way in terms of awareness and acceptance. But, we still have so much more left to do. We still need to learn to listen. We still need to make mental health care more accessible to those who need it — no matter what their economic status may be.

But, most importantly, we need to get rid of all of the stigmas and speak up for those who struggle with mental illnesses every day. It only takes one voice to do so.

And, as for me, I’ve come a long way in my journey of managing anxiety. I’ve learned to manage it — well, somewhat. I’ve learned to put myself first and not let others tell me otherwise. And I am extremely lucky. Over the past two years, I have developed a cast of characters who have been there for me as methods of support and shoulders to cry on. I thank each and every one of them.

And, for those who struggle with a mental illness, please note this: you are not alone. You can get through this. Why? Because you are strong. And, as long as I am on this earth, you will always have someone to listen.

So, while this week is Mental Illness Awareness Week, let’s try to be more aware every week.

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Ending National Mental Illness Month

Today is the last day of May — as well as the last day of National Mental Illness Month. Throughout the month, I’ve written a grand total of seven posts that discuss my experience with anxiety, as well as the perception that mental health has. We have come a long way from the days of mental illness being perceived as something to be ashamed of. With that being said, there’s still so much to be done.

If you’re sitting here thinking hey, I want to do more to make a difference, there’s so much you can do. Unsure what you can do? Here’s a list to help get you started:

  • Become informed on mental health issues and educate others.
  • Volunteer for your local mental health agency/suicide line.
  • Donate money to a charity whose proceeds go to mental health aid.
  • Write letters to your congressperson about important issues in mental health care and how they will have an effect on patients. 

However, most importantly, I ask you to remove all stigmas you have about mental illness and just listen. Yesterday, I discussed the toxic ways mental health is perceived. Now, I want you all to examine how you interact with someone who has a mental illness. I want you to do whatever you can to ensure that you treat them with both respect and kindness. Because, like you, they are human too.

With that being said, just because the month is over, doesn’t mean the conversation has to be. Keep talking, keep learning, and keep educating. Why? Because with every person who strives to make a difference can be crucial to helping the cause become stronger.

Why Mental Health Needs To Be Treated Like A Physical One

A couple of days ago, I saw this video that demonstrated what it would look like if we were to treat physical illnesses the way that we treat mental ones.

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For me, this video really brought home the message that both mental and physical illnesses have one word in common – illnesses. They are something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

My question is, why do we?

Clearly, we know it’s not okay to say to someone who has just hit their head to stop complaining because they are bringing you down. Instead, we ask them if they are okay. So, why do we think it’s okay to tell someone who is diagnosed as clinically depressed to just stop complaining? Or, better yet, why do we belittle them.

Newsflash, people. Mental health needs to have that same perception as physical. End of story.

Being told to suck it up is so last year. When someone has a diagnosed mental illness, it is almost the same, or even worse as a physical one. And, when you tell them that they are complaining too much, or bringing you down, it’s downright rude and disrespectful. They need to take care of themselves, and they are doing the best that they can to do that. Sometimes, people with depression struggle to get out of bed. Sometimes, people with anxiety panic to the point where all they dwell on are the negative. And, if you were their friend, you would do whatever you can to help them – not, disrespect them.

With an Italian upbringing, mental illness was perceived as just not being tough enough. Having anxiety, many of my family members often think that I am just complaining when I say that I am feeling anxious, or think that my therapy sessions are just a waste of money. Or, that I don’t need a therapist.

But, do I tell the person with a broken leg that they don’t need physical therapy? We don’t say shake it off, because you’re complaining too much? No, because that’s crazy. We shouldn’t be saying that going to a psychotherapist, therapist or psychologist is a waste of money, either. Like physical therapy, psychotherapy is trying to heal the mind to make them stronger. And, why would we try to knock down strength – physical or mental?

And, by these stigmas floating around in the world, it might be the very reason why someone is too afraid to get the help they need because they feel like they are complaining too much, or too ashamed or proud to admit that they have a problem. And, that is just tragic.

Mental illness and physical illness need to be on the same tier. Someone who complains anxiety or depression is not them craving attention. It doesn’t come from wanting to drown you down, which by the way is absurd. They come from living in that sea of depression daily. They come from living in a constant state of anxiety and they are not complaining. You running your mouth and saying those things to them is only adding fuel to the fire, and can easily make things worse for them.

Which is something that they didn’t need.

So, let’s not belittle those who suffer from a mental illness. Let’s not make them feel ashamed for getting the help that they need. Let’s applaud those who struggle, but are choosing to get the help they need? Let’s applaud each and every person who decides to fight whatever obstacle they face, instead of just allowing themselves to get swept up in the tide and drown.

Instead, let’s call them warriors, because they go to war with their minds every day, which sometimes can be a constant battle. Life with a mental illness isn’t easy, and therefore, they deserve to be treated with the same sympathy and respect that you did when you broke your leg, arm, or that any diabetic has.

It’s Okay To Cry Sometimes

Big girls don’t cry.

Stop crying now, men don’t cry.

You’re acting like a baby, stop crying.

Crying is showing weakness.

These are only a few of the stereotypes that are associated with crying. However, I disagree with each and everyone.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: it’s okay to cry. Crying does not make you weak.

I, on the other hand, think that by being comfortable enough with yourself to allow yourself to express those emotions in a healthy way is the best thing ever.

I don’t know where this concept comes from. Maybe it’s something that is passed down from generation to generation – something that a father tells his son, who then tells his son. Maybe it’s society. For instance, many men in television sitcoms, such as Frank Barone from Everyone Loves Raymond or Tim Taylor from Home Improvement proclaim that “real” men don’t cry.

With that being said, I would like to challenge that notion with this. By bottling that emotion up like that, it leads to an emotional explosion where you finally release everything that you’ve held in for so long. It’s not healthy, plain and simple.

I also would like to argue that crying shows strength, as I mentioned earlier. There’s something about allowing yourself to release those emotions. It’s your way of release in the moment, a method of filtering out all of the emotions that are making you sad and release them into the world. And, it’s healthy.

I remember when my grandfather died, and I had to give a bible reading during his funeral mass. During halfway through the reading, I broke down and cried, apologizing to the audience (mostly family) afterwards. My cousins gave me grief about it, but I think in that moment, considering that my grandfather and I were close, that it was okay to release the sadness that I was feeling in that moment. Looking back on it, I think it’s what I needed to do, and needed to feel. And that’s perfectly alright.

And, there are health benefits to crying as well. According to Psychology Today, crying releases stress hormones that build up throughout the body. The article then goes on to state that crying “stimulates” endorphins – you know, the stuff that makes you feel good. After crying, the article states that our bodies enter a “calmer biological and emotional state.”

Can’t argue with science, now can you?

So, with that being said, no one on this earth should ever apologize for crying – whether it may be because you’re going through a breakup, dealing with a loved one’s death, or just because you’re stressed out. I myself, whenever I am stressed out, scared, upset or dealing with PMS. And I say that you should too, if you want, cry it out and express your damn emotions – and don’t let anyone take that away from you.

11 Mantras Everyone With a Mental Illness Needs to Hear

Having a mental illness – or even just going through a rough time – can be the most isolating thing on the planet. It is like you are in a downwards spiral, and have no way out of it.

With that being said, it’s hard to think that there will be an end to the suffering and the pain that you are dealing with. So, I’ve decided to provide a list of mantras for those who are going through a mental illness or a rough time to serve as reminders that you truly can get through it.

  1. I am worth it.
  2. I can beat this.
  3. I am worthy of love.
  4. I am strong.
  5. I am beautiful.
  6. Everything is going to be okay.
  7. I am loved.
  8. It is okay not to be okay.
  9. I am going to get through this.
  10. My best is good enough.
  11. I am good enough.

Not Tonight Dear, I Am Having A Panic Attack: Anxiety and Dating

As a person with anxiety, it is safe to say it has had an impact on my relationships. When I was in my previous relationship, it was when my anxiety was in full swing, and panic attacks were a regular occurrence. However, I was really lucky to have a boyfriend who was supportive and did whatever he could to help me with dealing with it.

While I am lucky to have minor anxiety now, it still exists. I am unsure how anxiety will play out in my next relationship. But, I learned enough about it over the years to give advice to couples that may have to deal with anxiety.

Note: While this post mainly talks about anxiety, these tips pertain to all mental illnesses, from eating disorders to depression.

Talk it Out

With all relationships, you need to communicate, as communication is key. When it comes to my anxiety, I pretty much am an open book and am completely honest with my partner, or a potential one. If not, then you are putting on a façade of someone you may not actually be. Since my anxiety is a part of me, I like to take the time to have a thoughtful conversation about it with my partner. In that conversation, we’ll discuss things such as what makes me anxious? What are my triggers? What is my role in this anxiety thing, and what can I do to help?

One thing that my former partner and I did was go to therapy together to have an open space to discuss anxiety. I believe that it was a helpful thing for us to do, because it induced productive and effective conversation, and is a worthwhile option for those who are willing. However, therapy is a private thing – meant only for the indexed individual. So, if you don’t want to have your partner sits in on a session, then that’s okay too.

Be Supportive

With that being said, always do what you can to show your support for them and their journey. This can be something as simple as hugging your partner while they hit a low, asking them about their therapy session, or just reminding them that you’re here for them.

While the ideal partner is always supportive, it is especially important for when your partner has a mental illness.

It’s Not One-Sided

Sometimes, sadly, a relationship can be consumed with anxiety. It can be overwhelming for anyone to deal with anxiety, especially the loved ones of that person – I am not going to lie. However, it is important to remember that your partner does care about you as well, and wants you to take the time that you need for yourself.

While it is up to you how you prioritize how you divide your time, it can be overwhelming when you constantly feel like you are on call for your partner. Newsflash, you are not a doctor. So, Be sure that you take care of yourself. Play your video games, go for that run, or do whatever it is you do for fun.
In addition to that, do not be afraid to be honest with your partner. If you feel overwhelmed, tell them. I definitely understand, and to be honest, I would want my boyfriend to tell me how he’s feeling.

Just Be There

Sometimes, all we need is a hug and someone to tell us that everything is going to be okay when the world feels like it’s crashing down on you. You may have to do this a lot sometimes, but trust me, it does not go unappreciated.

Be Understanding

You might not understand what a panic attack feels like, or the effect it has on the person going through one until you see your partner stare off into space while kissing you because they are scared and feel unsafe. This is especially true if you yourself have never dealt with anxiety. However, all you can do is just understand and be patient. And, if this does happen to you, kiss their forehead and remind them that it will truly be alright.

Remember They Are More Than Their Anxiety

I am much more than my anxiety. I am a writer, a photographer, a person, a bookworm, and so much more. Mental illness, especially the label, does not define the patient. Remember that they are much more than that, and they too are human. So, whatever you do, be sure to remember that there is more to them.

Who Are You To Tell Me How To Feel?

If I had a dollar every time someone told me to (or not) feel a certain way, I would have enough money to pay for the car I want to buy in full. Don’t feel this way because it’s not worth it. Don’t cry about that boy because he is not worth it. It’s been this amount of time since you’ve broken up-why don’t you start dating again?

It is almost as if we have to shut our feelings off and push them in the back of the closet, because feeling something, any kind of something is a crime. Happiness, okay you can feel that. However, anger, sadness, and anxiety? No, you can’t feel that because it is much too harsh for us to deal with on a daily basis.

Too bad it doesn’t work that way. Many times, we are asked to ‘suck it up’ when something happens. After six months of grieving something (a relationship/a death/whatever), we have reached the maximum time that we are allotted to feel sad. After that, you no longer have the right to cry at night, because you are still hurting from your break up. That is the time when you are expected to suck it up and move on.

But, that’s not how it works.

And, I absolutely hate it.

I wish I could meet the person who made those rules, so I can slap them in the face and tell him that they were stupid. I wish that I can get a megaphone so I can scream to people “it’s okay to feel upset sometimes, you will heal eventually.” I wish that I could hug every person who is feeling sad, anxious or depressed right now and remind them that what they are feeling is truly valid.

Since I do not own a megaphone, this is the closest feeling that I can get to that. It is the power of the Internet.

So, it is okay to cry. It is okay to admit that you are sad. The thing is, by admitting that you are sad, you are one step closer to reaching the point where you are healed. By repressing those emotions, it is only going to explode one day. And, that is definitely not healthy.

The thing is it is going to take time to get back up. It’s going to take time to heal your emotional wounds, and to reach the point of true healing. However, with that being said, there is no end date to the hurting. So stop creating one, and focus more on healing you.

After all, it is your opinion that matters the most, doesn’t it?