May is mental health month.
What is mental health? I will tell you what it is not. Remember a time in your youth before stresses? Before hormones and relationship statuses? Before technology and social media? Before sexuality and marriage? Before children and money? Before body image mattered. How freeing it was. How easy it was. And then remember the point in your life when you felt anxiety of wanting someone to like you back. Wondering how to choose a career and make it through school. Remember wondering how long until you retire and how you would survive off kraft dinner? Through all of those compounded stresses – ones in which we all go through at some point in our lives – you managed to get up out of bed, and push through the day. Because you had mental health. Now imagine you don’t have the ability to convince yourself to get up. Imagine you don’t have that inner monologue to tell you to stop drinking or stop eating. Imagine everything around you makes no sense. NO sense in pushing. No sense in living. That’s mental illness. Like any other disease, it is debilitating, exhausting, confusing, and painful. But its also that much more exhausting trying to explain it or try to get sympathy for it. Like any other disease, it is just as hard on the families and friends as it is on the one who is suffering from the illness. This is why I beg of you to start educating yourself on mental illness and how to talk to someone who has it. Not to yell at them and tell them to snap out of it but to really try to relate.
For those who are suffering from Anxiety of Depression, unlike any of the other mental illnesses we know about, they are neurological issues that today can very easily be explained my compounds in the brain. The first action should be to have you loved one talk to someone. Try to see if talking alone will work. Sometimes a different perspective is all it takes. And for others, while one should not jump to medications as a crutch, it is a very viable option that may be the best one for your loved one to consider. Be patient. Understand that the brain is trying to use as much serotonin (and in other cases additional neurotransmitters) to alleviate stress and induce the feeling of happiness. When this is lacking or faulty, antidepressants and anxiolytics metabolically alter this pathway to sufficiently recycle the serotonin in the brain and use it as currency. This takes time. This takes synapses in your brain to physically change. So if you consider the path of medications, be patient. Understand that the person has to go through a lot of ups and a lot more downs before the medication is actually working. And just like birth control pills or diabetes medications, sometimes the first one isn’t always the right one. So hold their hand through it. Tough love is not the answer. Life is tough enough as it is.
For those around you who are doing a good job, one day at a time, to crawl out from under the dark and stormy cloud, give them a hug. Let them know its worth waiting for tomorrow. And for those around you who find it easier to ‘be in their own head’ let them know its okay to let it out once in a while. A few words or a healthy cry can go a long way.
In honor of mental health month I encourage you to look around you and notice the people suffering, and take an hour out of your day to do some research into how we can help bring awareness and encourage research to assist in overcoming these illnesses.