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world mental health day

Today is World Mental Health Day. I’ve talked a lot about mental health here in the past, but I think it’s so important to keep talking about it to help reduce the stigma. My stomach is in a knot as I sit down to write this post and I almost refuse to talk about it because I don’t want people to think I’m damaged or unstable. That’s how deep this stigma runs — even after decades of managing it, I still fight it inside myself.

Note: My positions are managed, I am well supported, and I am at no risk. If you know or know someone who is struggling with depression or a mood disorder, you can contact the NAMI Helpline [email protected] or (800) 950-NAMI for information and tips. And if you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255). You can also access 24/7 crisis assistance via text message to NAMI at 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

I have depression (diagnosed at 16), anxiety (dx at 18), binge eating disorder (dx at 27, no binges for many years), and ADD (dx at 37). I also have insomnia (dx at age 18). I work with a medication management provider (either a psychiatrist, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner) to help manage these conditions, and also go to regular therapy. I am thankful that I have the proper support to be able to manage these situations, and feel that it is a privilege.

While these conditions co-exist (and are deeply related to each other) within me, there are some times when one condition predominates more than the others. Depression is at the forefront right now, and it feels both situational (epidemic) and chemical, but is also tied to ADD, which I haven’t been able to successfully treat with medication. The mind jumps around or feels inefficient or lazy with an inability to focus, which leads to feeling inadequate, and then negative self-talk about all things.

In 2018, I wrote a post titled “The Lies Depression Told Me”. When I read it back today, it seemed so familiar to the lies my depression has been telling me lately:

  • you don’t have friends you can count on
  • you are not a good wife
  • things are never going to feel less overwhelming
  • No matter what you achieve, you will never be happy

It’s really uncomfortable to write those things because 1: I know they’re not true; And 2: The last thing I want is for it to appear that I don’t have everything “together”. I am an Enneagram 3, have always been a high achiever, and care deeply about what others think of me. Still, I’ve come to realize that what I really want is for people to accept and accept me for who I am at my core — not just the good things that people can see because I put on a mask. Others may see it as messy bits.

Even though things are a little bumpy with my mental health right now, I am so grateful for the care and coping strategies that help me manage these situations. For me, it looks like this:

  • Medicine
  • medical
  • motion
  • Sleep
  • stress management
  • Sleep
  • attention

I also acknowledge that many of these things require access:

  • time – researching providers, going to appointments
  • insurance
  • Money – Even with insurance, mental health care can be ridiculously prohibitive
  • Access to providers – Within network, Conveniently located, Available for appointments, Well fit with your personality
  • Transportation or technology – thankfully, telehealth has helped open up more access to care, so we are less dependent on transportation, but you still need stable internet and adequate technology to participate in telehealth, navigate patient portals, etc. skill is required.
  • a social environment that doesn’t shame someone for seeking treatment

There is a shortage of mental health providers in the US right now, and insurance can be incredibly difficult to navigate. Even though I’ve dealt with these situations for decades, I’m regularly right with insurance and I’ve had to drop medication management providers many times because of people leaving the profession, repetitive practices, etc. There’s also a lot of consolidation regarding offices, which has made it difficult to get local contacts for scheduling, asking questions, finding a good fit. In addition, many providers are limiting the number of prescriptions they allow due to regulatory constraints.

I share all this for a few reasons:

  • The mission of World Mental Health Day is to make mental health care a reality for all.
  • Talking about the importance of mental health and having access to mental health support is key to creating change.
  • If you’ve tried caregiving in the past and felt disappointed, it’s not you – it’s the system. I hope you continue to seek healing because you deserve it!
  • If you have people with mental health struggles in your life, understand how difficult it can be for them to navigate where to find help, and offer gentle support by researching, calling, and listening to them. Don’t try to fix them, but offering your presence and support is incredibly helpful. And do the motion more than once. Many people with depression feel like a burden, and seeking help may not feel like an option to them.

If you didn’t think you knew someone with a mental health condition, now you do! Let’s work to reduce stigma, encourage and empower people to seek help, and push for greater access to care.

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