Today, October 10th, is recognized as World Mental Health Day. For many, mental health remains a taboo topic. It is something that “other people” have, but definitely not you. For all of you out there who seem to feel “off” but aren’t sure of what that means or how to explain that to others, ask yourself first, do you even understand it? Do you feel sad, fearful or worried but you are unable to confidently say, “I have *insert diagnosis here*”? Do you have parents, grandparents, siblings, aunt, uncles, or cousins that are diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or bipolar, but you are adamant that is definitely not you?
Mental health is scary. At least it is made out to be terrifying. Often times I discuss with my clients their ability to discuss medical diagnoses with family and friends. How quick would you be to share with your best friends or your parents that you were diagnosed with cancer? What about telling your spouse you have diabetes? High blood pressure? High cholesterol? Many would answer quickly with, “well of course I would tell them, they care about me and would want to be there for me.” So then I pose the question that I am sure you all can guess, “then why can you not say you struggle with anxiety, depression, or any other diagnosis?” It is a fairly simple question when posed in that context and it causes one to consider the guilt and shame behind their mental health.
The only way mental health can begin to be a normal part of the conversation is if it becomes a normal part of the conversation. What would our world look like today if we discussed our mental health symptoms as easily as we do our medical ones at a primary care doctor check up? What is the shame and guilt that you carrying? Is it self-imposed or has it been engrained in you from your parents or grandparents? Mental health does not need to continue to be as taboo as it is, but the change begins with you own language about yourself.
You can admit what you are struggling through. You do not have to keep it inside. The more you talk about it, the less scary it becomes, the less power it has, and the more you are able to see your own strength. Most importantly, do not be afraid of yourself. What you admit may be scary at first, but facing it offers so much more than you can imagine.
Steps you can take to own your mental health:
1. Write a letter to yourself from your future self, owning your diagnosis with confidence.
2. Write a letter to your best friend as if they just shared their own mental health with you, now read it back as if you are speaking to yourself.
3.Practice saying your diagnosis out loud multiple times in a row; each time it has less power.
4. Write your diagnosis on a piece of paper, now burn it.
5. Google celebrities living with your diagnosis. Use caution with those who have taken their own life; suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
6. Seek mental health treatment from a local professional, the results will be liberating.
Happy World Mental Health Day