The first week in October is Mental Illness Awareness Week. I first found out about it last year when I was diagnosed with depression. It’s been a year since I’ve written about those times (!), and even though I think it’s important to talk about it WHENEVER, I wanted to use today’s thinking out loud post to highlight it during this dedicated week.
In case you’re new or missed my journey last year, here are a couple posts dealing with it specifically:
- Mental Illness Awareness Week
- There’s Always a Reason, But It May Not Be What You Think
- The Positive Side of Depression
- 10 Changes After I Started Antidepressant Medication
Today’s post is a little different and is one that has been sitting in my drafts for some time. It seemed appropriate to pull it up and finish it this week, so I wanted to take some time and talk about why my mental health is just as important as my physical health.
For me, I consider four types of health when I think about living a well-balanced life. There’s my emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical health — all of which are important for me to take care of lest I implode and am of no good to anyone.
When people hear the word “health,” more often than not the implication is physical. In making amends for the way I treated my body in the past, I show it respect by getting regular checkups, dentist visits, etc. I eat healthy a majority of the time and make sure that I don’t deny myself delicious foods too often since that could trigger me into a pattern of disordered eating again. I exercise. All of these things are important to me and I make sure to place them high on my list of priorities.
Before all of that, however, I need to make sure my mental health is in check.
If I am depressed, I can’t make those doctors appointments.
If I am anxious, I tend to eat either larger quantities of food or less healthy foods as a way of coping with that anxiety.
If my mental health is suffering, I’ll start to think that EXERCISE WILL MAKE ME FEEL BETTER and then possibly do it to excess (with little emotional effect or an injury).
It’s tougher to focus on your mental health. There are no objective numbers to examine such as blood pressure, weight, etc. Will therapy alone help or might you need a combination of therapy and medication? If you require medication, which medication? How long will it take to tell if it’s working? Do you need more than one type?
Assessing your mental health is often a personal responsibility that requires self-awareness and introspection, two things that many people are either too busy or too afraid of. There are no “annual therapy checkups” to figure out how healthy your mental state is.
As mental illness still carries somewhat of a stigma, albeit less than in past years, we also might not readily jump to something being off in that arena. “Maybe I just need to eat better.” “Maybe it’s the change of the seasons.” “Maybe it’s that time of the month (for us ladies).” The first thought may not be “maybe I’m depressed” or “maybe my anxiety is more serious than I thought.” We try to deal. We try to push on. And that’s a tough thing to do.
The first thing I do whenever I start to feel like those four types of health are out of balance is to check in with myself. What’s going on? Which one is out of balance? What steps do I need to take to get everything in line again?
I didn’t focus on my mental health for a long time, but that’s because I didn’t realize that I needed to. I didn’t understand that I needed external help and that the ways I was feeling weren’t serving me productively (I hesitate to use the word “normal”). Now that I’m aware that I suffer from depression and anxiety, I know I need to check in with myself on a regular basis. Without me being as healthy as I can in that area, every other area starts to fall apart.
I look at it as a responsibility to myself first and foremost, but also my husband, my family, my clients, my coworkers, and my readers. It’s important to take care of every part of yourself in order to find the balance and the love we all deserve.
Take a little time today to check in with yourself. See how you’re feeling. If you’ve been struggling, reach out for help. It’s not always easy, but it just might save your life. 🙂
Photo Credit: Alexandria Heidner
- How do you check in with yourself?
- How can you do better about examining your mental health?