“Observe gently without judgement”
“You day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn.”
May is full of so many things, so many changes, and it marks the beginning of summer. There is one important thing I would like to particularly acknowledge about the month of May (and no, it is not the fact that my mother’s birthday is in the month of May, though that is important to remember), and that is that it is mental health awareness month! THIS IS A SUPER IMPORTANT AND PRECIOUS MONTH TO ME, AS WE DISCUSS AND BECOME AWARE OF ONE OF MY BIGGEST PASSIONS. Mental health is an incredibly important aspect of many individual’s lives, even those who do not know it, so now I am here to celebrate and acknowledge it all.
My homage to mental health awareness month will begin by encouraging everyone and anyone to seek therapy and help, even if it does not seem necessary. In addition to seeking therapeutic help, to please take care of the state of your mental well-being. I also encourage as many individuals that I can to go get yourself diagnosed and seek help – it may be more useful than you think. You also may need it more than you think, as our daily stressors take huge tolls on us and can sometimes become overwhelming.
I am finally relieved to see society beginning to acknowledge the importance of mental health, and by dedicating a full month towards mental health, it allows us to speak up about and acknowledge the mental health crisis that is flooding our society to this day. I truly hope that one day mental health issues will be in the forefront of controversial discussions and will not be seen as a stigma, rather a unique way that a human operates during daily life.
Our mental health affects us more than we know – it affects the way we live, the way we build relationships, the way we learn, the way we think, etc. Many aspects of our lives are directly affected by our state of mental health. Lack of treatment of our mental health can lead to severe lifelong issues, and may cause further problems and hardships for oneself down the line. If mental health affects our daily lives, why wouldn’t it be considered a more monumental issue?
Personally, getting diagnosed, receiving treatment and medication, and attending therapy have all helped me effectively work on issues I personally struggled with, and am still struggling with today. However, finally getting a proper diagnoses from a professional doctor was the best day of my life. Just when I thought things could not possibly ever fall back in place, receiving a proper diagnosis actually made life seemingly a bit easier and a little less stressful. Do not be afraid by the diagnosis or diagnoses you receive, as they are just labels, or names, for certain behaviors or issues that you may be experiencing internally and externally. Just like we name our cars, pets, and stuffed animals, diagnoses are just labels to help categorize the type of problems you are experiencing. While there are stigmas attached to each and every diagnosis, how you choose to take these labels is up to you. I would choose to take them not personally, and somehow learn to celebrate them. I swear the days go by much faster when I am not dwelling on the fact that I am stigmatized to be an “insane psychofreak.” These labels are simply, once again, are just labels to help identify what you are living with. They are nothing more, and they are nothing less.
Therapy also has become a place for me to safely express my emotions and feelings, something that I barely do, and it was a place where I could be honest with someone. I am able to work through my hardships with someone, and knowing that you have that kind of support truly helps bring a sense of stability in your life. I am very lucky, however, to be able to access treatment and medications, but it is not to say that it has not been a struggle finding the correct team of doctors to assist me through life.
Do not get it twisted, therapy is not a place to get fixed, IT IS A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN GET BETTER AND IMPROVE. I had this attitude towards therapy, viewing it as a place I had to attend in order to be fixed. This confused me, because despite my flaws, I did not think I needed to get fixed. But, NOPE! That is not the point of therapy, I swear. If you are seeing a therapist or psychiatrist who ever tells you that you need to be fixed or that the medications will fix you, switch as soon as possible. The stigma behind therapy and seeking help is that you are attending it in order to fix all your problems, but that is also impossible. Therapy can do a lot for you, and with your general well-being and happiness, but it cannot fix you.
One of the greatest things I have experienced through treatment is that I have been able to source and recall times in my life when I did not feel very stable. I soon would begin engaging in detrimental behaviors habitually as a result of my instability, not knowing how to handle life stressors healthily, the biochemical makeup of my own brain, and a lack of behavioral structure, among many things. These behaviors often would discourage me from living out my daily tasks and obligations the way I wanted to, and almost stopped me from truly living my life to the fullest. For many years, or really as far back as I can remember, I could never break the cycle of these behavioral issues, as they soon became a habitual practice of mine. Not to mention, they caused me to live an unclean, self-destructive, unhealthy life, which resulted in FAR MORE problems and issues of my own that I never thought I would or could ever come across. I remember always knowing that how self-destructive I was, especially when things were going well for me. I remember always thinking about I needed to celebrate and f**k s**t up, after doing well and behaving myself for a few months. My parents even began noticing that as soon as I took three steps forward, I would immediately take five steps back. Leaving my relationship with my parents, close friends, etc. at a real standstill. As a result, it made my life extremely difficult to manage, and it was completely unclear how much longer I could engage in the self-destructive behavioral cycle. Now, I know there is behavioral therapy and counseling for engaging in these impulsive behaviors. Though I meant well, my behaviors most certainly would not show it. I struggle especially with a constant need for immediate satisfaction of my ego, so let’s just say I love to have fun doing whatever it is that I am doing. At a young age, I began satisfying my ego with alternative substances that quickly made having fun easy. At some points, I just craved something to do or “the next thing” (party, hang out, concert, movie, etc.). A lot of my bad habits came out of boredom and an inability to realize how much my boredom was truly taking a toll on me. For me, these alternative substances helped numbed the stresses of the ambiguity of life, as well as my constant need to be “perfect.” All these small “issues” turned out to be bigger problems, as I went undiagnosed, untreated, and the issues were ignored. I knew, at this point, what I was dealing with was more than one mental health disorder.
Engaging in detrimental, impulsive behaviors is a symptom of many psychological disorders and will lead to a worldwind of problems, drama, and stress. In a recent study, social psychologists conducted experiments directly correlating crime to low serotonin levels. The results of the experiment insinuated that individuals who commit the worst of crimes, such as murderers, serial killers, etc. have concerningly low serotonin levels. These low serotonin levels directly disrupts cognitive decision making skills, your mood, your social behaviors, sleep habits, among many other health and behavioral issues. This lead social psychologists to assume that the state of a criminal’s mental health is somehow correlated to levels and severity of crime. Or simply stated, mental health can be directly correlated to destructive behavioral patterns and criminal behavior, whether you are a murderer, drug kingpin, drug addict, or simply just someone who steals. Criminals often have underlying issues, resulting in resentment, animosity, and overwhelming pain that leads them to often act like this. However, this is never taken into consideration. If society were to take another study on unlawful behavior, I believe they would find that mental stability and health plays a monumental role on the destructive actions, unlawful or lawful, that criminals engage in. Other factors, such as environment, your personal experiences, and the decisions you make in life also affect the levels of serotonin in your brain.
Now, I am not saying that the crime rates worldwide would just completely dissipate if everyone received treatment, rather just insinuating that impulsive, sometimes amoral, criminal behavior could be as a result of an underlying, more serious issue. In a perfect world, criminals would have access to medication, therapy, behavioral intensive therapy courses, and help. Instead, the world once again stigmatizes criminals, considering them incapable, leading them to engage in the same self-destructive, sometimes unlawful behaviors that they were locked in for. Therapy and behavioral intensive therapy courses truly helped me break the cycle, and I hope that some day, even criminals, will have the opportunity to receive help, re-learn new healthy behaviors, and ultimately feel better about themselves.
While psychology is a relatively new practice, and there is still so much to be researched, many doors for further research and different specific practices have slowly become more accessible. Therapies, such as art therapy, experimental therapy, and psychotherapy have become valid options for treatment. Similarly, our society has begun further researching the use of MDMA, LSD, and marijuana in psychological practices on patients suffering from mental health problems.The problem with society is not the lack of information on psychological matters, as we as a society have great access to incredible amounts of psychological information, but it is the societal views, expectations, and stigmas surrounding mental health disorders. Instead of viewing mental health issues as a normal health issue, we have begun stigmatizing all psychiatric disorders as a crippling disease. It is almost as if they have stigmatized it to be as crippling as cancer. Personally, it almost seems as if society is afraid of mental health patients, as a result of our extensive of knowledge. In the United States, however, we have so much access to psychological knowledge, and have encountered it so many times that it almost seems silly that we have not become a more accepting society towards mental health patients.
This way of stigmatized thinking towards psychological disorders is something that our modern day society needs to steer away from, as we should slowly, or QUICKLY, begin accepting the heavy impact and the heavy presence of mental health issues within our own society. In addition to stigmatizing mental health, society also has stigmatized the individuals struggling with these diagnoses, often implying that they are incapable of success. This is far from true, as many of our brightest individuals struggle with some of the most impacting mental illnesses. It is quite confusing to me that an individual, who has been professionally diagnosed and is seeking treatment, should be considered disabled, and furthermore impaired. A health issue should never be allowed to be used against you, especially in a society where we are supposed to love, care, and celebrate our differences. Those battling mental health problems are simply not disabled, and enforcing that debilitating, degrading mentality around is simply not okay. This only leads to putting fear in individuals heart’s, making even the most brave and courageous fearful to find out their fate, with the potential to seek long-term help.
My experience receiving help was humbling, frustrating, embarrassing, fearful irritating, and full of emotions for me, as I received my diagnoses for the first time. I LITERALLY FELT EMBARRASSED AND SCARED TO GET MY OWN PSYCHOLOGICAL DIAGNOSES. I felt this way simply because of the need to feel “wanted,” “accepted,” and “normal.” Whatever these words mean. MY ONE QUESTION TO SOCIETY IS WHY SHOULD ANYONE EVER FEEL EMBARRASSED, ASHAMED OR FEARFUL TO BE RECEIVING HELP? DON’T WE PROMOTE THE IDEA OF SEEKING HELP WHEN NEEDED? Truly, no one should ever feel like this, unfortunately society does the opposite.
All members of our society, even those battling mental illness, should be accepted by individuals, however, that is not the case. I have noticed, with my own experiences, that people often get scared or steer away from you even upon talking about mental health problems just in general. I found out the hard way that therefore people felt even more uncomfortable around me once I was diagnosed and was open with them about it. It is truly surprising how many people are shocked that I am diagnosed with seven psychiatric evaluations, but more shocking is the fact that most people cannot even tell that I struggle with these things. Yes, I had to find out the hard way that I not only had six types of ADD, but I also had ADHD, four types of PTSD, severe OCD, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, severe social anxiety, and naturally, I have serious phobias. Not going to say I was not pleased with the fact that I had every anxiety disorder, plus ADD and ADHD, however, these are the cards life has given me. And, I would not have it any other way.
Sometimes I laugh, because each of my psychiatric diagnoses contradict each other, making it hard for me to cry for very long, be bored, or be unhappy. And, sometimes I cry because I have been fired from four jobs the last year, and because I cannot seem to sit down and submit an essay or complete a quiz, just because I procrastinate and have a fear that what I turn in will not be perfect. I swear I could sit and write multiple variations of an essay, and never end up turning it in out of straight fear that it will not be perfect, and as a result, I will not be perfect. It absolutely drives me insane. Some days, I truly enjoy cleaning, organizing, and reorganizing my entire room for no reason. And, other days, I get frustrated that I cannot leave my house, due to my overwhelming anxiety. For what it is worth though, my OCD is so bad that I do the same thing, basically at the same time, every day. So, it is incredibly hard for me not to be doing the same thing every day – I HATE CHANGE AND BREAKING MY ROUTINE. This makes it even harder sometimes to hang out with friends, especially if I have been hanging out with myself for a few days now. MY WHOLE SCHEDULE IMMEDIATELY BECOMES WAY MORE STRESSFUL. A great thing about my OCD though is that since I’ve picked up blogging as a habit, it’s become a habitual way for me to start every one of my mornings. And, just to restore some fate into humanity, even during my worst panic attacks, some of which can last up to 20+ hours, as a result of my anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ect. being triggered, I seem to somehow manage to work through my shifts, go to class, take tests, engage socially, and be a human. Even when I am profusely shaking, or crying, or sweating, or hypervigilant, or antsy, or my heart is profusely beating out of my chest, I can seem to manage a smile and to handle life as gracefully as possible. So, for what it is worth, it is possible to succeed. The world will always be your oyster if you let it be, even if you have been inflicted by mental illnesses.
Finding out how uncomfortable I made people feel sometimes and how uncomfortable psychological illness made people was a little bit unsettling for me, as I began wondering how on Earth anyone else was going to be able to be able to get through this uncomfortable, semi-humiliating process. I tried for months to not make people feel uncomfortable around me, but then after a while I broke down, and just decided to let me be me and talk about my mental health issues if I so pleased.
All these thoughts and emotions are okay and relatively normal, unfortunately. Do not fret though, it took me 21 years to finally get the courage to help myself out a little more in life. So, if you are feeling hesitant and/or dismissive towards the idea, trust me – I have been there. Most of my life, especially with societal stigmas, and the cultural background I grew up in, I dismissed ever receiving therapy and proper treatment, considering myself a “normal” human being. No one wants to be labeled “disabled,” “incapable,” or “impaired” for that matter and you never want to feel less than anyone else. These are all normal feelings that you may feel if you ever decide to reach out for help, but do not let these negative thoughts cloud your spirit. Understand that psychological health issues are much, much bigger than the stigmas associated with them. ALSO, NOT GOING TO LIE, IT FEELS GREAT TO BE ABLE TO LIVE, BE HUMAN, KICK LIFE’S ASS, AND PROVE EVERY PERSON AND EVERY STIGMA THAT THEY ARE WRONG FOR NOT BELIEVING IN YOU, DESPITE BEING CATEGORIZED AS DISABLED.
As a global community we should view our mental health patients as warriors, not victims. Each and every day, us warriors live, we are breaking down the walls and barriers that encompass modern day mental health issues. Not one of us is any braver or more courageous than one another, just simply living through and pushing through the pain, and uncertainty is a monumental act. Never forget that.
I beg you this summer, or whenever you come across this, to either research and study about psychological disorders, or maybe even seek therapy, especially if you have been struggling. Most individuals do not know that many psychological disorders become apparent, during an individuals young adult life. Whether it be seeking therapy, medication, or both, I believe that mental health should be held to a higher value in our society, as it is often ignored, stigmatized, and set aside as a minuscule matter. Let me ask you: if your friend was truly bothering you every day, would you ignore the matter completely and turn a blind eye towards them? Maybe even consider them disabled? I did not think so, and I sure do not hope you think that way. Such close-minded thinking does not allow our society to grow, to adapt, and to most importantly, become a better, loving, coexisting society.
In another perfect world, our society, and even the worldwide population, would make all health issues, including mental health issues, the utmost priority, as it continues to resurface all over our world. Additionally, every single human being would be able to seek and have access to resources for help, including receiving medication, long-term treatment, and a professional diagnosis. And, of course, money would not be an issue, as mental health should be completely covered by health insurance companies. I would even go as far as to say that everyone would be medicated each on a unique medication regiment specifically molded to the needs of every individual and their unique biochemical makeup of their brain.
The unique biochemical makeup of your brain is something you should be proud of, and something you should be happy about. Never forget to remind yourself that getting a professional diagnosis is not something you should be ashamed of, feel held back by, or something that should be ignored or silenced. When a health issue is ignored and silenced, that is when the health issues exasperate – that is something that I had to learn the hard way.
Do not be silenced by the stigmas of our society, and feel free to always openly speak out about your own personal experience with mental health 🙂 Silence and ignorance is best combatted with knowledge and your words.
Before the month of May ends, I deeply encourage you to take a look at the world of psychology, including the role its’ presence plays in our society, and the way that it directly affects people. Research and study about issues you may be struggling with and stay aware about current HEALTH ISSUES. MENTAL HEALTH IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS PHYSICAL HEALTH, AS WELL.
If you are truly feeling courageous, or feel like you need a helping hand, I also encourage you to join me in my fight to bring awareness to mental health issues, as we learn to celebrate and embrace our inner demons!
P.S. Please never hesitate to comment or share your own personal experiences and battles with mental health ❤ I would love to hear your own unique stories and your own personal experiences, as they all need to be heard! All of you fighters out there inspire me!
“Peace begins with a smile.”