By: Shannon Shull
An incredibly loaded question, I know. The idea of mental health is such a weighty subject. But lately it seems it has been forced into the forefront of my complicated life. Whether in the news or close to home, precious people have been so mentally tortured, they’ve taken their own lives. Some of us cannot fathom ever getting to that level, but for others, it is a harsh reality. It is so unfortunate that a person can consider themselves so helpless and hopeless that they would take their own life, but it happens all too often. Even those of us who would not consider ourselves on a tragic life or death level can endure an amazing amount of mental suffering, whether depression, anxiety, insecurity, self-doubt, OCD or fear issues. It’s a tough, complicated part of human nature that we cannot escape.
How you face your mental demons varies from person to person. What works to help me keep a slight grip on sanity might not work for others. We have to find our own individual sanity savers and accept the fact that it’s ok to say, “Yea, I need some help!” Whether that consists of relying on medication, talking things through with a therapist, going for a run, having a long, tear-filled conversation with your Mom or dear friend, attending a powerful church service, watching one of your favorite movies with a tissue box in your lap, singing along with Adele, going out shopping or dancing, or making a date with a bottle of wine, a big plate of pasta and watching your Sex in the City DVD collection. To each her own, I say. Even if you have to commit yourself to an institution, the important thing is that you seek help, understanding and relief from the mental pain.
In my own extremely complicated life lately, I have to admit, I am thankful for amazing therapists, the ability to work my body as I teach Zumba, priceless hugs and kisses from my babies, the support of family, close friends, the love in my life and (yes, I’m showing my age here) my friendship with Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha. Without some of those saving graces in my life, I feel sure that I would’ve gone off the deep end. And who’s to say, I won’t have a couple to a hundred total meltdowns in the near future. But the fortunate thing for me is that when I get so mentally low, I usually have enough sense to seek help. But, in some cases, we don’t have the psychological make-up to know how to ask for help. Or, sometimes we seek help and still feel helpless. So then what? We need to increase awareness about the fact it’s ok to struggle and seek assistance for our mental and emotional issues..
The truth is, we spend a whole lot of time focusing on our physical health, which, don’t get me wrong, is an imperative part of living an all-around healthy life. I’m a huge supporter of physical fitness. However, you could be in top-notch physical shape and if you’re suffering mentally, it won’t matter a hill of beans what you look like, how toned you may be, or how low your cholesterol is. We get our check-ups – our yearly physical, our annual pap, our teeth cleaned every six months, our eyes checked, etc., yet what do we do for a mental check up?
For any of you suffering mentally with a heavy head and heart, please make the effort. Do something, anything, to boost your mental health. Because, here’s the deal – I can guarantee, if you just open yourself up, express your mental anguish and seek guidance and relief, you will very quickly discover that you are not alone. Whatever your mental health challenge and inner life battle may be, it is important to always remember, you are never alone. And it seems cliché, but it’s so true. Though in the moment we may feel like we are the only person who has ever experienced this sort of mental anguish, the inevitable truth is, we are not the only ones. But we have to be willing to open ourselves up and seek help to find that out.
So, in closing my mental health soap box here, I challenge all of you amazing people who might actually be reading this blog entry of mine, to take that positive step to improve your mental health. Add a mental health check up to your to-do list, seriously, do it right now! Consider what you truly need to make sure you never get close to going off the deep end and feeling helpless. Human nature can really kick ya in the pants sometimes, so hit back and show life that you are in control of its craziness and declare to the world, with its imperfectness and complexities, as Gloria Gaynor professes, “I will Survive!”