No one is immune from Mental Health challenges. That’s right, no one. May is Mental Health month and what better time to dismiss the notion that someone is immune from having a mental health flare-up. I know, we all want to deny it; it is not cool to admit any sort of mental health imperfection because we fear judgment.
Why is that?
Why is it perfectly acceptable to say, “I was out with a stomach bug or sinus infection?” “I have a headache” is as common as “It’s a hot day.” Yet, no one wants to admit, “I feel anxious today.” “I’ve been feeling pretty down this week.” “ I feel out of sorts.”
Per The National Alliance Mental Health, 1 in 5 adults in the US experiences mental illness in a given year – and that is “mental illness.” What if we are just having what I like to call a “mental health cold?”
A “mental health cold” is similar to a stuffy nose or upset stomach, when compared to the flu; it’s annoying, and makes us feel uncomfortable, irritable, and slightly reclusive. Those days when it takes far more energy than it should to get out of bed or make a phone call, or I come home and literally don’t want to move. It may be triggered by hormones, circumstances, or something as benign as the weather. It can last a few hours or a day or two; we know when it is here and happy to see it go. Our families and friends are probably pretty happy too!
I don’t believe there is anyone reading this blog who hasn’t felt down, slightly anxious, or uncomfortably irritable. Then why are we so reticent to acknowledge it?
“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.” Brene’ Brown
Research has consistently shown that the happiest people report having a community of trusted friends. True friendship is grounded in authenticity – being real with one another. When we are feeling sad, we need to just own it. If we are anxious going into a social situation, instead of not going, we need to be real and invite someone to go with us. If we are feeling lonely or isolated, call someone! When we share our challenges, we invite others to do the same, fostering authentic relationships that make us all healthier and happier.
As humans, we experience highs, lows, pleasures, and discomforts. When we recognize that mental health is a universal part of who we are, it becomes part of the conversation. Uncomfortable emotions can yield positive outcomes. A healthy amount of stress and anxiety can motivate us to work through the discomfort and find our way out, while normalizing a very human condition.
Most of the time, discomforts or “mental colds” pass with the passage of time, some extra sleep, physical activity, or time with loved ones. When symptoms linger or worsen, and affect our daily lives or long-term goals, we may need professional consultation.
As Mental Health Month draws to a close, let’s commit to seeing our minds as the beautiful, powerful (while unpredictable and imperfect) center of our body, soul, and spirit. Let’s bring Mental Health out of the shadows and into the conversation.
Live well/Be well