Some People Just Don’t Understand (Your Mental Health Struggles)

man sitting with knees up resting closed hands on forehead

They Don’t Understand

Have you every had a conversation with someone who doesn’t even begin to understand mental health issues? I was recently talking with a close relative about a mutual relative who suffers from depression periodically. She says that there are only 3 things to consider: “We either live in the past, the present or the future. When we focus on anything other than the present, it can cause anxiety or depression and one just has to stay in the present and they’ll be fine.” Sounds simple, right?

While there is some validity to that point, but she just doesn’t understand that mental health struggles are not simply a will of the mind. Often times, there are physical or emotional issues causing them. A hormone imbalance, chemical imbalance or a history of trauma. Her statement basically dismissed the reality of the struggle. Ugh. She is not someone who is open to understanding things she doesn’t know about, so I chose not to engage further in the conversation. For my own mental health!

With that being said, I am happy for her that she has never had to deal with the heavy weight of either depression or anxiety. In the past couple of years, talking with others who haven’t suffered, I have found that many of them just don’t understand. I don’t blame them, as it is something that is hard to fully comprehend or let alone truly explain to others.

What To Do? Where To Turn?

Don’t get angry with those who don’t “get” what you are going through. In the same way you may not “get” the struggles of someone going through cancer treatments or diabetic issues, others may not understand your trials.
Because of the disconnect at times, I think it is important that those of us who deal with depression or anxiety find someone who can relate or at the very least, empathize. There is nothing more difficult than to be dealing with a mental health issue and feel like no one understands or cares about what you are going through. What can you do?

  • Find a therapist to talk to.
  • Friends or family who are sympathetic.
  • Seek out websites, blogs, social media. There is a huge community of those dealing with mental health challenges and it is amazing the support you can find there.

The bottom line is we ALL have stuff we are going through. Most of us have no idea what the other person is dealing with. Find support where you can and choose to be kind to one another.

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Mind Games: Anxiety and Panic Attacks…How to Deal With Them

Mind Games

As some of you may know, I have suffered from anxiety attacks. I also have family members that suffer with them. Let me tell you, they suck. Anxiety and Panic in general is no fun.  It is nothing but a thief. It steals joy and peace and no one should have to deal with them.

But the reality is that many of us do. They manifest themselves differently for most of us. And we all have individual things that trigger them. For some, the attacks are mild  for some extremely debilitating. They have your mind (and body) feeling things that make you think you are dying or are going crazy. They can be all consuming. Even after one is over, the fear of when the next one will come is always looming.

 

Hope

There is hope, however. There are numerous ways to help prevent, tame or stop them. Various things we can do to help. Some may work for me and not for you. And vice versa. Unfortunately there is not a one-stop shop fix-it remedy. How I wish there were!  We literally have to try a variety of methods or treatments to find what works best for each of us. It is a journey, but hold on. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

 

How to Deal with Them

I don’t know all the stats for anxiety levels today as compared to say, just 25 years ago. But from what I can tell just in my own little neck of the woods, I know numerous people who deal with anxiety and many who also suffer from attacks. Think about it. While we have everything at our fingertips with all this amazing technology and convenience, we have become screen addicts, socially isolated, less active and more worried. The state of the world is reported instantaneously. The media thrives on chaos and we are witnesses to it daily.  The stresses of jobs, families, bills, health, school, social life…all of it can wear us down.

If you are someone who struggles with anxiety/panic I encourage you to think about yourself as a whole. Not just as your thoughts. But your physical body, you mind and your soul. We are humans and need to learn to take care of ALL parts of ourselves. Some of us just focus on one aspect. I am guilty of that myself.

What if we could really develop a plan to take care of our whole-selves what would that look like? Let’s start with The Body.  Are you someone who spends a lot of time and thought caring for your body? Do you eat healthy, exercise, see your doctor regularly? Or do you eat whatever you can get your hands on and sit in a chair the majority of the day? (I am guilty!)  If so, that needs to change.

I have learned over the last few years how the foods we eat and the exercises we do can have a huge impact on our mental wellness.

A few foods I know for sure are to be avoided for anxiety are:

  • Caffeine (opt for decaf instead)
  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • Foods High in Sugar
  • Sodas (reg or diet)
  • Energy Drinks
  • Alcohol

A few foods to help relieve anxiety (and depression) are :

  • Foods high in Omega-3 (salmon, spinach, canola oil) You can also take a Omega-3 supplement.
  • Almonds, Walnuts
  • Eggs ( also high in Vitamin D)
  • Dark Chocolate (for the anti-oxidants)
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Green Tea (preferably decaf)
  • Yogurt (probiotics)
  • Fresh fruits and veggies (almost all of them provide benefits for various vitamins that counter act anxiety and depression)

While these lists are not exhaustive, it is a starting point.  Anything with high sugar, artificial sweeteners or caffeine are definitely things to avoid to help keep your anxiety at a minimum.

As far as exercise, any physical activity that gets the blood pumping releases serotonin and dopamine in our brains and that can help to regulate moods.  YOGA is a well known stress relieving exercise that incorporates mind and body. It can help to ease your stress and help you to feel better all over. It includes helping you focus on the present and to be mindful of your physical body.

 

The Mind

We touched on the mind a bit while mentioning yoga, so let’s go there.  You may think, What can I do about my mind? I can’t control it?  While we can’t always control where our mind may drift to, we can redirect it and we can do our best to avoid filling it with garbage. Sometimes all the garbage we see and hear that has filled up our memory banks can trigger our minds to literally play tricks on us. Causing us to become anxious, when our rational self knows there is no actual threat. Our fight or flight response going into affect at the wrong time is basically what anxiety or panic attacks are.

While we can’t always avoid negative things from happening to us, we do have control (for the most part) over what we allow into your minds, via our eyes or ears.  Remember this phrase, Guard Your Mind. This is a mantra of mine. I have to repeat it to myself sometimes. We often think very nonchalantly about the things we watch on TV, see online, read on social media, listen to or watch on YouTube.

I imagine we all have varying degrees of what we would consider good or bad for our minds but think about the things you have seen or read lately. Distressing news reports about a kidnapping, hearing about a murder or a car crash. Seeing a click bait ad on Facebook about some horrible event. While we can’t simply ignore all the atrocities going on in the world, we shouldn’t be fueling our mind with those over and over again. Sometimes we actually do need to take a break from it all. Simply for our own mental well-being.  That is part of self-care.

So what do we do as part of the self-care for our mind? Feed your mind with positive things. Uplifting or funny videos, music, movies, books, blogs, etc.  Look to various places to seek out the good in the world.  Surround yourself with people who are uplifting. Avoid (if possible) people who are negative, pessimistic or who simply complain all the time. And don’t be a complainer your self. Practice positive self-talk. Chose to see the good in even the most challenging situations.

Don’t forget seeking help from medical professionals, family doctor, therapist, counselors, etc.  Maybe medication will help, maybe therapy or both. They often times can be utilized together for a great treatment option. This is all part of caring for your mind. I know often times we can be afraid of seeking medical/therapy treatments, not knowing what to expect or worrying about the stigma that it sometimes holds. But be brave and do what is best for you and your well being.

 

The Soul

I often wonder if this isn’t the most important part of the equation.  Our soul is truly the essence of who we are.  This entails our emotions, our connections with others and with God.  We can feed our soul by doing things that are enjoyable and calming to us.

  • Spend time talking with a friend and sharing. Open up your heart.
  • Pray. Connect or Reconnect with God. I don’t know what that will look like for you. Perhaps it means being in nature. Seeing a sunset and actually stopping to enjoy it’s beauty.
  • Grow a garden and enjoy the wonder of nurturing growing plants.
  • Going to church. Read your bible.
  • Find a charity in the community where you can help out. Giving to others is an amazing way to not only help people but it has a huge impact on your own sense of well-being.
  • Find ways to be a blessing to others. Seek out things you can actively do to make someone’s day better. Whoever that might be…a family member, a friend, a stranger.
  • Give yourself permission to be you. Act silly, sing off tune at the top of your lungs, have a dance party in your living room (alone or with a friend), try out a new recipe.
  • If you feel adventurous, travel to a new place. Doesn’t’ have to be far from home, but somewhere you haven’t been before and take it all in. Really be in the moment and look around.
  • Find 5 things each day to be thankful for. Keep a list daily and reread before bed.
  • Be kind to you. Forgive yourself when you mess up or don’t live up to your own expectations.

There will be days that are great. There will be days that are awful. When things aren’t going well emotionally remind yourself that you have gotten through this before and you will again. Make a promise to yourself that you will care for yourself as a whole. Body, Mind and Soul.

I pray for peace for you today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mental Health: A Crisis of Financial Proportions?

About Our Mental Health

Mental Health is a Hot Topic these days. More and more people are coming out and talking about their journeys with varying mental health issues. From depression and anxiety to bipolar and panic attacks, just to name a few.  While I am so grateful for the many public figures that are helping to destigmatize these issues, I feel there is so much more that needs to be done.  We often hear people say, “Seek help if you need it.” And at this point in time more people are recognizing that, yeah, perhaps I do have an issue and I really need to get some help.

Then a hurdle is placed in front of them. Where do we go to get help and how in the world do we to pay for it?  Most people start with their primary care doctor if they feel something isn’t quite right. If the scope of the person’s mental health issue is perhaps out of the doctor’s range, they will refer the patient to someone more specialized. A therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.  Usually with these visits come costs. Unless you qualify for medicaid (because of low income, etc) you are likely to have a co-pay at the very least or a “no co-pay until your exuberant deductible is met” policy.  Typically you meet with a therapist a couple times a month. Maybe more, maybe less depending on your situation. So while you are trying your best to muster up the courage to even meet with this therapist or doctor, in the forefront of your mind you are stressing about how you are going to pay for it.

 

Getting Help Isn’t Always So Easy

Figuring out how to pay the bill, may cause some to abandon getting help at all.  My insurance for example, has a $4000 deductible. Which means I must incur $4000 worth of medical expenses before my insurance will cover most anything.  So that means if I want to see a therapist or psychiatrist, I’ll have to pay their fee upfront, anywhere from $90 to $120, which is typical in my area.  I may be able to swing that for a one time visit, but that isn’t usually how it works. I’d likely have to see them at least once a month.  And let’s say I need meds as well. Insurance may cover cost of some, but not always the case.

So what are we to do? We tell people with mental health issues to get help. But if they have no insurance or a high deductible insurance, how are they getting help if they don’t have the funds to pay for it? I think one way we can help our society as a whole is to figure out a way to pay for people to get the help they need, without being stigmatized. We would all benefit if those who needed help would have easy access to healthcare professionals without the fear or anxiety of how to pay the bill.

I urge all of us to lead the charge and encourage lawmakers to create some sort of universal policy for mental health coverage and access to local providers.  This issue not only affects us individually, but as a collective society. I think we are worth it.

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Adventurous? Who Me?

repost

No one who knows me would call me adventurous.  I have usually lived my life pretty safe.   I am not one who likes to try new things such as kayaking, zip-lining or even driving down a road I am not familiar with.  I think a part of me has always been that way, but in recent years, my living “close to the vest” as the old saying goes, is more prevalent.  I am not sure when I started to feel less in the mood to take a risk.  Don’t get me wrong, I have taken risks in my life and things have often gone well. But there are certain times I am extremely hesitant.  My recent struggles with anxiety have exacerbated this.

Where am I now?

I am at a point in my life now where I don’t want to live fearful anymore. I want to be more spontaneous and adventurous, fearless. I owe it to my husband, my family and most of all to myself. Looking back at my life I can see areas where I was willing to take a risk and areas where I definitely was not. It helps me at this stage to realize I have taken risks before and I can do it again. Even take new risks!

One example of a risk I took was agreeing to move out of state, away from family and begin a new life together with my husband.  I had barely traveled out of state let alone LIVED in another state.  At that time in my life, I was willing to do so.  We had a young child back then and our work options were limited. We needed a change. So we made the move. We did have one family member who lived in our new area. That did help put me at ease some.  As it turned out, this was the best move we could have made. We have been in Virginia for over 20 years now and definitely call it home.

Being somewhat shy and lacking self-confidence I often felt unsure of the choices I made.  I was nervous to step out of my comfort zone, but I now realize it was those very uncomfortable things that helped me grow professionally as well as personally. The growth allowed me to have enough confidence and faith to start my own very small business as well as a blog several years ago.

While I did have emotional setbacks, I feel that am on the other side of that now. I can see how God can use our struggles and our pain to first, strengthen our relationship with Him and second, to allow us to have greater compassion for others and use our experiences to help them carry on.

Moving Forward

I know I have missed out on things in my life because of my lack of “risk” taking and I don’t want to live that way anymore. Part of the reason for this blog in the first place is to help me and hopefully help you to live life to the fullest. To live fearlessly. I don’t mean live stupidly. But to be able to live a life that is unafraid. A big inspiration for this new perspective is the song, Fearless by Jasmine Murray.

I say that I trust that God has got my back, but am I living that out? I hope so. Maybe one day people will say that I am adventurous. Fearless, even.

 

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What To Do When Fear Strikes

 

Have you ever been suddenly flooded with fear? I have many times. Today, in fact. Do you get a sense of overwhelming dread or panic? That is the typical response for many.  It can cause you to think of nothing else. Drive your day into a ditch. So what do we do when fear strikes?

I find myself so wrapped up in the fear, like a blanket, that I actually need someway to remove it. To throw it off. At times, doing research, or writing lists in reference to what is causing me fear or anxiety can help. Or working out a written plan for handling the situation. Sometimes this can work.

But there are often circumstances where we can’t work it out ourselves. No amount of figuring or working will help this situation.  It is then, when we must realize WE are not in control of…well, much of anything. As hard as we may try or as much as we may think.

Though my rational self realizes this, when I am in a state of panic or fear, my irrational self doesn’t get it.  I have to force myself to take a breath. My mind can get my body in such a tense state that I forget to breathe.  I need to remind myself that God will work it out. Even if it doesn’t go the way I hoped, HE is there right beside me to help me get through it.

When fear strikes. Take a time out. Take a few long deep breathes. Figure out if this IS something you can deal with and make okay, or if it is completely out of your control.  If it’s the first, then perhaps the writing down, list making, researching thing is a good option. If it’s the latter, you need to LET IT GO. Really. Give it over to God. Make a declaration out loud that you know, this is beyond your abilities and that you willingly hand over your troubles to Him as He has instructed us to do.

Matthew 11: 28-30.  28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

When fear strikes and lays itself upon you like a heavy blanket, take a deep breath and stretch out your arms and toss it off of you.  Jesus will take it from there.

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