The Mental Health Conversation: It’s time
Its time to start talking more about mental health
“But why would someone like Kate Spade, who had everything, take her own life?”
That’s a question I saw on Twitter from multiple people that clearly don’t know how mental illness works. Mental illness and depression do not discriminate against the wealthy or the poor, the beautiful or the not so beautiful. Depression can be almost impossible to see from afar, or even up close. While I personally wouldn’t say I have ever felt a level I would consider depressed, I have struggled with mental health and anxiety in the past and for a long time, I would have trembled at the thought of admitting something like that to my closest friend, much less putting it on the internet.
That’s how important I believe mental health is and it’s time we start having the conversation because nobody is special or different. Whether you are someone that fully understands what I’m talking about or a millennial like me that just started calling it the “Sunday Scaries” so it didn’t sound as terrifying.
How do we start this conversation? In a digital society where “trolling” is considered funny and online bullying is so real, how do we create a safe environment for people to talk about real things they are going through?
My first thought is that we have to better understand what it looks like, but looking at the “symptoms” on Mental Health America doesn’t tell the whole story:
- Confused thinking
- Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
- Feelings of extreme highs and lows
- Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
- Social withdrawal
- Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Strong feelings of anger
- Strange thoughts (delusions)
- Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
- Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
- Suicidal thoughts
- Numerous unexplained physical ailments
- Substance use
These are all signs of depression and mental health risks. This is a fine start but hardly tells the entire story and there are large grey areas. Society has conditioned us to believe that someone that is anxious or depressed will be easy to spot, you know, the type in the movies that sit on the couch, eat ice cream, cry and don’t leave the house for weeks at a time.
But let’s talk about the ones that are hard to spot. The ones that always seem happy and seem to have everything together, the beautiful tortured souls like Kate Spade and many others. The ones that seem to have it all, but are fighting inner demons daily.
I’m not a doctor and can only speak from personal experiences, having dealt with personal anxiety since entering the real world, but I know there are many like me. The type that are great 95% of the time, but at midnight your brain says “Oh shit, what did you forget to do?” or the type that confidently makes a decision, only to question if you’ve made a mistake a day later. The type that knows what they want, then has no clue what they want. The type that understands the crippling feeling in your chest of anxiousness.
It’s hard to talk about things that bother us, but if we don’t talk about these things they get worse. Mental health is an ongoing process with good days and bad days, and if we don’t start talking about the difficult things that we are going through, we will continue to lose great people while wondering what went wrong.
If nothing else, I’m writing this to help encourage more open conversation and to let people know you are not alone. Personally, just writing this and putting it out is therapeutic because talking about my own experiences with anxiety helps me deal with it in a positive way. When I feel anxious, I have started beginning to understand why and thought I would share some tips that help me:
- Drink water/ take a deep breath– Sometimes my anxiety hits me because I’m simply busy and feeling overwhelmed. Anytime I start to get that feeling, I drink 20+ ounces of water. First, it’s healthy to drink water. Second, it will make you take a deep breath from whatever is bothering you.
- Meditation– A lot of my anxiety comes from my brain going in a million directions. I work on my phone/computer and sometimes I feel so overwhelmed that I forget what I needed to do in the first place. Anytime I start feeling mentally “jumbled” I have started meditating. Personally, I love the Headspace app, as the videos and guide help you understand what meditation is and teaches you how your brain processes thoughts. For example, in one video the guide uses the example of a lake rippling as a comparison to your thoughts. Sometimes, the water is calm, other times storms come in (bad thoughts) and it can be hard to see beneath the surface (positive/balance) but if we can learn to accept those thoughts and control the storm, we can return our mind (water) to a calm state. Anyways, the nice man in the Australian accent explains it way better than I can, but it’s remarkable how much better I feel even after just a 5 minute session. My mind feels as ease and it also feels like I just took a 2 hour power nap.
- Yoga– The theme for me here is productivity and mental turn off. Anything that is physically healthy and can rid me of my phone for a short period of time helps me immensely. However, my body has never felt better! As a guy, I was not going to do any slow, boring yoga. My ADD would not allow it. I also knew I wouldn’t be going to any studios so I found Sean Vigue and his 500+ YouTube videos to be exactly what I needed. They move fast, present great challenges and an occasional laugh. Between the twisting, turning and physical exhaustion, it helps me release any negative energy I may be feeling.
- Productivity– My mind tends to wander to not great places when I’m bored and not active. I know there are different levels of anxiety and sometimes it’s not easy to just get up and do something, but personally, even if I just clean my kitchen, go for a run, call a loved one or something simple can change my day.
Again, I’m not a doctor and I’m not suggesting that doing yoga and meditating will help you fix all of your anxiety, but I do think they might help because they helped me. There’s no coaching pitch coming and there’s no simple fix to dealing with day to day anxiety or depression, but it’s time to start the conversation because through acceptance and communication, things CAN get better.
That won’t happen until people feel comfortable talking about it, until we stop laughing at it and start addressing it. This is my open invitation, that if you’re ever going through something and need to vent or talk about something, my DM’s are always open and I hope others will be encouraged to do the same.