Most people, at some point or another, become aware that their actions play a very important part in their physical health, we know for instance that in order to keep our body in good health we need to eat healthy foods, we also know that our body needs exercise to be in good shape, and we know that self destructing habits like smoking and drinking (let alone drugs) are detrimental to our body.
However, there is very little awareness out there about how to take care of our mental health, and this is just as important as our physical health if not more! Most people may think that unless they have been diagnosed with some sort of mental illness, they don’t need to pay special attention to their mental health. This is not true at all!
Being mentally healthy doesn’t simply mean been “sane” it is much broader than that, it means enjoying an overall state of well being. Our mind is, to a great extent, responsible for our overall well being. The fact that the majority of people are able to function well in society, does not mean they are in perfect mental health, the truth is, we all have some areas in our psyche that could use improvement.
It wasn’t until recently that this awareness became more widespread and that people started to look inwards, trying to understand the workings of their mind and even seeking help if needed, without it being taboo or shameful, but there is still a long way to go.
Aside from serious mental disorders, that are rare and more complex, there are many personality or behavior disorders that are quite common and affect people’s lives in many ways. If we struggle with relationships, with our eating, with the way we see our bodies, with stress, with insecurities, with addictions, etc. chances are, there is room for improvement. The way our psyche works determines the way we relate to other people, the way we relate to food, the way we perform our work, the way we treat our body, in other words: our psyche determines the way we live, and the quality of our life.
Just as we clean our bodies, brush our teeth and comb our hair, we need to work on our mental cleanup. Most people don’t openly talk about their mental / emotional challenges, but there is an alarming increase in the number of people that take medication for depression, anxiety, ADD, etc. and then there are the many more that are not treated but still suffer from the consequences of mood disorders, lingering sadness, loss of purpose, constant anger, etc.
Although in some cases it is important to use medication, especially in the more severe cases of mental illnesses, in the milder, most common cases of personality disorders or mental/emotional challenges, medication is rarely needed, however, there is a real need for personal commitment to healing, and the problem is, most people don’t even know they have a problem, or if the do, they deny it or they think it will go away on its own, or they try to “numb” it by using escaping mechanisms (like alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc.) which is a problem in and of itself.
When I was 20 I suffered from my first depression, although at the time I had no idea what was happening, I just felt really sad and was loosing interest for the things that used to excite me. I was clinically depressed but totally unaware of it. After a year or so, I moved to a different country and the change in my environment lessened the symptoms of my depression, until I relapsed a couple years later, then I was diagnosed and treated with medication and psychotherapy. The medication did help, but I did not like the idea of being medicated and I was still struggling deeply with the diagnosis, I was not in denial any more but I was ashamed and shocked by it.
A few years later I relapsed, yet again…I had to accept that it was happening to me again, and I sought treatment (this time I refused medication and worked with therapy alone). Once I felt better I was determined to take action and do whatever I needed to NEVER relapse again. Even though there is a history of depression in my family, I chose to believe that I was not “doomed” to be in and out of depression and medication all my life, but I had an active role to play in my recovery, and ever since that moment, I have been actively working on staying healthy, and in spite of great challenges in my personal life, I am proud to report that I have not relapsed, my last episode was 10 years ago!!! This is a real victory for me.
I know every case is different, but I also know that we can all play an active part in the prevention and recovery of our mental and emotional challenges. I have come to personally know so many people around me that suffer from debilitating insecurities, obsessive compulsive behavior, eating disorders, self destructing habits (alcohol, smoking, other addictions), social anxiety, constant worrying, chronic depression (which often goes undiagnosed), etc. That I realized that I was far from being alone, and that mental health is all about mental well being. In my particular case I was lucky because three very important things happened for me:
- I realized I had a problem
- I accepted the fact that I had a problem, and
- I decided to take an active role on my recovery and further prevention
Most people simply don’t realize they have a problem, and if they do, they do not accept it, and if they accept it they do not believe they can play an active part in their healing. We all have a responsibility for our health, we are not just victims of fate, and we all have the capacity to heal ourselves, but first we need to believe we can.
Until we realize our responsibility towards our mental health, there is little we can do to improve those areas in which we continuously struggle.
“Nothing will change if nothing changes”
If we don’t do anything to change things, they simply won’t change, and it is our responsibility to make a difference, nobody will live our lives in our place, we are the architects of our own lives. A good way to become aware of the state of your mental health is to start noticing the areas of discomfort in your life and detect any usual patterns in your behavior or your feelings, take the time to look a little closer at your hard set beliefs, your behavior patterns, your emotional reactions, etc. they can all give you valuable clues on the state of your mental health.
Little by little we can become more aware of our minds’ functioning and we can work towards making it work for us instead of against us, it takes commitment, a true commitment to ourselves, to our well being.
If you are interested in further reading on this topic, see below for a list of good resources on the most common challenges that can go undetected and can really hinder our capacity to live a more fulfilling life.
Have a good week!
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