Mental health is hard.
For many of us, it isn't a month where we recognize our struggles and the struggles of others - it's a never-ending up and down rollercoaster that lasts 365 days a year.
Mental health has impacted my life in many ways but hasn't stopped me from chasing my every dream. I know that I'm one of the lucky ones.
When you're a kid or a teenager, you're "just not feeling the best." They put you on medication and scoot you out the door. No need to explain it, because "you probably wouldn't understand" anyway.
That's where our society gets it wrong. Putting a band-aid on an infectious gash might stop the bleeding for a while, but eventually, it spreads.
A Few Years Ago...
I was leaning on a desk in the front of the classroom while teaching math. Something inside of me churned and crawled up my throat, gagging my words. Everything went blurry for a second, but I literally shook it off - I was responsible for these kids.
Row 27, aisle seat. I was about to go see my great grandma and inevitable interact with my paternal grandmother (who I met once while working behind the desk at a hotel). I never knew my heart rate could jump so high so fast, so much so that I jumped right off that plane. I went home and took a 4-hour nap because a panic attack is one of the most exhausting things on the planet.
Anxiety can be generalized stress but also manifests physically. For a few weeks, because I felt so choked, I only ate rice cakes and eggs. It's amazing what your body will reject when it has something to say.
I'm not an advocate for or against medication. I do it because it works for me and because in this state^ I didn't have the tools to manage it any other way. So I ran to the doctor, cried a lot, and gulped down a pill that reset my adrenalin.
I could breathe again.
But the work wasn't done. Again, band-aids don't last forever - they fall off.
I've worked very hard to understand my struggles and identify my mental health triggers. I love, and gladly pay a therapist a lot of money to help me understand, modify, and work to build new patterns.
My life is SO GOOD, but it being way has taken a lot of work. A clear head and a focused vision never come easily.
So when people ask me, "How do you write about that dark place?"
I've been there.
"How did you describe what goes on in my head?"
Because mine looks similar.
"How do you write with such knowledge? You're so young!"
In my head, I've lived a few lifetimes worth.
Mental Health Impacts Everyone
One way or another, mental health will impact you at some point in your life.
If it's your own, find what works for you, but always move forward and do it constructively. It isn't easy, but from the bottom, you can lay a foundation that will always hold you upright.
If you don't experience it firsthand, someone you love will. Standing on the sidelines watching that circus unfold isn't fun. It isn't glamorous to walk someone through it. It's sad and frustrating and sometimes heartbreaking. In these moments, take care of yourself too - don't ignore your own needs.
So, as Mental Health Awareness Month comes and goes (as it will again next year and the year after), work on yourself. Set goals. Meet them, and come up short, but always move forward. It's taken me a long time to accept that mental health would be a part of my life forever - a sort of shadowy companion that would always be right on my heels. I've learned though, that it doesn't have to sink you.
It doesn't have to sink you, either.