In the spirit of #BellLetsTalk day today, I'm continuing to share, be out loud, and help break down stigma by talking about mental health. As a mental health advocate that simply wants to be helpful and supportive towards others, I am open about my own mental illnesses and related struggles. I’ve been diagnosed with: generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, depression and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). But there was a period in my life where I wasn’t always comfortable talking about my mental health issues or knew how talk about them other than to my therapist.
Therapy, in my experience has been quite valuable and I’ve made it a constant in my life. I can’t recall the exact age I was when I had my first appointment but I was in my early 20’s. I’ve continued to go to monthly appointments. Over the years of course I’ve missed a few due to scheduling conflicts, moving provinces or because I wasn't feeling up to it (honestly, for me I find therapy to be work, but it's always worth the work). Overall, I’ve been consistent with my dedication to going and I’m glad about that.
It’s been helpful to have an unbiased professional to guide me along and through my struggles. For me, therapy has provided me with tools to cope in healthy ways and also has provided me a safe space to openly speak about my experiences. My suggestion to others, in addition to leaning on your support network, is to seek professional help should you want help. Next, find the right fit for you. It’s a relationship built on trust. In my experience, for therapy to be effective, you’re best off to feel comfortable with them. If you meet with a mental health professional and it doesn’t feel right, please seek out another. Click HERE for a list of mental health resources for PEI and Canada.
I recall over the years being very uncomfortable and having a strong resistance to opening up with two therapists I went to see. I knew they weren’t right for me. I’m glad I moved on from them and went elsewhere even though it meant I was on a wait list for a while. I leaned on my support network, continued my medication, stress management strategies and checked in with my family doctor.
A large component of my stress management strategy is my dedication to my fitness routine (read more here about my experience with The Healing Power of Fitness in my article in OptiMYz magazine). For me, I find what works is a combination of heart-pumping cardio, strength
training and mindful movement such as yoga and Pilates. I invite you to find what works for you. Explore classes, videos, community programs, online fitness downloads/subscriptions, etc. your local library can lend you work out DVDs at no cost, YouTube has some helpful videos for exercise (please check the source for credentials to ensure your safety) and most communities have accessible fitness programming.
Because I am ready, willing and able to be open about my mental illnesses, I like to use my voice to share my experiences to hopefully help others feel less alone. We’re all in this together and do not have to struggle alone. There are people who want to help, support and share with you. People dedicate their careers as mental health professionals to help others with mental health issues. Allow yourself to receive help when you are ready to ask for it. But PLEASE don’t spend your whole life ‘waiting’ for the right time. Prioritizing taking care of your mental health will always be a smart choice that will positively impact all aspects of your life and overall health and well-being.
Reach out and connect with someone you trust for support when you are ready. Speak out about your mental health path in your own time, and with someone/or a medium, that you feel comfortable and trust.
Mental health is part of our overall health. We all need to acknowledge its integral role in living whole lives and address it as such by treating it with as much priority as our physical health. Decide for yourself how you’ll take care of your whole health and know that part of our life experience is to live to the fullest. Let’s feel the best we can by actively taking care of our whole selves inside and out not just today on #BellLetsTalk day but every day.
Check out more health-related articles here on optimyz.com #Optimyz #Health #MentalHealth
Photo credit (black and white photo): Mike Bernard Photography
Thank you to Dianne Birt of dbcounsellingpei.com and Marilyn Balderston of The Spirit Well for their guidance with this post.