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May is Mental Health Awareness Month and today I’m sharing 3 things that are on my mind about mental health.
- I have seen a therapist off and on since I was 18 and a freshman in college. At that time, my brother had just died, my mother was borderline suicidal, I was terribly homesick (it was actually displaced grief) and I pretty quickly recognized that I needed help. I’m so grateful that I was able to talk with someone on campus, not just because it helped me with my mental health at that time, but also because I learned at an early age that therapy is a game changer. I also saw a therapist after my mother died, Dale and I worked with a marriage therapist to help with issues as we blended our family, and I started seeing a therapist again shortly after Randy committed suicide. For me, therapy is the work of a lifetime and it’s something that not only helps me, it’s something I enjoy.
- Everybody can benefit from therapy. Yes, I said everybody. You don’t have to have gone through terrible things, although I have. You don’t have to be plagued with anxiety, although I am. You don’t have to have been through divorce and grief and trauma, although those are all things I have experienced. You simply have to have a brain. When Dale was in the hospital after his accident, the social worker came to his room to see if he wanted to discuss his feelings about what happened to him. Dale told her that he really didn’t remember what happened and that he didn’t therapy. She point blank told him: everyone with a brain needs therapy. It’s something that has stuck with me ever since.
- We need to be open about our experiences with mental health. I’m not saying you need to write a blog or a book or go on local cable and discuss your trauma. But I am saying that sharing your experience with a trusted friend or family member is a good idea. Not only will it help you to process your feelings, it may also help them to understand you better. And it will illustrate to them that you aren’t afraid to talk about your mental health and, in doing so, it may help them to open up about their own struggles. I was so proud of my sister-in-law for her honesty and openness about Randy’s suicide. We had many many people reach out to us and thank us for being truthful about how Randy died and then going on to share about their own family or friends who had also committed suicide. Getting it out in the open is freeing. When someone we know is diagnosed with cancer we are immediately on board with cards and a meal train and tons of support. If that same person is diagnosed with a mental illness, we either don’t know because it’s private, or, if we do know, we feel awkward about addressing it. Let’s end the stigma and talk about it.
I’m not a doctor and my experiences as described here are all first hand and anecdotal. I hope you will consider what I have shared and use it to enhance how you deal with mental health . . . either your own or someone else’s.
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