Let’s Talk About Mental Health Issues……

I’m frustrated with the whole concept of guilt and Mental Health.

I, in no way, have all the answers; and on most days I question whether I have any answers. What I do know is that I deal with anxiety and have for as long as I can remember. My mom says that I was fearless as a child and so, I’m not exactly sure what happened, because I don’t really have any concrete memories where I wasn’t dealing with anxiety.

At least 3 of my kids deal with some level of anxiety and Jeremy is also dealing with ADHD, Executive Function Disorder, Learning Disability and Autism. All of those fall under the “Mental Health” umbrella. They all have areas of “Brain Disfunction.” In my mind, that means there are areas where the brain is not functioning in a Neuro-typical way. I do understand that there are many who don’t want autism classified as a mental health disorder because it is usually thought of as being a genetically predetermined disorder, and there is a certain amount of “shame” associated with mental illness or mental disorders.

I choose to think differently about the whole concept of Mental Health.

I deal with any physical health issues for myself or my children in a completely non-guilty manner. If myself or one of the kids has a cold, or a broken bone or some other physical ailment, I don’t feel guilty taking them in to see our Family Dr or a specialist, if needed. Why then, if myself or one of the kids are dealing with Mental Health Issues, should it be any different?

In my mind, it shouldn’t be any different at all.

If my car needs a tune up. I get it done. If my house needs a hose for the water tank, we get it done. If our clothes are in need of repair or replacement, then I take care of it. Why do we take care of our physical bodies and our belongings, but hesitate when it comes to mental and emotional issues.

We, often, hesitate to talk about it openly and freely. Sometimes we hesitate to even admit it to ourselves. It’s a tricky subject and not one that everyone understands or even cares to try to understand, but Mental Health and Mental Illness are not going anywhere.

I’m trying to raise my kids to understand that Mental Health is as important as Physical Health. It’s important to take care of your mental/emotional state; and it’s important to take care of your physical state.

If I needed insulin because my body never produced it, or it produced a very small amount……would that make me “less” in some way. Would it mean that I was broken and not as valuable or worthy as someone else who didn’t need insulin shots? So what if I need extra seratonin in my brain, for either a while or even forever……I don’t see how the two are different. What if genetically, I don’t produce as much as you do? Or what if I experienced some traumatic event in my life and the stress has negatively affected my body in such a way that I needed some help, in the form of seratonin or any other mental health drug…….why is that any different than needing insulin or any other drug.

I don’t see that it is.

In my family, there seems to be a huge history of anxiety and depression. I have also experienced a stillbirth, 4 pregnancy losses and cancer, as well as dealing with a child/children with special needs. So whether it’s genetically predispositioned or because of some life trauma…..I don’t know.

What I do know, is that being on medicine has helped “ME.” I’m not advocating that everyone needs to be on meds. Because if you can deal with your mental health issues through counselling and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy….then awesome….but by doing that, you are still “taking care of” your mental health.

For the first time in my life, that I can remember, I feel like the inside of me matches the outside of me. It’s crazy hard to explain, but I will try. I’ve had many people not believe or understand that I was anxious (as a teen or young adult) because I seemed so confident and in control. I think that must be where my kids get it from. They seem to hold themselves (mostly) together when they are at school or church or “out” and then when they get home, they feel comfortable enough to “fall apart”.

I don’t know that I did a lot of “falling apart” but I did use “control” as a method of dealing with how “out of control” I felt. I felt that I needed to control my situations, the people around me and myself in order to feel safe. It got to the point where my “control issues” were hurting my relationships. And yet, I didn’t understand “why” I felt the need to “control” everything. I just knew that I felt safer when I knew exactly what to expect.

I did believe that I was a good person and yet a part of me didn’t believe that. I believed I was a good friend and yet the insecurity and anxieties held me back from actually “being a good friend.” I thought I could do things like “sing” and yet I could never put myself fully “out there” because I couldn’t possibly be good enough and what if I made a mistake…..what would people think of me. I know that lots of people deal with a certain amount of insecurity and I don’t know that I can fully explain just how it felt inside of me. But imagine if you thought you were good enough but then you weren’t really sure if you could believe yourself…..and if you were so unsure then maybe you really weren’t good enough. Throw in some perfection issues which meant that you couldn’t or wouldn’t do ANYTHING you weren’t absolutely certain that you could do with 100% accuracy and confidence………and that pretty much left you not doing much at all. You wanted to do “stuff” but unless you could control the situation and knew exactly what to to expect and exactly what people’s reactions would be and exactly what the outcome would be……….which having all of that fall into place for any specific event, was pretty much an impossibility and if it did…..you came across so confident that no one would ever guess that you were dealing with insecurity and anxiety……and throw on top of that whole mess, that you never wanted to come across as anything less than confident and so you were exhausted all the time just trying to hold yourself together so that you could come across “PERFECTLY” because anything less than perfection was failure and “FAILURE” was never acceptable and basically you have a perfect recipe for disaster.

Knowing what I went through as a teenager/adult, and then when I finally figured out that I was dealing with “anxiety”, feeling so relieved and yet angry and grieved over all the lost time………I am strongly advocating for my children’s Mental Health when necessary.

I look back at my teenage years when I didn’t feel strong enough or worthy enough or acceptable enough to do things like, go to college or university. I figured that I was good at looking after kids and so rather than do things I was interested in, like music or teaching or even in the medical field….I took whatever jobs fell into my lap, got married and had kids. I was too scared to do anything else.

I love my husband. I love my kids. I’m not unhappy with my life, and yet…..I could have done things differently. I’ve shared this with people before and I usually hear something like, “We all feel insecure and regretful of the things we wish we had done but didn’t do.” This is different. I’m talking about life crippling anxiety. Like there where things I wanted to do and yet was SO scared to do them that even the thought of doing it stressed me out, and so I did what felt safe.

I’ve lived my entire life, up until now…..only doing things that felt safe……and that doesn’t seem like a huge list of things, especially compared to things that I have dreamed about doing over the years.

I’ve accomplished a fair amount in my 38 years but I’ve dreamed of accomplishing so much more. I’ve just discarded those dreams because I wasn’t good enough, or people would think I was stupid for wanting to do those things. I believed the lie that others could do it better than me and I shouldn’t even try in case I failed. Because failing is one of the worst things ever. I believed that. I’ve believed that for so many years and I hate it.

This is why I’m a HUGE advocate for my kids and their mental health. I’ve pushed my kids beyond every “limitation” that I’ve had that has held me back. I’ve explained why I’m pushing them into uncomfortable situations. I’ve had them ask for things from adults/teachers/doctors/etc. when they felt uncomfortable doing so. Discomfort isn’t a bad thing. Failing isn’t a bad thing. It just means that you tried and for whatever reason it didn’t work out, this time……..and that’s ok.

Never try, never win
never get a break
You miss a hundred percent of the
shots you never take

Hedley came out with this song and it’s been HUGE for me……

I’m a lot more open now. I say “yes”, when everything in me wants to say “no”, because “NO” is safe. I don’t mean that I say yes to everything. I’m still in recovery mode from the 2.5 years of cancer treatment and the havoc that wreaked on me. But, I will honestly assess my stress level, versus just saying “NO” because I’m scared. I ask myself if I’m allowing anxiety to hold me back from saying yes to something that I might actually want to do and even be good at. I try to be honest with myself about what I can do and what I can’t do, and to not view everything through the lenses of anxiety. I will even tell others that any hesitation they might sense from me is anxiety and I’m not willing to allow it to control or rule my life any longer.

Does this mean that all my days are good, confident days…..NOPE! Not at all. And when I’m having a particularly bad day – as far as anxiety goes – I am gentle with myself and honest with both myself and others as to how I am doing. Because I know that tomorrow is a new day and most likely I won’t feel the same. I have stronger days and weaker days, but now I know that I am “fighting” anxiety and that it’s not me……I’m not bad.

I am enough. I am good enough. I am strong enough. I am confident enough. I am enough.

I want my kids to believe that they are good enough and can do whatever they want. I want them to “go for” the things they want and so I advocate for them and I encourage them to advocate on their own behalf. We talk about strategies for dealing with “issues” and “insecurities” and “anxieties”. We use medication as an aid, if necessary, and we do it all without guilt. There is no guilt or shame in needing help…….whether its physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.

I am enough!
They are enough!
You are enough!

Author: Patricia Culley

I'm the ringmaster of my own circus. Just trying to stay one step ahead of the monkeys.

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