Today is World Mental Health Day, this year's theme being "dignity in mental health." The World Health Organization website states:
Thousands of people with mental health conditions around the world are deprived of their human rights. They are not only discriminated against, stigmatised and marginalised but are also subject to emotional and physical abuse in both mental health facilities and the community. Poor quality care due to a lack of qualified health professionals and dilapidated facilities leads to further violations.Mental health issues are varied and manifest differently depending on the person, but, personally, I'm most familiar with depression and anxiety, which I wrote about in a post last year.
This year, WHO will be raising awareness of what can be done to ensure that people with mental health conditions can continue to live with dignity, through human rights oriented policy and law, training of health professionals, respect for informed consent to treatment, inclusion in decision-making processes, and public information campaigns.
In that post I shared that thoughts of suicide and self harm used to be a regular part of my days and that, with the help of my family, therapy, and medication, I was feeling stronger and able to deal with those thoughts in a more healthy and productive manner. But, as anyone who is familiar with mental health knows, there is no cure or perfect fix when it comes to depression and anxiety.
This summer was an especially hard for me, with my anxiety at an all-time high and my depression threatening to overwhelm me. I've finally started working through some difficult things from my past that I often avoid contemplating, like sexual abuse, past unhealthy relationships, etc. I've made some adjustments to my medication and have been working to advocate for myself in hopes that, in addition to the changes in my medication, standing up for myself and taking myself out of unnecessarily stressful situations will have a positive impact.
One of the things that I've had to work through is the stigma attached to depression and anxiety. I often hear that I just need to stop thinking so negatively, that I bring this stress and anxiety upon myself, that the past is the past and their is no reason to dwell on it. That there are people out there that have way more difficult lives and more serious problems than I do. Perhaps all of these things are partially true, but I try to remind myself that it doesn't make my feelings less valid.
I'm one of those people that feels consumed by guilt most of the time. I don't know if its my Midwestern roots or my Catholic upbringing or my simply default personality, but I feel guilty about everything. Including the fact that my anxiety and depression sometimes means I'm a bad friend, a troublesome daughter, an awkward employee. So when I'm having an especially bad day and someone tells me that my life isn't so bad and that I just need to get a grip, I cannot begin to describe how powerfully those waves of guilt hit me, pushing me even further into darkness and self-doubt.
I share these things for two reasons. First and foremost, so that others who are struggling with their mental health are reminded that you are not failing if you slip back into your dark places. There is no perfect picture of mental health or a certain place in which you will be a better or more deserving of love and respect. You are always worth it, regardless of whether you need to visit a therapist, take medication, or take a "mental health day" here and there.
Second, I share these things so that, maybe, those who know someone struggling with anxiety and depression know what not to say. I know that when you see someone you love struggling, it can be overwhelming and frustrating because you can see why they matter. But attempting to provide perspective through guilt is NOT a productive plan.
Books have always been my favorite hiding spot and those that deal with mental health are especially important to me. I've shared a few of my favorites below, but you can find more on my previous mental health post here.
I hope that today all of you who are reading this are hopeful and happy and, that if you struggle with anxiety and depression, you are coping and living your best life. Never forget that there are people who love you and - even if we don't know each other well - I'm always here to help, too.
When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez
Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin
Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa