What if I treated my mental health like my physical health?

Hello my mad lovelies. It has been over a month since my last post and I apologize for that. I just really didn’t have the motivation to write anything, but I’m here now and that has to count for something. Right?!

Mental-Health-ComicBy now I’m sure most of you have heard the line: “What if we treated physical illnesses the way we treat mental illness?” That is, what if we told someone with cancer that they’re “only doing it for attention.” Or, what if we told someone with the flu to “just get over it.” These scenarios seem completely absurd because they don’t make sense. But everyday people with mental illnesses are treated this way by family, friends, and coworkers. I’ve definitely been blessed by the fact that my immediate circle is extremely understanding about my mental illness and I’ve only ever experienced support, sympathy, and respect for my struggle. But so many of us out there aren’t so lucky.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I take care of physical ailments versus how I take care of my mental health.

I have a bad back. I have two herniated disks in my lower back and sometimes my back just likes to act up. Last Sunday I woke up and my entire lower back was in spasms. I could barely walk and when I did there was searing pain down my left leg. Immediately I knew that I needed to lay down, ice my back, and stretch or else I would risk further pain. I knew that if I didn’t stay still I would only aggravate my back and make my pain last even longer. I was perfectly content to spend the day watching TV as I rested up. That’s what I needed. On Monday I still had some back pain, but my situation had significantly improved. Knowing that I wasn’t 100 percent, I took it easy on Monday and by Tuesday my back pain had completely disappeared.

The moral of the story is that I recognized I was in pain, took immediate steps to take care of it, and didn’t push myself through the pain.

Now let’s compare that to how I take care of my mental health. Let’s say I’ve had a really stressful week. I ignore the fact that I’m feeling worn out and frazzled. I ignore the racing thoughts and irritability. Instead of pulling back and asking for help, I keep saying yes and piling more responsibilities onto my plate. I pretend like everything is just hunky dory and push through it. This often leads to me falling into a depression.

BensonAll of those steps that I take to reduce my back pain, all of those self-care things, I don’t do when my mental health is involved. When I’ve had an extra stressful week I feel guilty for spending an afternoon on the couch binge watching Law & Order: SVU. If my back was spasming, like it was the other day, it was totally cool to take it easy. For some reason when my mental health is involved I have to keep pushing myself beyond my breaking point.

If I treated my mental health the same way I treated my back pain, I would never have had to be on disability for almost a year. If I spotted the warning signs, addressed them with a little self-care, and took it easy on myself I would have never fallen so deep.

Now that I’m feeling better and will be returning to work in the near future I will be on the look out for the warning signs and treating them early rather than pushing myself until it’s too late. And I recommend you do the same thing.

 

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