Tuesday, May 15, 2018

self love + mental health awareness

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month

As a public health graduate student, mental health is something I am truly dedicated to advocating for. Mental health is significant and should not be taken lightly. If you or anyone you know is suffering from any mental health conditions, take action and get help. I grew up in a household that did not believe in mental disorders or illnesses like anxiety and depression. When I was younger I was always raised with the mentality that if you were sad that it was a sign of weakness. If you were anxious or depressed it just meant that you did not try hard enough to not feel that way or overcome it. As I grew older and experienced more I have learn that it is okay to have those feelings. The thoughts and feelings never truly went away and I didn't understand why. Not everyone experiences anxiety and or depression on the same level but there are many people out there like myself, that experience it on a day to day basis. It is difficult but manageable and there are resources available to help. The topics I would like to focus on today in honor of Mental health Awareness Month is Depression and Anxiety. 

I choose mental disorders as my topic of choice for my graduate research. Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. For some individuals, major depression can result in severe impairments that interfere with or limit one’s ability to carry out major life activities. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the prevalence of major depressive episode was higher among adult females (8.5%) compared to males (4.8%) and the prevalence of adults with a major depressive episode was highest among individuals aged 18-25 (10.9%). The NIMH is an excellent resource that aims to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses.

My story? I did not realize I suffered from depression and anxiety until early college. At my lowest points, I would just imagine what everyone's life would be like if I did not exist in it. The thoughts progressed to the point where I couldn't control it and I would go days just staying at home and crying. These thoughts did not come often but did so during my darkest hours and felt like a disease with no cure. It sounds so extreme but the thoughts and emotions were so amplified when in that state of mind and getting through it felt almost impossible. In high school, I did not realize that having panic attacks was where I was short of breath and feeling so nervous and scared. These were early signs of anxiety I did not realize I had. Today I am living with my depression and my anxiety has been diagnosed as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Clinical Depression (MDD).

How to live with it? Acceptance is so much easier said than done. I have found a few outlets that enabled me to channel and somewhat manage my anxiety and depression. I know that you might hear these things often but I mean it, hobbies help so much. I have been doing photography for quite some time and even though I do not have the time to shoot as often, every time I am able to shoot I feel so at peace. When I am depressed I feel as though I lose my sense of creativity and there is a void I feel where I am unable to be creative or even productive. However, overcoming the sadness is incredibly difficult but doable. Exercise has been one of the greatest outlets recently when I am unable to endure the dark moments. Something about pushing myself while at the gym has given me the feeling of self-fulfillment and accomplishment even if it meant just being able to do one extra push up or adding an extra weight to my workout. Finding your own outlet is important but I never realized how having a strong support system truly helped. I always felt like I was a burden and that people would become overwhelmed by my problems. I love my family, boyfriend, and friends to pieces because they have stuck right by my side, pushed me to better myself and help me continue to grow and move forward. 

I know that there are a lot of self-help books out there but here are a few books that have helped me overcome some difficult time and that I cannot recommend enough: Moments of Being by Virginia Woolf, Salt. by Nayyirah Waheed, Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, and She Felt Like Nothing by r.h. sin.

I am working so hard on loving myself and being the best that I, personally can be. There is no cure and I have come to terms with that. I am living with this and I am doing the best that I can by myself and with the support of those close to me.

Some resources + additional information:

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