It’s important to remove the stigma associated with mental health issues. (Photo: Marie. L., Flickr)

Lead character of “Sex and the City” Carrie Bradshaw didn’t want to become one of those people who starts sentences with “my therapist says,” and she didn’t think a mental health professional could help her.

Although the show is now a little dated and it’s obviously fiction, it represents a realistic perspective that many people still have.

Oct. 10 was World Mental Health Day, which is to raise awareness about and support mental health issues worldwide.

Advertisement

I was grateful to see some celebrities use their influence to destigmatize discussions about mental health and to see outlets such as Fortune covering the issue with some eye-opening numbers.

Less than half—41 percent—of adults with a mental health condition get help, Fortune reported.

There are countless barriers, such as cost of care, to getting assistance. The obstacles feel overwhelming, and I don’t have the answers.

For my part, I am compelled to write about my experiences in hopes that someone else will find comfort or courage to seek help.

Generalized anxiety disorder
I’ve worried excessively and irrationally for as long as I can remember. Throughout elementary and middle school, I felt silently perplexed at how everyone else seemed to flow easily through life.

My quality of life suffered. I was consumed with agitation and social anxiety.

I was sometimes scared of something specific—but unreasonable—like getting AIDS.

Other times, there was nothing I could attach worry to, but there was almost always a feeling of dread inhabiting my body and mind.

The thoughts that made me realize something wasn’t normal were ones I knew were illogical but felt 100 percent uncontrollable.

My family encouraged me to see a psychiatrist, who explained I had generalized anxiety order

That diagnosis and the medication I started then—and have been on in some form ever since—drastically improved my life.

I can’t imagine where I would be if I were still struggling to understand why some things that are easy and natural for other people are so difficult for me.

The medication—along with other lifestyle choices, such as practicing meditation/mindfulness—allows me to manage the anxiety, but it doesn’t make it disappear totally.

Sometimes, the evidence of its presence is small. Other times, the anxiety’s existence is intense.

Recently, during a time of particularly heightened anxiety, I wrote down a description: “It’s feeling stuck in fear and like the fear might be so great that I’ll just cease to exist somehow or die or something worse that my mind can’t even clearly conjure up. It’s a feeling of impending doom that I know is irrational but can’t control. It’s frustrating and confusing, maddening and lonely.”

I can sometimes predict what will prompt an anxiety attack—the dentist or grocery store, for example. Being aware of triggers helps me manage it.

Other times, even though I’m constantly working to manage it (which can be exhausting), the anxiety spills out, surprises me and overtakes my body, causing tears, trouble breathing and sometimes shame.

When the anxiety seized me the other night, I jotted down that it feels how I imagine it would if someone were burglarizing my house while I was in it, trying to remain quiet and unseen and attempting to call 911.

It’s a surreal feeling of dread and panic that has a fight-or-flight intensity.

Talking and writing about my anxiety help take away its power. Joking about it can help, too. I just have to stop and laugh at how irrational the thoughts are.

Your skin brushed that nail, which might have rust on it. You clearly are about to die from tetanus. 

If you go to that event, it will be so awkward and you’ll have nothing to talk about and it will probably kill you.

But it’s also something I take seriously because it affects me daily.

If you’re reading this and relating, reach out and I’ll help you in any way I can. It helps just to talk to someone who might be able to understand.

General mental health
It’s important to remember that mental health is comparable to physical health.

You don’t have to have a mental illness or disorder to benefit from therapy, just as you don’t have to have a broken bone or cancer to benefit from seeing a physician. Talking to an expert can be helpful.

It’s OK to not be OK, but it has to become more accepted to admit it and seek help.

And even when you are OK generally, it doesn’t hurt to be open to the process of improving your overall mental well-being.

Mindfulness/meditation and other resources
I started meditating and practicing mindfulness in an effort to improve my mental health, and, for me, it’s been one of the most beautiful, beneficial experiences.

I’ve also done therapy on and off since I was a teenager, and as an adult, I find it to be an essential component of my personal mental health.

I’ve recently been going to therapy, and it’s helped me through several tough months, but I don’t always go consistently. I go when I need to.

If you want to try seeing a therapist, keep in mind that it might take some work to find a good fit. Don’t let that discourage you.

Solutions will be different for each person.

Spend some time trying activities or seeking resources that may boost your mental health.

The local chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness has help.

There’s a local organization that assists new mothers in dealing with postpartum depression and other challenges. There’s a state hotline for people who are having trouble getting mental health or substance abuse help.

Chattanooga company WeCounsel connects people with mental health professionals online.

Sometimes, seeking help feels impossible or useless. But I promise it’s not.

Take one small step. Then another.

You can do it.

You deserve to live your best life.

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

Advertisement