Saturday, 10 October 2015

It's The Soul That Needs a Surgery

Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day. Let me start by making you really think. When you think of the word health, what do you think of? Most often, our minds probably run to any kind of physical ailment - broken bones, cancer, heart problems, etc., OR, we imagine a state of perfect physical health. But what I think many of us overlook, is mental health. Now, with that being said, mental health doesn't have to mean mental unhealth. That's where stigma comes in. Not only do we, as a human race, often struggle to see mental illness as an accepted ailment or illness, but there seems to be some kind of shame in ensuring we are taking care of our minds, the same way we care for our physical selves.

With the hopes that putting a face to mental illness helps to end some of the stigma, and as a way to encourage you to take care of your minds, I'll share with you my journey as a survivor of mental illness.

I won't "sugarcoat" it and I'll get right to the point; I am battling an eating disorder. This is by no means breaking news. I have been battling (and winning!) against this monster for the past 10 years. I can't tell you how it started. I'm sure it was a combination of many things including my brain's susceptibility to mental illness, but I can tell you it started when I was 13 or 14. The little girl in that photograph grew up in a middle-class, value-based, love-filled home, and she was not subject to abuse (short of minor childhood bullying), yet she struggled to fit in and find her place. The teenager between that little girl and the young woman in the photo, went to war with herself each and everyday in an effort to feel beautiful. 

For the past 10 years, I've had my highs and (at times extreme) lows, and my eating disorder has come in many forms. And despite the fact that I am sitting at a healthy weight and am doing better than ever, I still battle each and every day. You can't see my mental illness, and you wouldn't assume I am or ever was a survivor of mental illness from my upbringing or my current lifestyle, and that's what causes stigma. I am not ashamed of my illness, or it's story. I am, however, ashamed of myself for not always taking better care of my mind.

Of course, when your illness has you completely wrapped up in what feels like a choke hold, you aren't able to admit that you're struggling and need help. But when help is offered, or you reach out and decide to begin taking better care of your mind, the biggest hurdle can be stigma and shame. And I think it's time that ends. 

There is absolutely nothing shameful about taking care of your mind, whether you are battling an illness or not. 

Life's tough. At times, it can feel as if way too much is being asked of us; there's a lot on your plate at school, your kids are growing and developing and need your constant attention, you're battling with the rest of the country to find a job that pays the bills, society is telling you that you need to be perfect, and it's all too much. But that's okay, there's a solution to that! If the stress from life caused your back to ache, you would see a chiropractor, or caused your heart to beat irregularly, you'd see a cardiologist. But for whatever reason (maybe because it's unseen and "unfelt"), we sometimes neglect to notice what the stress is doing to our minds and how badly we need healing.

Taking care of (or healing) our minds doesn't have to have it's own type of specialist or remedy, it can and should be entirely up to you. Really, often all it takes is finding time to do what makes you happy, and time to relax your mind. For me, when I seem to be struggling more than normal, I do rely on a "specialist" (therapist) for extra support, but most often, I practice my own healing. What makes me and my mind happy and healthy are simple, everyday things like: frequent exercise, adventuring to new places, crafting/creating, writing, watching movies, long chats with good friends, hugs and kisses from my wife, snuggles with my cat, and of course, a nice glass of wine. So when I feel as if my mind could use some taking care of, I make time (or more time) for some of the things on that list.

So this weekend, while you're being thankful for all that you are surrounded by, make some time to do something that makes you happy. Your mind will thank you for it in more ways than you know!

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