World Mental Health Awareness Day 2018

Today is World Mental Health Awareness Day! I found this out from a post on Twitter. Thank you, social medial. You keep this little hermit crab in-the-know.

I’ve written a lot about mental health on this blog. I’ve made no secret of the fact I’m a therapy alumni, have had depression and have had anxiety. The conversation about mental health is an important one. The bias towards mental health issues still exists, which is unfortunate.

Last week, I had anxiety every day. I don’t get it often and I haven’t had it for a while. It comes out of nowhere and I don’t know what triggers it. I tried to vlog about it but that wasn’t working. I would get this feeling of dread in my chest and it felt hard to breathe. Every muscle felt tense, especially my back and legs. I ached all over. I felt like I’d worked out when in reality, I’d just stood at a register most of the day or did nothing at all (as it happened on my days off too).

I have felt increased stress working the customer service desk. I had this fear I’d be put back up there, with the ringing phones. Having to answer the phone while doing a transaction is stressful. Especially if the person you’ve transferred the call to doesn’t pick up and it rings back several times. This makes the person on the line angry and they can get nasty after a while. I have found I do not thrive in this sort of environment. There is too much happening at once and my body stays in “fight” mode hours after my shift is finished. Realizing the effect this sort of stress has on my body, I applied for a floor position to get away from this environment. I got the position and in a week I should be in my new position.

Recently I talked to someone about this anxiety I’d been experiencing. The response was disappointing, one of someone with a negative bias towards mental health issues and not what I expected from this particular person as they have also experienced anxiety.

Nonetheless, it got me thinking about how important it is to support those going through something that I/we may not understand. I was thinking about nature vs. nurture and how our unique experiences shape us. Two people can be placed in the same environment and they can react differently to the same trauma. Some people tend to thrive under intense stress, others are crushed by it. This does not make one person stronger than the other, it means we’re different. We all react differently to adversity and process differently based on our collective experiences, upbringing and biology. All of us. Reacting poorly or struggling with a situation does not make you a whiner or a”victim”. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to coping skills or tools. It’s not “all in your head’ nor should you compare your experience to another’s struggles. We all have obstacles. Depression, anxiety or any other mental health diagnosis is not a sign of weakness. People with a mental health diagnosis’ are not broken either. They/We just process things a little differently and that’s fine.

For me, my focus has been realizing my triggers. A better understanding of how I tick helps me process stresses in a healthier fashion instead of reacting to them. This endeavor is a work in progress, like always. I must say, despite a few setbacks this year, I am feeling more confident, more positive and happier overall. The difficult changes I’ve made in my life are paying off and for that I am truly thankful.

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