Life has knocked me down repeatedly and I’ve always managed to get back up somehow. I can recall the first time I felt helpless. As a small child, I remember feeling like the ground had opened beneath my feet and I began to fall with no end in sight. I lost all sense of security and safety when my family had to leave my childhood home in a rush. All of my toys, clothes, pictures, and keepsakes were thrown into boxes and bags. This chaotic episode became the norm, and I didn’t find solid ground until years later. This was one of the earliest events in my life that severely impacted my mental health.
In order to create temporary security, I developed defense mechanisms at a young age to protect myself from experiencing that “falling” feeling. It was my own way of activating fight or flight tactics. I now know that it is okay to seek help to develop healthy tools to manage my mental health. I’ve outgrown my defense mechanisms because I’ve found healthy alternatives. Admitedly, I sometimes revert back to them, but I’m a work in progress. In the same way I can’t exercise once and expect a lifetime of good health, I have to stay on top of my mental health daily. I only keep honest people around me that love me for who I am, no exceptions. I walk daily, try to eat right, and continually push myself to grow. I’m excited to work on myself. I can’t be any good to others if I’m no good to myself. A wise woman told me to “Getcha mind right”. I’m taking her advice, and I no longer feel bad for taking care of myself first and foremost.
What is mental health? The Department of Health and Human Service stated mental health ” includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.” ( para 1.,n.d.).
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). What is mental health? Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health/index.html
It was Friday, May 9, 2008. My desk phone rang, and a familiar voice greeted me on the other end, “They found George in his apartment, he’s dead”. I felt overwhelming fear, confusion, concern, and anger. Then I experienced a brief moment of clarity. “He killed himself, I’m sure of it”, I said in a voice barely above a whisper. He had always tried to mask his mental illness. Always the life of the party, he was the person everyone loved to see. He secretly lived a life of turmoil, was verbally and emotionally abusive, and buried debilitating childhood secrets that only he and God knew.
8 years later, I have much more understanding for an act that seemed unfathomable only a short time ago. With mounting daily stresses, increasing financial responsibilities and what seems like a decreasing number of hours in the day, life seems to be constantly overwhelming. These days, I find myself questioning my own mental health more and more and am adamant about taking time away to regain clarity and focus. Within the past few years, I have solicited the expertise of a mental health professional in order to help me prioritize and to put life back into perspective. I wish that George would have sought help rather than the alternative, but the reality is that no one is exempt from these thoughts or feelings. 1 in 5 adults in America experience a mental illness (www.nami.org). With the multifaceted lives that many live, remaining in good mental health is essential for continued progression. My mental health is paramount, and I am committed to maintaining it at all costs.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2010, June 28). Billy graham’s 35,000 souls: One in five will experience mental illness. Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2002/Billy-Graham-s-35,000-Souls-One-in-Five-Will-Expe