Let’s Talk About the Invisible Battle of Mental Health

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by Lara Govendo |

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I wonder what it would look like if our mental health struggles were visible to the outside world. Most of the time, they aren’t.

In school, we weren’t taught how to manage our mental health. There was no subject about being healthy mentally or emotionally.

Western medicine has led those of us in the chronic illness world to believe that only our physical bodies matter. That’s the part of us that demands the most attention, so our mental and emotional health always takes a back seat.

We go about our daily lives smiling on the outside while our bellies churn with grief, hurt, and pain. How deep are our connections with others if none of them know what’s actually going on inside us? Secret tears are painful, but we can silence shame by bringing our pain into the open.

The stigma around mental health is exhausting. Society tells us to silence our struggles. I say we leave behind society’s standards instead. Where have they gotten us anyway?

If the message is to hide behind closed doors and “figure it out” on our own, that’s all the more reason to be loud about it. I won’t stop talking about it. The more we share our stories, the more we can normalize talking about the issue.

It’s taken most of my life to talk about my mental health. It wasn’t until I became a mental health counselor that I really learned the power of our emotions and how much they control how we feel on every level, including physically, mentally, and spiritually.

The first step is being honest with ourselves that we are struggling. Hiding behind being busy and dodging others can only last for so long. When we’re carrying heavy emotions alone, isolation magnifies the problems until we break. We have the power to change the narrative to say “I’m struggling” rather than “I’m fine.”

The second is reaching out for help. This can come in the form of counseling and talking to trusted family members, friends, and mentors. I recommend both methods. Everyone can benefit from counseling. Having an outside source that isn’t directly involved in our life helps us talk through all the difficult topics. And talking to people we trust about our struggles makes us feel less alone, which is vital.

Developing coping strategies for mental health matters is crucial. These strategies evolve over time and depend on the situation. Different seasons of life require different methods of coping. For example, the coping skills I used prior to my double-lung transplant three years ago are drastically different than the ones I use now that I have new lungs.

It’s important to have several skills that work for you. This way, you can reach into your toolbox and access them when you are anxious, depressed, sad, or scared. They can help to alleviate symptoms, or at least get you back to functioning better until you can talk to someone. Believe me, these are game changers.

This is where doing the work to get to know yourself on a deeper level comes in handy. What is calming to you? Is it being immersed in nature, listening to music, or going for a walk? What is the best outlet for your emotions? Is it journaling or processing out loud by yourself or with others? What pulls you out of dark spaces? Is it praying, dancing, or getting some fresh air?

There are many coping strategies. It’s just a matter of digging in and figuring out what works for you.

Boundaries also are important. Sometimes we need to assign certain times we are available to others and not feel guilty for saying no. When dealing with chronic illness full time, it’s important to carve out time for self-care. We are more than physical beings and need to take care of the mental, emotional, and spiritual sides of us so that we ensure all parts are intact.

We are not defined by our mental health struggles. Embracing our shared humanity makes life so much richer and inviting. And it gives others permission to do the same.

In case no one has told you lately, let me remind you: You are important. You are loved. You have a unique imprint to make on the world.

I’m glad you’re here.

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Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.

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