In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I will commit to posting something mental-health related each day. This will include progress I’ve made personally, information from a variety of resources, and answers to questions that anyone might have. If you have a question or would like to request a topic of discussion, please leave it in the comments. Together, we’ll all take steps forward.
Normally I take pride in the strength of my character, built from various challenges and experiences. This is not one of those instances.
Who do you think of when you hear people talking about PTSD? War veterans? Survivors of natural disasters? I certainly don’t think about a 20-something with a bully-type person in her life, yet here I am, experiencing flashbacks from previous encounters and waking up in the middle of the night in a terror sweat. My current state is one of numbness and de-personalization. I often feel as though I don’t deserve to call what I experience ‘PTSD’ because I didn’t put my life on the line for our country or experience a true horror, such as Hurricane Katrina. I know mental illness is not a competition, but sometimes I feel incredibly weak for experiencing what these people do because of a “traumatic interpersonal relationship”.
With that being said, keep in mind how you treat people. You may not realize, nor care, how much damage you are doing. This entire experience has caused me to be more cognizant of my words, actions, and how each can be perceived. I may feel weak now, but it takes great strength to pull yourself up out of the mud and carry on. Carry on, I will.
Do you ever feel like, from the beginning, you were boxed into one niche and were required to stay on that path for the rest of your life because everyone expected it of you? Over the course of the last 10 days or so, I kicked my way out of that box and thought about what makes ME happy. I’m 27 years old and I have a long road of working ahead of me, so why not go after my dreams? I love communication and writing about science so much more than the actual research. For those of you who love research, more power to you! It took a long time to get to this point, but I finally know what I want out of my professional life. It doesn’t hurt to have some fun, kick-ass supporters of this dream (and I hope you all know who you are). I finally found my happy and I’m going to take it.
Today, I went about my day as usual and overall felt pretty good and at ease. Toward the end of the afternoon, I started to notice the dry mouth and racing heartbeat that I have come to know so well. I know what I need to do to start making changes that will be better for me, but the transition is quite difficult. The usual pattern of negative thinking began and blossomed until I was just on the cusp of feeling out of control. After some deep breathing, I was able to bring my mind back to a clear place so I could think my way back down to baseline. I thought about my wonderful friends and family, my dog, my health (for the most part) and suddenly I realized that if I am only struggling with one piece of the pie of life at this one moment, I should consider myself fortunate. I took a walk outside with my dog, felt the sun on my face, and saw the promise of spring. I realized what I had been able to do, combining two very different sets of coping skills, and I honestly felt strong.
There seems to be a dichotomy among mental health professionals and the type of coping skills they focus on. I was fortunate to find one that is able to almost seamlessly blend the mental aspect of CBT and the physical aspect of mindfulness meditation. That being said, there are countless coping skills available. What have you found works well for you and what have you tried that didn’t work so well?