I consider myself a big mental health advocate. I mean, my first book was called Dear Anxiety. I am so passionate about it because so many people I love deal with it on a daily basis – but I have never talked about what I struggle with mentally. It’s not because I don’t think I haven’t struggled with it to some degree, I just don’t like putting a label on it for two big reasons: first, I haven’t been officially diagnosed with anything by a medical professional and secondly, I believe we all struggle, mentally diagnosed or not.
I will try my best to explain my mental struggles. A big thing I deal with mentally is asking for help. I am physically disabled. I have cerebral palsy and am an amputee and a wheelchair user. I need help with basic everyday things, from my meals being cooked to bathing, etc. So you would think me asking for help is something I am pro at. I am to some extent when it comes to my basic needs, but when it comes to what I need mentally, like some time with friends in person or on the phone, I think I struggle with asking for help. This might be because I am typically the person giving help to people in whatever way I can, whether it be emotional support or providing them with a necessity they may need.
I mean I did that for people for ten years with the charity I founded and ran. I gave that support to people with no problem. But for a long time, when it came to asking for support for myself, inside I told myself this wasn’t an option because it wasn’t something I did for myself – express my own needs to other people. I still struggle with it today and I think I always will. Just because I don’t do that job anymore I am still that person always looking out for others’ well-being before my own. It’s been a process that I deal with every day.
Ending that job was very difficult for me, yes, because I loved it so much. I got to work with some of the most amazing people I possibly ever will, and I got to help people. That was the part I had expected to be hard. What I didn’t expect was the fact that I was scared that I was going to be forced to focus on myself and put the front and center of my own needs for the first time in a long time. And at first, it was adjusting to not doing that job anymore. I needed help emotionally processing it all – and luckily I told my friends I needed their support. They’ve helped since that time I have come a long way with saying what I need mentally.
Do I still struggle? 100 percent. But I am so much better than I was. I think as a society when it comes to talking about what we struggle with mentally, we feel like we have to put a label on it and give it a name and a treatment plan. Although I fully support doing that if that’s what people feel the need to do to better themselves. Go you! I am proud of you for taking that step, but what I think people fail to realize and accept is that, whether you have a diagnosis or not, we all struggle mentally with something. Look at it like a sliding scale of mental health: we all cope with it differently. Some people cope well and might need a little help, others may seek more help and that is okay.
I think as a society, especially in the midst of this pandemic, we have all struggled mentally, whatever that may look like for you. I know for me, especially I’ve had to tell people what I need right now, and that mainly has been emotional support. I need people to be there for me when I need it most, and my friends have been there big time. I think society as a whole struggles mentally with realizing that it’s okay to have mental health struggles. Because we all do. Whether we want to admit it or not is another story. I know it’s hard, but once you do it, it’s life-changing.