Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month in North America, and in honor of that, I would like to do my part to “break the stigma” of mental health and mental health discussions. Mentalhealthamerica.net leads the way with the “Break the Stigma” Campaign, and it is a crucial way to bring these issues to light. The idea is simple in design but difficult in execution, get people talking about and sharing their experiences with mental health. The problem is that most people are afraid or ashamed to share; they feel that mental health issues make you weak, or in the case of the male, less-manly. The misconceptions about a wide range of mental health issues are staggering; you aren’t weird or crazy if you have a disorder, like any medical condition, there are treatments out there for you. To help End the Stigma, here is my story.
I went through an extremely rough patch of time in my teenage years, my home life was great, and I was always a happy kid, but my moods and emotions changed drastically. In my early twenties, I was diagnosed with two medical conditions. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the most common mental health issue for adults in the United States is the first. I had crippling anxiety attacks and would struggle to adequately explain to my parents what I was so worried about. This is common, and almost 4% of Americans have this diagnosis with a much higher number experiencing at least one anxiety attack in their life. Feeling completely overburdened or unable to cope with life’s issues is nothing new for adults, but there are ways to help. I personally have found meditation to be a lifesaver for my anxiety issues.
The second diagnosis was one that scared me more because of the massive amount of stereotypes in popular culture, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Because of media portrayals, when people find out I am one of the 1.3% of Americans with OCD, they think I wash my hands two hundred times a day, count constantly, or any other number of issues. What I try to explain to them is that it is tied directly into my Anxiety, I can’t let something go, I want to, but my obsessions don’t let me put something behind me and let me be at peace. For me, it manifests itself in little ticks. It may make me weird to continually bounce my knees when I am nervous or fiddle with my hair, but it doesn’t stop me from doing anything I put my mind to. I actually see it as a blessing at times, when I was coaching I would obsess over a gameplan until I felt comfortable and that led to much success for my girls, I also use it in the classroom, I refuse to do “just enough” I obsess over my teaching methods and the learning styles of my kids. OCD has never stopped me from being a Dad, teacher or anything else I have a mind to do. I do keep it in check though with medication because any mental health issue needs to be treated just like a physical sickness. Hopefully, by sharing my story with the readers, it can inspire you to begin having open conversations about mental health, and finally “End the Stigma.”
Mental Health Awareness Month