I found this picture on Pinterest (my favorite new addiction hobby) and I laughed out loud. I love Neil Patrick Harris. But as funny as it may be, we all know that it’s not that simple, right? When depression hits, it’s really hard to just snap our fingers, and make it disappear.
And yet, that’s what I’ve been trying do. Though reluctant to admit it to anyone, especially myself, my back problem has taken a serious toll on my mental health.
In my mind, this injury is not that bad. I mean really, it’s not deadly, like cancer, or degenerative, like Parkinson’s. It’s just an annoying pain. Chronic? Yes. But there are so many worse things I could be facing. Why can’t I just fix it on my own? How come I am not strong enough? I’m so weak, I let this happen.
If anyone sees the fault in that logic, you are much quicker on the uptake than I was. As my mind continued to be stubborn, assuming I could do this all on my own, I found myself getting sadder and more withdrawn.
But, this problem I’ve been facing is actually quite significant in that it has changed my life completely. I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. It has stopped me from the being the person I was, active, vibrant and healthy. And it seemed (at least in my mind) to take away a lot of the person I thought I would be in the future. Dreams of triathlons, rock climbing, kayaking, surfing….my list could go on. Clearly I put a lot of stock in being active. A change to that lifestyle, and the potential of losing it can be traumatic. Not to mention the fact that every time I went to the doctor, I failed to receive a treatment that could help. I began to lose hope that there would be a solution. Changes to your life like these can in fact create depression. Which is what happened for me.
Fortunately, I got to a point where I knew I needed to ask for help. I went to my doctor, and she told me that addressing the emotional and mental health needs would more than likely help with the physical pain. I was relieved that she didn’t think I was a big baby for letting this happen. And for the first time in a while, I had a new course of treatment I could hang on to. I had hope that something could help me. And you know what, it has. And after a month on this new path, I feel so much better. No more stabbing pain, and no more lethargy. I still have a long way to go if I’m ever going to achieve those dreams of surfing and rock climbing, but at least now I feel that it is possible.
This whole situation has been quite the learning process. Sure, I’ve learned practical things, like navigating an HMO and finding a therapist. But more importantly, I have found that you have to trust the people around you, and seek out help when you need it. In this society, there is an unfortunate stigma regarding mental health issues. And that’s one of the main reasons I’ve kept it quiet. But then I realized that my silence only perpetuates the stigma. You never know whom you are going to help by telling your story. Rather than being shunned, I’ve been embraced. I’ve even been asked for advice. And that makes it all worth it.
Many of us take our health for granted. I know I did. Until you face the threat of having your health taken away, it’s hard to imagine that it will even happen.
Be awesome instead? To me, that means being proactive about your health, both physical and mental. And ask for help when you need it. Too much is at stake if you don’t.