It’s the Little Things
The facts and figures are in, and I personally do not like the results. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in a recently published report from Geneva, twenty-five percent of the world’s population “will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives”. Already, my heart aches, because this gigantic figure, some 450 million individual human beings, represents so much suffering and turmoil, and because mental illness, therefore, is one of the most common causes of “ill-health and disability worldwide”. You want to know what’s possibly even worse? In the same document, WHO reports that, although there is available treatment, it is not consistent globally, and sixty-six percent of people with a diagnosed mental condition never seek help from a health professional.
Yes, you read that correctly. One in four people across this entire planet suffer from mental illness, and of that massive sum, almost two of three never get help.
I have suffered for many years from depression and know well the type of pain that goes silently disregarded. It’s only been in recent years that I have felt comfortable opening up about my condition and how it affects me, and the reasons for this are much the same as why people don’t ask for medical help (or any) for their mental illness in general. With so much neglect, shame, and discrimination in the mix, it’s no wonder people choose to hurt quietly — but the madness must end.
If you or someone you know are in the grips of depression, anxiety, or another mental disorder, the above statistics by themselves demonstrate that you are not alone. There are many others struggling with their condition as well, and who also struggle to seek help or care for themselves properly because of the social stigma attached to mental illness.
I found my inner strength when, all of a sudden, one day a dear friend came to my home and collapsed on my shoulder. She was weeping profusely, and, based on what she began to tell me, I suspected right away that she, too, was suffering from depression. I related my own experience to her, and that day I was able to tell someone that I care about that there was nothing to be ashamed of, and gave her the number to a therapist’s office. From that day on, I’ve been doing outreach work to benefit others with mental illness.
What I’ve learned throughout the years, as the title says, is that it’s the little things. Mental illness, including depression, can feel like a giant, crushing weight, but there are little things to go along with the big things, such as seeking professional help and staying on a prescribed course of medication, that can help us feel whole and calm.
Little Thing Number One: Self-Care
Self-care is an umbrella term for many activities and behaviors that a person can engage in to help alleviate their symptoms, even just momentarily. What constitutes as self-care is up to the individual, but, for many, self-care can include taking a nice, warm shower with a luxurious soap and feeling clean. Hygiene can be troublesome for people who are at a low point, so just this simple act, or painting your fingernails, or styling your hair, can make a difference in your overall mood. Self-care can also be something as simple or mundane as curling up with a good book, or watching an enjoyable film or program on a streaming service. Engaging in self-care means just that, taking care of yourself, however you feel the need to do so.
Little Thing Number Two: Reach Out to Others
This doesn’t mean that you need to jump into volunteer work, although that is admirable and something you should pursue if it’s in your heart. Reaching out to others just means taking a big step and opening a channel of communication with someone else. At our low points, we may tend to isolate ourselves, and this can be harmful. If a phone call feels like it’s too much, try a text message, or even an email. Snail mail is less immediate, but some people feel like it has an added personal touch. It’s important that you reach out to someone that you trust and who makes you feel safe — remember that they should be a good listener, but they can never be a “fixer”.
Little Thing Number Three: Support Your Health
When in the throes of mental distress, it is far too easy to forget our bodily health. For me, when I suffer from a depressive episode, it becomes almost impossible for me to get rest, and I lie awake all night. Sleep is vital to your health and well-being, and if you, like me, suffer from insomnia related to depression or other illness, it’s worth mentioning to your physician or therapist. They’ll often have tips relevant to you and your personal care needs. Others often skip meals when they feel down, but of course maintaining proper nutrition is also of utmost importance. The chemistry of your mind depends on having proper rest, nutrition, and hydration in order to work alongside your medication and other forms of therapy.
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Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on May 19, 2017.