Mental illness the silent storm in your mind
Is this my life?
Since the pandemic disorders that affect minds and emotions have increased in the general population, and more so in the older adult population. Mental health and wellbeing are typically least discussed with loved ones, health providers and others.
What lens do you see yourself through??? Would you say you have a balanced life? One that you enjoy and that you have achieved a semblance of psychological resilience. If the answer is no, it may be an indicator of mental-emotion imbalance.
Even health care professionals and close loved ones may disregard signs and symptoms such as frailty, life changes, chronic illness, and disability as mental unhealthiness.
This blog represents a personal mission of mine to bring mental health to the forefront, building awareness on the importance of assessing and seeking out help if you are concerned about your own mental health or that of a loved one.
The month of May is Mental Health Awareness month. A month set aside to discuss mental health, its impact on individuals and communities, and their need to seek help, resources, and treatment.
I am speaking to you as a friend I cherish, from the voice of a mom, nurse, sister, and grandparent. Knowing that recognition is the key to seeking help, getting treatment, and improving your quality of life. For more on this subject of self reflection you can also read my previous blog Have Some Hot Chocolate: Simple ways to Refresh and Make a Difference.
But stay, read, enjoy, and join the discussion….
Table of Contents
Where did the sun go?
The weather forecast today said clouds, and rain. They were right! It rained, the clouds were so heavy that the day looked like night.
Of course, this nerdy gal is quite delighted cause MY plants are singing the Alleluia. Loving how the rainwater invigorates their growth, THEY thrive…
When was the last time you listened to the sultry lyrics in the classical jazzy melody of Stormy Weather?
I did not realize how the song's lyrics were so on point describing various periods in my life, like "it rained all day" ----- " I couldn't get myself together" ------ " I was weary all the time". Translated in today's lingo as constant lethargy, feelings of not making a difference, not being able to get the energy to perform simple task, feeling that I "can't go on" that I was not relevant or useful to myself or other, or worse that “they” would be better without me.
Mental health and wellbeing affect all aspects of your life. Physical, emotional and spiritual.
This post is to empower you, the reader, to take a hard look at your mind's mental and emotional health, to direct you to take action and seek out resources that would help you live and feel engaged. It's not because it is mental awareness month, but because you want to live your healthiest and best life, despite your circumstances.
Don't know if you ever heard this saying... a cord of three strands is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12). If you are healthy in your body but your mind is jacked up with negativity, that beautiful healthy body would soon follow and be unwell.
It takes a healthy mind and healthy emotions to encourage the physical body to engage in healthy activities, socialize, volunteer in the community, take a class, meditate, etc. The trifecta of wellbeing.
During the month of May health professionals and individuals are encouraged to take stock
and assess their mental and emotional health. Mental Health Awareness Month was initiated to raise awareness of the importance of mental health wellbeing, and most importantly to bring awareness to the suffering of those who are aware of their mental health status and those who may be suffering in silence.
The last 2 years the pandemic has only compounded the experiences of stress, trauma, loss, anxiety, depression, and suicide. The rate of depression across the country has more than tripled compared to the rates in 2019. Emergency rooms visits for attempted suicide has also increased, especially among the vulnerable diverse populations of those black and brown, LGBTQ+, and the elderly ages 60 and over. (whitehouse.gov)
Are you speaking truth to yourself?
In general, how many of us say to our family or coworkers we feel depressed, are having panic attack, or that we feel alone in a room full of people. If we have cancer, diabetes, asthma, or food sensitivities, we are vocal about it. Those around us know if we are allergic to peanuts or need a diet beverage. Yet we keep silent our mental suffering. No one knows when we are afraid, feel isolated, lost, or in a fog. Why?
Our close contacts may think we are just sad because we lost a job or a loved one. Brand our lethargy as laziness, but because we continue to do some of our daily activities of living, the obvious grays out. Like the rain clouds, we think it will soon pass.
We hide that part from others but not ourselves like on the drive home, or during the holidays, or as we turn the key to our empty apartment. Then we become expert performers of the lyrics in the Stormy Weather song, there IS NO SUN IN OUR SKY.
Game recognizes game
If you have read to this point in this post, you might be thinking 'Do you really know what you are talking about?'…well my friend I DO.
First it was …I hated winter…I thought the trees looked like death without their leaves. I would get anxious as the days got shorter and would crave for spring, literally walking around looking for the new buds on the limbs of trees. Then came postpartum blues, compounded with the lows and sadness of dealing with the loss of a child, and later in recent times just plain old feelings of inadequacy and loss of purpose.
SO YES, I know what living with depression and anxiety feels like. I could be the poster child for the Dark Cloud song lyrics.
What are the risk factors?
According to the World Health Organization many older adults, aged 60 or above are at risk of developing mental disorders, neurological disorders or substance use problems compounded by physical disorders.
Physical disorders such as diabetes, lung and heart diseases, hearing loss, and other mobility problems. All impacting functional abilities and independence, as well as hearing, and vision loss, impacting mobility.
Declining mental abilities can be the scariest, example dementia.
Declining motor function could be due to arthritis, chronic pain.
Reduction in finance, loss of caregiver, need for long term care placement, loss of home.
Grief. Lets not minimize the grave loss of loved ones and friends some individuals experienced during the height of the pandemic.
Abuse. Usually, abuse is greatest on elders who depend on others for caregiving. This kind of abuse affects all aspects of wellbeing from physical to feelings of loss of dignity, freedom and self-worth.
All the above are risk factors for mental health imbalance and psychological distress.
There are a lot of sad, hurting, and socially isolated folks out there.
Are you at risk?
Am I at risk, you ask, yes we are all at risk. Just listening to the daily news reels with war, political discord, climate change, talks of recession and increased prices of goods and services put all of us, especially the disenfranchised and elderly, at high risk for mental health problems.
Another big risk is that a lot of these disorders can be missed by health professionals or misdiagnoses.
So when will the sun come out again?
Fact-Mental health is as or even more important as physical, and spiritual well being. “It’s just as important for an older person with symptoms of depression to seek treatment as it is for someone younger” direct quote. NIMH » Older Adults and Mental Health. Click on the link to find out more on mental health, warning signs, and treatment options.
Getting older does not equate to not feeling alive, there are so many older adults who are now living their best lives. I am one of them.
Daily self check-ins asking the question How am I feeling today? and being honest with yourself.
Depression, and anxiety are not a normal part of aging. Check out this article Depression is Not a Normal Part of Growing Older | Alzheimer's Disease and Healthy Aging | CDC
Here comes the sun at last!
Mental disorders can be treated. With proper diagnosis and care, most individuals see an improvement in their symptoms. Some are treated with antidepression drugs, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
Finally, it is up to you to take the first step and admit that you have been feeling sad or “the blues” for sometime. It is up to you to reach out and say I need help. It is also up to you too, to Follow the advice of health professionals, take the treatment regimes seriously and be honest with them so that you get the best results.
If you are reading this blog and you are concerned about a loved one being depressed, offer to go with them to see a health care provider to be diagnosed and treated. There is help and resources out there.
I am so much more now since getting the help I needed to manage my “Stormy Weather” days. I can recognize when I am feeling the “rain clouds” coming in. That is when I take my ”me time” seriously.
Click and read my previous blogs on wellbeing and self care. Have some Hot chocolate: Simple ways to refresh and make a difference. Also read The thread that runs through: how playing in dirt, the art of gardening contributes to wellbeing. Showing how spending time gardening, feeling the sun's rays does wonders to help lift my spirits-it's free therapy!
The few times I could not shake it (get the sun to shine, I mean) I made an appointment with my health provider to discuss next steps. I monitor how I am feeling like a diabetic checks their blood sugar. If I can outsmart my mind's weather forecast, you can too. Live in a healthier and happier self.
Ask my immediate family and they will tell you how much more fun and creative I am. So what will you do to make the sun shine? How are you feeling? What one thing helps you keep centered and balanced? Share your story...it might help someone who is struggling. It's OKAY to SAY you are not O.K.
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If you or someone you care about is in crisis, please seek help immediately. Call 911
Visit a nearby emergency department or your health care provider’s office
Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor.