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When "toughing it out" isn't enough

This month, the ARS team have decided to focus on tools and strategies that we can use to better our mental health. There are so many things we can do in the comfort of our own home to better our wellbeing: yoga, meditation, and practicing gratitude are just a few.

However, “do it yourself” mental health is not possible or effective for some people. It may be enough to manage mild stress, anxiety, or depression, but this is only a fraction of the 200+ mental illnesses that exist.

During the pandemic, so many of us have experienced a decline in our mental health. In my case, 2020 caused my anxiety to hit an all-time high and I had my first run-in with depression. I was convinced that I was at fault; that I wasn’t doing enough to feel better.

So, for the entire month of July, I went for a run every morning, downloaded all the meditation apps, and tried my best to upgrade my diet which had previously consisted of pure carbs. While of course, I felt better after my runs (it’s hard to cry when you’re trying not to throw up), I was definitely not thriving. When I got home, I still felt the same way I did before I put on my runners – insurmountably sad.

It was clearly time to see a professional. While it took a few psychologists to find the right fit, once I did, I finally felt understood. I’m such an advocate for therapy – I wish everyone went! It would make our lives a whole lot easier. But even in saying this, after five months of therapy, I was still feeling low. This is no fault of my psychologist; I really enjoyed our sessions together and it was invaluable to have someone in my corner. The problem was that my symptoms were so severe that it was too difficult to put the coping strategies she gave me in place.

I finally started to feel like myself again once I began taking antidepressants. There is unfortunately so much stigma surrounding this, and it comes down to not treating mental illness the same as physical illness. Would we tell a diabetic that taking insulin makes them weak? Of course not. So, why are antidepressants treated differently?

Medication didn’t make all my problems disappear, but it gave me just enough mental clarity to be able to put everything I had learned in therapy into practice.

People are often confused about whether their mental health is “bad enough” to be worthy of professional support. My advice is don’t wait for it to get any worse. You deserve help whether you’re in crisis mode or just not feeling like you used to. You know yourself the best, so ask for what you need.

Unfortunately, the path to feeling better is not as simple as breathing deeper or trialling a new workout routine, but it is possible. ‘Mental health tools’ do not replace therapy and medication which are vital for so many of us. I encourage you to seek out the support you deserve, as the best investment you can make is in yourself.

Written by Teresa Matina

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