Welcome to Mental Health Awareness Month

As many of you know, my focus over the past two decades has been on the human body. How does it work? How can it work better? I spend literally hours of my day, even my free time (when I could be watching TV or reading a trashy novel), studying research papers and articles, reading books, and watching TED Talks on anything and everything related to health and wellness.

Despite the concept of mind/body, they aren’t really separate – rather like interconnecting pieces of a puzzle. Our emotional state can certainly play a significant role in how we perceive pain, and often pain is caused by hormonal and chemical imbalances.

Changing the perception of pain is often a process of changing a person’s relationship with pain. Rather than managing pain, my focus is to improve the messaging system of the mind and body. So our emotional state and our perception of ourselves, the environment of our life (age, lifestyle, genetics), and how we think and feel should ALL be taken into consideration as factors that impact our health. One begets the other – happy body, happy mind, and vice versa.

Add to the stress of our daily life the chemical and hormonal orchestration that occurs every single day and it’s not surprising that so many people are medicated to manage their mental health stability. The stress we put on our kids today will impact them tomorrow and it seems the growing trend of medicated men and women with an array of defined “mental disorders” will also continue to rise.

From 1999 to 2012 the percentage of Americans on antidepressants increased from 6.8% to 13%, according to a report in the November 2015 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the country, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the population. Remember, this is just the number of people taking medication for anxiety – this doesn’t even come close to the percentage of people self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, and over-the-counter medications.

The topic of mental health is quite personal to me, though I don’t write about it often. Over the past 35 years, I’ve watched my mother go through bouts of what’s often referred to as manic depression or bipolar disorder. These terms don’t really explain the disease, but they do raise a lot of questions. As I read book after book, scour the internet, and reach out to support groups, I’ve found there’s so much misinformation and misconception, as well as labels that don’t make sense and actually just add to the confusion.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so I’m going to be doing a series of blogs on my experiences with bipolar disorder and dealing with my mother’s illness as best I can. It’s not easy. When she’s depressed, she can’t get out of bed. When she’s manic, she causes disruption, hoards, and is foul-mouthed and rude. I’m sure anyone who has a parent with the illness knows the challenge – as they get older, it becomes more challenging, not easier.

Dealing with a loved one with mental illness can be isolating as well as frustrating. Either I try to find the humor in the situation or I just don’t bother to talk about the reality of this aspect of my life. I hope that my blogs will be helpful for those of you who are facing a similar situation, even if it’s just to remind you that you’re not alone. I’ll share some of my frustrations, but I’ll also share with you some amazingly simple things that help me manage and remain grounded.

For those of you who personally suffer with mental struggles, I will show you ways I’ve helped others balance out the highs and lows – whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with a specific mental illness.

Let’s not put a label on anything. Labels don’t help. Let’s just work together to find better, more lasting, and healthy ways to keep our mental and physical health balanced over our whole lifetime. Talking about it seems a great place to start, finding some connection, clarity, and conversations to work together.

Let’s do this.

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