Mental Health during “Social” Distancing

Behind every smile, there’s a story we will never understand.

Mental health is the key to our well being. It controls how we feel, think, act and interact with the world around us. As I mentioned in my previous blog, many people dealing with mental illnesses are afraid to come forward because they fear they will be misunderstood, or regarded differently.

When I was first diagnosed with Anxiety I feared what my family and friends would think of me. I feared most that my boyfriend would see me as broken and leave me during such a vulnerable time. But I was surprised when he stepped up to be the support system that I really needed. He forced me to let him in on my darkest days, even when I was doing everything in my power to push him away. When I experienced an anxiety attack with him, he held me until I calmed down. I used to think how could someone so broken, be lucky enough to have someone in their life who is so strong and so willing to be here with me when I am at my worst.

But I also come to understood that this was also difficult for him as well. I remember many times he would ask me, how could he help if I didn’t let him in, if I didn’t talk to him. This was a learning process for him as much as it was for me. He didn’t understand completely what Anxiety was and what my experiences were, so it was tough for him to know what I needed.

The stigma that continues to surround mental health is slowly beginning to be broken, but there is still a large barrier to breakdown. The majority of the population I think would be more receptive to mental illnesses if they understood and were more educated on what mental illnesses are, and what a persons experiences may be. Speaking from my own experiences dealing with anxiety, I process social cues and things that people say differently than someone who may not deal with Anxiety.

One of the symptoms of anxiety is overthinking. So for example last week when my boyfriend went to visit a friend and I was having a low mental health day, after discussing with him how I was feeling, he went to visit his friend. I thought him going to visit a friend meant that he couldn’t deal with me anymore, and he was going to breakup with me. I had thought up all of these different scenarios in my head about what this meant, but in reality it had nothing to do with me. But because I began to overthink the situation and didn’t communicate that with him, I let my anxiety take over. This led me feeling more anxious and upset.

Now I want to talk to the support system.

Friends and family who learn that a loved one is diagnosed with a mental illness may not know how to provide you with the support you need and they may feel like they contributed to this (if this is you, it’s not your fault). It’s natural to feel many different emotions when you know someone who has been diagnosed. You must accept your own feelings and let yourself feel these emotions. It’s also important to communicate how you’re feeling with your loved one, so they can also understand how you’re feeling and help educate you.

I want to also point out that this piece of advice is also very important for those who are dealing with mental illnesses themselves. This was key during the beginning of my recovery phase. I needed to understand what I was feeling, know that it was okay for me to feel this way and decide what I was going to do to help myself. Maybe you need to kick your butt at the gym, or maybe you need to sleep all day. Do what you need to help yourself and let yourself feel whatever you’re feeling.

Communication. Communication is crucial to helping yourself and helping your support system help you. They’re learning themselves and they may not know what you need, so you need to tell them.

Staying connected. Staying connected is crucial for both parties during the recovery phase. Embarrassment, social stigma and fear can stop someone from seeking help. This can isolate you at a time when you need support from others.

This is especially important during these unprecedented times when we are encouraged to “social” distance. Loneliness and social isolation pose other health risks, connecting with each other not only makes us feel good, but it’s good for our mental health.

Make sure you reach out to your loved ones or your friends. Check in with them to see how they’re coping and ask them if you can do anything to relieve some anxiety or stress. For those dealing with mental illnesses, this social distancing may be particularly hard for them. Letting them know they’re not alone can ease their anxiety and improve their mental wellbeing..

The way you may be feeling right now doesn’t have to last forever. You CAN change that. Ask for help and let your support system help you.

Stay Safe Everyone.

Love,

Grace

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