When Your Brain Feels Broken…

*I wrote this at the end of the summer – a point in time when I was struggling emotionally for a number of reasons. Writing is cathartic for me, so the simple act of translating these scattered thoughts into words helped me process my experience. I shared this piece with a few people, but opted to push pause for a while before publishing it for a wider audience. There will be ups and downs in life and I’m so thankful that, currently, things have been decidedly “up” for me but this essay still feels relevant and, I hope, if you read this at a period when your life might be in a “down” phase, that you feel encouraged to reach out, find a patient ear, speak to a trained professional, and identify positive changes that will support your mental/physical health and bring joy.*

Years ago, when I was a little girl – around four or five – I injured my foot. I’d been playing on a swing about a hundred yards from our house. When I reached the top of my upward climb, I launched out and off the swing. I’d made this leap countless times before and was accustomed to landing safely.

But that summer afternoon I landed hard and awkwardly. Something snapped, but I didn’t know it at the time. I just knew my foot hurt.

Memories are vague, but I suspect I ran to find my mother in a fit of tears. She wasn’t overly concerned; as a nurse, she’d seen worse. I could still walk and flex my foot. Also, since I was the youngest of four kids, she had been around the block treating childhood ailments. (Her attitude may also have been a reflection on my tendency to exaggerate reality for dramatic effect.)

My complaints continued intermittently, but she brushed them off – handing me an ice pack when groaning crescendoed. Over a week later we were at a local baseball field watching my brother compete in a tournament. I wandered off and my mother happened to see me at a distance, limping across the playground. Even when I didn’t know I was being watched, I was still maintaining a posture of pain. It was at that moment she decided something was actually wrong and that’s how we wound up in the radiology department of our local hospital.

An X-ray filled in the gaps. I had broken a bone at the top of one foot. It was a small break and since several weeks had passed since I hopped off the swing, there was no point in putting on a cast. But, effectively, we needed to pretend like I was wearing one.

The doctor prescribed rest, ice, and time.

My mother, understandably – and to my utter satisfaction – launched into a guilt response. I milked the experience for all it was worth. I remember lounging on a picnic blanket on our front lawn, a battery-operated cassette player beside me, a plate of snacks at my feet. I wasn’t ashamed of my injury. It was a fact and I was following orders: rest, ice, and time – served up with a side of Ritz crackers and Phil Coulter tapes (because I was cool like that).

The whole story has gone down as part of family legend.

I’ve been talking – and thinking – a lot about mental health lately.

I’m not thinking about mental health because it’s fashionable or trendy. I’m thinking about mental health because it’s real. And I’m talking about mental health because the older I get, the more I realize all of us are eventually impacted – directly or indirectly – by mental health challenges.

But it also feels like mental health is still so far removed from the openness and transparency we afford physical health. (I realize the two are inextricably linked but, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to treat them in isolation.)

I get that not everyone wants to share and I understand if not everyone wants to hear me share! But often, especially since becoming a mother, I’ve felt like everyone else has it all together, at least mentally. That everyone else spends their days taking pictures of daisies in the field (proverbially speaking). And maybe I add to this perception because taking pictures of daisies in a field very much sounds like something I would love to do (literally speaking).

I know people who are even-keeled. These people ride the waves of life with a calm demeanor that is at the very core of their personality. I hope this is you and I sense, from some of the lovely comments I receive/from reading your blogs – there are some very even-keeled people who visit this space. As Ron Swanson would say: Bully for you.

This is not me. I like to think if I study hard enough, try long enough, get good enough – emotional waves won’t ever knock me down again.

But they still do. And that is frustrating.

I’ve grown to dislike the term mental health. I’m not sure why – perhaps because it feels clinical and vague? When my foot was broken, I didn’t tell people: Behold my physical health issues! I said: I have a broken foot.

But here’s the rub – you can’t see a broken brain.

My brain is not broken, of course. I write e-mails and go on walks and put French braids into an 11-year-old’s hair and fry onions and drive a car and make my bed every morning.

But I also had several dozen panic attacks over the summer. How’s that for a tidbit to accompany your morning coffee?

Before this point, I had experienced exactly two panic attacks in my life, almost a decade apart. So this is not my norm. And this recent run-in with a panicked response left my brain feeling completely and utterly broken.

So why write about my experience here?

This space has become a creative outlet. I don’t want it to be an open door for all my woes. I like having a platform that reminds me to focus on the good and to discuss and celebrate all the wonderful moments that make life so rich and beautiful. I am deeply privileged.

But if I had a broken foot, would I hide my cast? No. I’d ask people to sign it! I’d want others to support me and follow along with my healing process. I’d have people open some doors, pull out my chair, grab my crutches when I forgot them by the couch. I could sip coffee on a café patio and sing along to my favourite songs on the radio. But showering would be a proper nuisance and I’d likely complain about the infernal itching under my cast. I’d be completely useless on a beach volleyball team. And everyone would understand – because a broken foot feels like an accident.

A broken brain feels like weakness.

It makes me feel human.

And sometimes it’s hard to recognize the limitations of humanity. As one of my favourite Bible verses beautifully references it, I am a jar of clay. But I’d rather be an invincible superhero! Impervious to pain! Undaunted by challenges! Superheroes don’t have panic attacks at 4 am – by that point in the day they’re already out saving the world in Spandex.

But I am human. And you are too, so you can likely relate.

Last summer was full of adventure. Sometimes the beauty literally left me speechless. This is 100% true and my reality.

But on other days (or sometimes even those same days when beauty was taking my breath away), my emotions felt like one big tangled mess. And as quaint as that line might be about feeling “broken, but beautiful” here’s my truth: when I’m feeling “broken”, the brokenness doesn’t usually feel beautiful. It just feels…broken. And, well, I’d rather nothing ever felt broken to begin with.

Thankfully I haven’t had a panic attack in months; I’ve talked to medical professionals and feel so much better emotionally. It helps that renovations are over, company is gone, major career decisions have been made, a challenging neighbourhood situation has de-escalated, and the kids have entered a new, exciting season of independence. The chaos in my environment – and in my head – has had a chance to settle down. I’m trying (mostly successfully) to frame the whole experience as part of a natural process of growth and development.

But it was also really, really hard.

And I have to admit, chances are good I’ll wind up in the center of another emotional storm again. That’s life. But for now, I’m taking one day at a time and that feels good.

Also, for the record, while I am not out picking daisies in a proverbial field all day long, I am committed to stopping to admire them when I come across a patch.

Header photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Bully For You - Bully For You - Sticker | TeePublic
I couldn’t resist.

36 thoughts on “When Your Brain Feels Broken…”

  1. Oh, I agree so much that mental pain should be nurtured just as much as physical pain. Why should there be shame involved? Of course you’re right, it’s the same as breaking a bone – NO SHAME! And you are right that the two are linked, and that’s just another reason why we need to care for our mental health just as much as our physical health. I realize you wrote this a while ago so I do hope that you are feeling better. xoxoxo

    1. I’m not sure where the shame comes in? Maybe because it’s seen as a choice (even if people don’t articulate it that way). Logically, this makes zero sense; especially considering if I break my leg downhill skiing people will still call it an accident/want to help me, they won’t berate me for doing a dangerous activity that inherently comes with the risk of breaking things!
      I think we tend to view depression/anxiety as health conditions that someone accepts, as if it’s a choice.
      Thanks for the well wishes. And yes, I’m feeling so much better!!!

  2. I wonder the same thing, too. Why is it that physical ailments are okay to talk about, but mental ailments are almost verboten in certain circles. I’ve no answer but I appreciate you bringing up the issue of brokenness because it impacts all of us, eventually. I am hoping that you’re feeling better, in all ways, now. Your last sentence is perfection, btw. That really is the essence of good life, in my estimation.

    1. Thanks, Ally. I’m not sure why we draw such a sharp line between physical/mental health and our willingness to openly discuss the latter. Perhaps because the topic feels so overwhelming?
      Or maybe we don’t talk about mental health because there isn’t a simple solution (most of the time). If you break a leg, you get an X-ray, a cast, wait for it to heal and move forward. It might leave you with a limp – and even then you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist, which so often has to happen with a mental health issue as we “power through” – but for the most part there is a very clear trajectory of how to work through the “injury” – mental health tends to be far more nebulous? Maybe too because the underlying issues can be so hard to share? I am extremely fortunate in that I don’t have any horrific events in my past, but I can imagine that for so many who sadly have experienced abuse, neglect, or deep grief, the source of their pain is multi-faceted and deeply personal/hard to share “casually” like we would share that we broke our leg.
      Thanks for your kind comment. <3

  3. First, I am happy that you sought out help and support. With mental health not so visible on the outside, it is harder to seek out help, to slow down and rest. I’m sending you hugs.

    I also sometimes struggle with the term mental health. I have had to really think about why. It’s like you wrote “we don’t say physical health, we say a broken foot”, we really want to “label” or have certainty about our ailments or challenges. Mental health feels too vague, unknowing, and therefore maybe a little unnerving. What does it really mean when we say mental health. And then our brains try to fill in, and conjure up what that could mean. That is just a few of my thoughts on that (If we said I’m struggling with my physical health instead of saying I have a broken foot, I think there would be the same unknowingness). Then there has been the shame around identifying a specific mental health challenge.
    That is why talking about mental health has been important.
    I have had anxiety as long as I can remember. It will ebb and flow, sometimes turning into a crashing wave. It is unpacking it that helps with processing. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    1. Thanks, Shelly.
      When I talked with a friend a few months ago about mental health she shared that the first thing she thought of with that word was someone being “locked up in a mental institution”. I think through popular culture we’ve merged that image with our current view of it. We think of grey walls and padded cells and mothers being separated from their kids.
      In reality, mental health impacts everyone – from teachers and doctors to lawyers and work-from-home-parents and artists and atheletes and celebrities most of whom are functioning daily in society, without the rest of the world knowing they’re struggling.

  4. I feel this post. When I was going through my time of panic attacks/bad anxiety, I kept telling my husband “I wish my leg was just broken so people would know I’m going through something and give me grace!” It certainly helped me be more understanding towards others though! And I just want to let you know that you are not alone, it’s such a common thing to have anxiety/depression and panic attacks, and there is hope that this is just a season of your life and not a lifelong condition. I always thought that I would feel that way for the rest of my life but I’m happy to report that I am so much better now and I hope you are too 🙂

    1. Thanks, Colleen.
      I also have told people sometimes: I just wish you could hop inside my head. It can feel impossible to explain what it feels like – a panic attack, for example, is a multi-sensory experience. It’s very hard to describe, and you don’t want your loved ones to experience the same thing…but also it can be hard to relate for someone who has never gone through it.
      I am feeling so much better! I’ve struggled with low mood before – and worked closely with someone postpartum – but having so many panic attacks was completely new for me and very overwhelming. I am happy to report I haven’t had one in months (not to overload details, but my panic attacks always happened as I woke up; so it wasn’t a certain “setting” that I could avoid. I was literally waking up into one.)

  5. Reading your post reminds me of Bravey by Alexi Pappas. She talks about her experience with depression, and calls it a “brain injury.” She had to take steps to heal it just like you would go through a protocol for healing a physical injury.
    I don’t have anxiety issues or panic attacks, but when I lived up north I had a serious problem with seasonal affective disorder- which is why I live in Florida. So I completely understand that these things aren’t something you can just talk yourself out of, or think positive thoughts… it’s a feeling that comes over you beyond your control. I’m glad you’re feeling better now. You did have a lot of chaos in your environment for a while, and now that’s subsided I hope you can stay on an even keel. Thanks for this post!

    1. Great point – it’s a multi-step process and often requires a variety of “tools.”
      Thanks for the support, Jenny. Things have been night-and-day better over the last few months; it was a perfect storm this summer, but it also provided me with some very valuable lessons about what environment I need to set myself up for success!

  6. Yes, you are 100% right that mental health should be just as “simple” to discuss and treat and deal with as physical health. No shame, at all. Glad that you came out the other side of the panic attacks, and it sounds like you have such a wonderful perspective on mental health to carry you through any future issues.

  7. I am glad that more people are willing to share their mental health struggles. I’ve had really hard periods of anxiety in my life and am on lexapro which has done wonders for me. There are times that I wish I wasn’t on it – but just as I can’t control that I have RA/needs lots of meds to manage that, I can’t control that my brain needs some off-the-shelf chemical assistance in the form of an anti-anxiety med. I’ve also gone to therapy when I need some extra help to get outside of my head and that has been very helpful. But I really wish that it was as easy to talk about needing meds for mental health – or struggling with mental health in general – as it is to say you have a broken bone or headache or something like that.

    All that said, I am glad that you are in a much better place. You had a bunch of challenging things happening at the same time and that is really hard especially for those of us prone to anxiety!

    1. Thanks, Lisa. I’m so glad you’ve found great tools to help with your anxiety and I really appreciate how open you’ve been about your experiences; it really helps to demystify things when people step forward and share their stories.

  8. Thank you for sharing this essay Elisabeth! I am glad you are feeling better now. Especially online I sometimes get the feeling that a lot of people have a perfect life but then we mostly document the happy moments and the perfect out in the open. Maybe instead of assuming that everyone else has the perfect we should assume that everyone has their problems? That is probably closer to the truth. When I have problems I sign off. I don’t share because I have the feeling what’s the point if I don’t have anything good to say. Online I come across a lot of expat and immigrant accounts that celebrate the adventure and the new experiences. If you know what to look for you can sometimes glimpse the heartache that is involved. I sure had my share of heartache and sadness over the years because most of my family lives so far away. I think what I am trying to say is that there is usually more to a story or a person than is obvious. Mental health is relevant because it effects so many. It’s an inadequate word but maybe okay in absence of a better one? It is a health issue and it’s a tricky one because the broken is not obvious and the problem is not easily “fixed”. I have a close family member with depression and it’s heartbreaking in so many ways.

    1. Definitely safe to assume everyone has their problems!
      It’s hard – both online and in “real” life – to balance wanting to be authentic with also realizing that focusing on the good (say adventure in a new location) can help offset some of the pain (say being away from family). That’s why I try to do both in this space? But of course, things are always just a snapshot of the full reality. It’s this way in real relationships, too. People might think we “have it all together” and even be around us regularly…yet be missing an inside view on the challenges we face.

  9. This is a lovely post, and the comments are all so thoughtful as well.

    I don’t personally have anxiety or depression, but many people in my life do or did. My daughter’s anxiety manifested in an eating disorder when she was in middle school, and that was terrifying. Did you know that eating disorders are the most fatal mental illness? 20% fatal. Half of those from suicide. It really helped me, when working to help her, to separate the illness from her. To think of it as something dangerous that was making her behave this way, rather than getting angry at her choosing to behave this way. Her anxiety has manifested in other ways since then, but a combination of therapy and medication has helped her greatly. And no, I don’t write about this on my blog. If it were my own issues, I think that would be fine, but I don’t/didn’t feel it was OK to write about her issues for the world to see.

    I have a friend whose daughter suffers from anxiety, tourettes, and also suffered from an eating disorder. She writes about it bravely, her daughter discusses it at school and has managed to teach the other kids a lot about these issues, so they support her and help her rather than ridiculing her. I applaud them, but it was not what my daughter wanted.

    I do wish there weren’t so much shame about it, it is not a failing. I have RA, and no one makes me feel like I did anything wrong to bring it upon myself, or that my parents were screwed up and gave me a shitty childhood and it is manifesting this way. Our brains are part of our body, and things can go wrong there, just like any other part of us.

    1. I’m so sorry, J. What a painful thing to watch as a mother, and to experience, in your daughter’s case. I sincerely wish you both continued healing and health from what must have been an utterly overwhelming/scary situation.
      This also raises a good point: there is no shame in NOT sharing either. It is okay to not want to share and discuss (outside of consulting professionals when needed). Personally, I find it helps me tremendously to surround myself with people who know the good, bad, and ugly of my life (obviously filtered for purposes of an online blog!) – but it is 100% fine to not want to share. I can see sharing your anxiety to be tremendously anxiety-producing, for example.

  10. So many thoughts on this, Elisabeth, but first of all I want to thank you for being so open and honest to talk about it here on your blog. That in itself takes courage (even though it shouldn’t be a big deal), but it’s one more step to normalize talking about mental health (we really need a better word for this!).
    I have many people in my life that deal with mental health issues and what we need is the same understanding and compassion that we extend when someone is physically ill.
    I really love the kind and thoughtful comments here because it makes me hopeful that people will become more accepting and more empathetic when someone goes through tough times.

    I think one of the things that differentiates mental health issues from physical issues is that, as you pointed out, you can’t “see” a broken brain, and the false belief that people can just “snap out of it”.
    There are for sure mental health issues that are triggered by events or trauma (these are usually more acceptable), but a lot of people suffer from anxiety and depression that, at least outwardly, has no direct cause, which makes it much harder to get compassion and empathy from the people around you because it doesn’t make any sense to them. But mental health often doesn’t make sense – feelings are feelings and we can’t always explain where they originate or how to control them.

    Sharing our stories and talking about definitely opens up the conversation and also, most likely, results in a lot of “me toos”.

    Hugs my friend. I am proud of you for publishing this, now that you feel more settled again <3

    1. Aww. Thanks, San.

      This is such a great point: “There are for sure mental health issues that are triggered by events or trauma (these are usually more acceptable), but a lot of people suffer from anxiety and depression that, at least outwardly, has no direct cause, which makes it much harder to get compassion and empathy from the people around you because it doesn’t make any sense to them. But mental health often doesn’t make sense – feelings are feelings and we can’t always explain where they originate or how to control them.”

      I am so, so grateful I don’t have any major trauma in my past, but that can also make me feel like I don’t “deserve” to feel this way.

      I posted this in a comment somewhere recently (can’t remember where – lots of commenting this month!), but this conversation reminds me of one of my favourite C.S. Lewis quotes: “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” Opening up mental health conversations is a bit like this – if you’re struggling it is absolutely guaranteed you are not the only one…

  11. Oh, I wish I could just give you a hug. It’s so hard to talk about these things and so brave of you to be open and honest about it. I hope you are able to receive the ongoing help you need to help you with your health, be it bone, blood, muscle, or brain health. And I hope you do continue to share your journey so that the rest of us can benefit from your experience.

    1. Thanks, NGS! I feel the spirit of your hug and it’s lovely.
      What a lovely way to articulate this too – “be it bone, blood, muscle, or brain health.” Perfection.

  12. This is a beautiful written post Elizabeth. You describes so well the struggle we all face, not everyday, but always we face those moments when we feel we are broken and there’s no hope to be healed. Mental health is a broad word and I find it negative how we use it as a society but just as physical illness we suffer from time to time we also suffer mental illness. Same wise it take time, care, and professional help to heal when the situation is more than just few days. I used a physiologist when I was going through divorce, as skeptical as I was, I find it very helpful and wish I can still have her. In some countries like Argentina everybody has a shrink, and that’s like part of self care. Now that I’m going through transition, I would really use one.

    1. Thanks, Coco. One of the most interesting things I’ve ever read about mental health involves Denmark – a country that is consistently ranked as the “happiest” country in the world. They also, per capita, at least at the time of the study I was reading, had the highest use of antidepressant medication. The takehome message from the article was: mental health isn’t seen as something to be ashamed of, so people get the help they need without fear of judgment. I thought that was fascinating…

  13. I am luckily one of those people that are what you would term “even-keeled”, but after my third child, I had some days where I had irrational (and seemingly unconnected to circumstances) anger or extreme sadness. The first few times it happened, I felt very scared because I recognized the feelings as being totally irrational but couldn’t shake them. After a few months, I realised it was hormonal, and being aware of that made it easier. I knew I just needed to wait a day or so, and I’d be back to normal. I also knew to walk away or avoid stressful situations at that time if I wanted to avoid doing damage to my relationships. I also let my husband and late kids know so they knew to let me have some space.

    The thing with this is that I knew it would end soon, but people suffering from mental health conditions, they don’t have that. I think my experience helped me have more compassion for people suffering because I had at least felt that out-of-control helplessness myself; I wasn’t trying to imagine what it might feel like to have a “broken brain”. In Australia, at least in the circles I move in, I think that mental health conditions are accepted as a fairly common experience for people and getting the appropriate treatment is encouraged.

    1. I’m sorry you had to go through this experience, Melissa, but so appreciate that you’ve applied that personal experience into your understanding/compassion with others who go through more protracted periods of depression/anxiety. It really does help when others can relate and it can be hard to empathize if you’ve never experienced something similar…

  14. Thank you. Elisabeth. I can very much relate to the storm in your brain. A panic attack must be really really bad. And then at 4am in the morning… did you wake up with one or were you not able to sleep.
    I think I had a mild panic attack myself during the summer but could somehow get myself out of the spiral. So I am. not sure if that actually could count as one. It was not a pleasant feeling so I do not want to know a. full force one. I’n glad your are feeling much better these days.

    I had my. own experience with mental health issues after a really rough stretch of time many years ago. And I do not think I have or ever will fully recover. I was actually planning to post about it on Sunday. Bit sure if I get all my thoughts on paper though.

    Thank you for sharing your story. We are not talking about it openly enough.

    1. I would wake up into them. It was truly awful. I could literally wake up feeling paralyzed. Of course the more times it happened, the more anxious I was about waking up, so it likely became a vicious circle. Thank God I have broken out of that pattern (for months now), but it was so intense and horrible while I was in the middle of it.
      I’m so appreciative of all the support on this post. It means so much and I am so glad it resonates with others <3

  15. What an honest and brave thing to share, Elisabeth!
    I’ve been thinking a lot about your point about how a broken brain is not apparent the way a broken arm is, and how much that works against getting help or even asking for help. It’s so much harder to articulate what one needs when one is struggling mentally because if it’s not a physical impediment, one is supposed to be able to carry on – Finding tangible ways to help heal intangible things…. what are those solutions? Like what is the mental health equivalent of a tourniquet and stitches? Not that it’s something that needs a fast and simple solution – but we can’t expect people to bleed out – physically or mentally – because we as a society don’t know how to support them or don’t think it’s an ailment worth tending to.

  16. Thank you for sharing these words Elisabeth, I hope writing them helped in some small way, it does for me but I know that we are all different. I recently attended a Mental Health First Aid course which was utterly fascinating, interesting and deeply upsetting and disturbing all at the same time.

    I have always been a passionate advocate for those struggling with their mental health. I went through a very difficult period in my twenties, my mental health was in a terrible place, I was so lucky to have a very supportive boss in one of the jobs I had at the time. I know that it helped me through a very dark period. It made me realise that that care he extended to me was something that I could pass on to others I worked with, I had an opportunity to do that years later, that person still thanks me when I bump in to her.

    Panic attacks are terrifying, I am so very sorry to hear that they have been waking you up. I had one whilst driving, I have no idea how I got the car into a very busy car park but I did. It took me a while to work out what was causing mine but when I did work it out it was a comfort to me, it didn’t stop them but just changed them for me. I turned to acupuncture after a friend recommended it and it really helped me, along with talking, I hope you can find something to support you at this really difficult time. I believe that panic attacks are our minds way of saying I have had enough, that you have to look after yourself now and stop ignoring whatever it is that is causing them. I know that is easier said than done.

    You are heard
    Your are held

    1. Writing does really help me process things.
      Thankfully, I haven’t had a panic attack in months, but they really took me by surprise and were…awful. It’s almost like a terrifying blanket has been laid over you. Like it impacts every part of your body head-to-toe. It’s hard to describe. But now I can certainly relate (at least in part) when someone else shares about panic attacks, which I wouldn’t have been able to do before.
      Thanks for such kinda words and wonderful suggestions (years ago I did acupuncture, chiropractor, massage therapy all on a regular rotation and I think mentally and physically I’ve never felt better. Alternative health options work SO well; I really wish they were covered by our national medical insurance because I think a lot fewer people would end up in the ER – which costs a LOT of taxpayer money – if they had regular (much less expensive) interventions like oteopathy, acupuncture etc.

  17. Ahh, Elisabeth. You know I can deeply relate to what you went through this summer. I am so, so glad that things have started to feel better for you! A book I read recently talked about changing the term “mental health” to “brain health” because that’s exactly what it is and makes it feel less abstract. For many people who struggle with anxiety and depression, it’s an issue of synapses not firing like they should in the brain. Just like some people need a pacemaker to get their heart pumping like it should, some people need medication to get their brain pathways doing what they should. But it’s so easy to feel like there’s something wrong with you when you’re going through a brain-health struggle.

    Thank you for sharing your story. <3

    1. Brain health – love this term and will start using it from today.
      It’s hard to convey what it feels like to someone who has never experienced anxiety; it’s not a button you can turn on/off at will. And it often doesn’t make sense what combination of events leads you to a point where things just feel completely and utterly overwhelming.
      I’m so thankful things are SO MUCH better right now, but I also know I need to be proactive about taking care of myself mentally and physically because there will certainly be other peaks and valleys…

  18. I like the term “brain health” as well. You know that I completely agree with you about the need to center mental health care and give it equal emphasis as physical health care. I do find that people are much more open than they used to be (me included) about how they are supporting their mental health (e.g., through seeing a therapist, medications, etc.). But I also worry that mental health is being…. devalued, maybe (I can’t think of the right term), thanks to the emphasis on self-care that is often superficial. You know, things like, “If you’re stressed, take a bath with a scented candle and bubbles and turn the world off for an hour.” Um, no. If you’re really stressed/depressed/anxious, a one hour bath (ew, anyway :>) is not going to fix that.

    I so appreciate you sharing your mental health challenges recently, and love that you have been able to prioritize taking care of your mental health and receiving the support and care that you need. I know what it’s like, and the hardest part (for me) was not knowing what to do to ‘fix it’. Realizing that it will never be “fixed”, and that I’ll always have to figure out how to integrate mental health care into my life, has been a challenge. I just want it to go away – but it’s not going to do that. Learning that has been a game-changer for me. And even though it can’t be “fixed”, it CAN be managed. It sounds like you got to the same place, although probably faster than I did… 🙂

    1. Yes! I do think that because “brain health” is becoming a slightly more acceptable topic (wonderful!) we’ve watered down appropriate responses. You’re so right about a focus on surface-level self-care (which is great in its place)…when sometimes we need more impactful interventions (therapy).
      I happen to HATE baths, so taking one for an hour would stress me out even more!

      And yes to knowing that I’ll never be “fixed.” Mental health – like physical health; we know how good it is to fit in regular exercise – is an ongoing form of growth and development. What we need will change with time and experiences, but until we die, we will all need to stay on top of our mental wellbeing. I think there is a sense of we should figure it all out and never need help/never struggle again. It’s liberating to know: it’s normal to struggle and it’s okay to reach out for help again and again and again! It’s okay to reevaluate priorities again and again and again. It’s okay to change strategies again and again and again.

      Thanks, Anne for your kind words and for all your support on this aspect of my life journey <3

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