“Mental Health” has gone from buzz to BUZZ in recent years. While this can only be seen as a positive shift, I’m curious how many of us even know exactly what we mean when we say it? When we are talking about someone’s mental health, we’re looking at their overall psychological and emotional well being. When we question someone’s mental health, this isn’t someone who’s had a bad day, or even a bad week. This is someone whose life is being impacted by something and it is affecting not only their lives, but the lives of those around them. Sometimes it’s a huge life-altering event. Sometimes it’s a pile up of lots of smaller circumstances causing one big punch in the gut that affects their ability to simply cope with life.
See, I don’t really think of our “Mental Health” as a fix it and forget it scenario. I prefer to think of it more in line with the approach I take with my physical health. We don’t go to the Dr. once in our lives and call it done. We also don’t go to the gym for a few months and decide that we’re in peak physical shape. Our minds, much like our bodies, are amazing, powerful things that require a lifelong commitment to maintain a true status of health. But at times, our minds can become a place that leaves us feeling lost and helpless and unable to control. We can become desperate to escape these spiraling and sometimes destructive thoughts. So how do we know when it’s time to ask for help?
Signs To Watch For
MedStar Health gives us 6 Signs To Watch For, that might be cause for concern in regard to our mental health. Things like…
- sleep disturbances
- irritability or irrational mood swings
- loss of joy
- appetite changes
- low energy
- worsening physical problems
If one or more of these changes has begun to manifest in your life, and you’re beginning to really feel their impact, it could be a sign that your mental health is suffering.
Where to Start
It has become more mainstream to talk about and seek help for this. But the options themselves can create more anxiety and cause us to want to throw in the towel before we’ve even begun. Do I need a therapist, a counselor, a life coach? And what’s the difference anyway?
Therapy or counseling tends to look more at our past as a way to explain and improve upon our present behaviors and/or hangups. Coaching is more about looking at our present, what we want to change and empowering us to use our own strengths and tools to accomplish that change.
Tony Robbins has a great article that helps break down the differences between them. He ends by sharing an analogy that I think is perfect.
“Coaching vs. counseling is similar to this example. The therapist is the doctor. They get you well enough to take on major challenges in your life by exploring your mental and emotional well-being. The life coach is the sherpa and guide. They have an expert knowledge of your climb and can help you reach the summit.”
My Healing Journey
It was two months shy of my 30th birthday, and I found myself smack dab in the middle of my parents’ blown up marriage. This was the first time I’d found myself in a place that I had no clue how to find my way out of. I knew I needed help. Thankfully, my church had recently opened its own counseling center. We all sought and found the help we needed there. It was a long and hard fought road. Not only did my parents find their way back to each other, our family became much stronger as well.
I was forced to take a hard look at my childhood and discovered so many things that had contributed to who I had become. It helped me find healthy boundaries within my relationships, not only with my parents, but others as well.
Fast forward another 10 years and there I was in the middle of another destroyed marriage. But this time it was mine. After almost 20 years of marriage, I found myself deeply betrayed and broken in every way imaginable. We sought help from therapists and counselors, but it requires both people to put in the hard work. So sadly, my marriage ended in divorce.
Once again, I found myself in a place that I NEVER imagined I would ever be in. It left me drowning in despair and heartbreak. I continued to seek therapy, but eventually met Michele at a church we were both attending at the time. Michele is first and foremost, my friend. But soon after, became my Life Coach or Transition Guru as she prefers to be called. I say this with full sincerity- Michele has forever changed my life for the better. Michele is basically the unicorn of self-help! Not only is she a licensed Coach, but she also has a background in counseling. She is the best of both worlds.
Michele has taught me how to embrace the woman that I am. She taught me to love the little girl who didn’t always receive the love she needed as a child and to celebrate the woman that I am becoming. She has empowered me to take control of my own story and write it exactly how I see fit!
Journey vs. Destination
Like I mentioned earlier, I view my mental health as a journey, not a destination. And mine has been a journey of peaks and valleys, successes and failures, three steps forward and two steps back. I have come SO far, but I know that life is never going to go exactly as I hope, dream or expect that it will. I will always be ready and willing to seek out the help that I need to keep my mind, emotions and spirit in as healthy a place as I can. We were not designed to walk this journey alone.
Be encouraged that there are wonderful people out there who’d love to walk alongside you in your mental health journey. It can be a bit scary at first, but your relationship with your therapists should be held like any other. If they don’t seem to feel right, there are plenty of fish in the sea. Keep trying until you find the right one for you. Here are some resources to get you started.