Guest post by Amelia Dauphney
Let’s talk about mental health.
This year’s World Mental Health Day arrives at a time when our lives have gone in directions that we couldn’t have anticipated. There are new challenges we are still trying to balance: our work lives, home lives, school, kids, aging parents, and of course, our health and safety amidst the pandemic. These issues have brought anxiety, fear, frustration, and a plethora of other emotions that are running high with many, and for people with mental health conditions, the depth of those emotions has increased substantially.
I’ve always had struggles with anxiety and depression over the years, but it was really impacted when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) two years ago. I went to sleep one night and woke up numb on both sides from my chest down. Within four days, I was admitted to the hospital and needed a walker and a wheelchair. I had an MRI right away and was diagnosed within a week of those first symptoms.
Being told you have a progressive chronic disease with no cure hurts. It screws with your head and your heart. Feeling like you’re a burden to your family, even when they lovingly assure you through their actions that you aren’t, messes with your mental health in indescribable ways.
When the pandemic hit, I was in the middle of my semester at school, where I’m taking a two-year business program. School switched over to online learning, so I had to homeschool all four of my children while also trying to focus on my own studies. The added stress of sanitizing, wearing masks, and trying to stay safe while worrying about contracting COVID-19 was always on my mind. Educating my children about what was happening and trying to alleviate their own anxieties about the situation took energy and strength. Needless to say, it has been a very stressful time, which I feel caused some mild attacks and negatively influenced my mental health.
For World Mental Health Day, I wanted to share my insight on how I’ve personally coped with mental health challenges, particularly since being diagnosed with MS.
- Talk about it, cry about it, scream about it. And when you get it all out, look for positive ways to manage it. For me, pet therapy has been key. My spouse adopted a dog for us shortly after my diagnosis and my fur baby has helped make every difficult moment so much better. He comforts me 24 hours a day and senses when I’m having a tough time. My dog is my best friend. Pet therapy has benefited my mental health on a whole other level.
- Take time for yourself and do things that make you feel good. I notice a big difference in how I feel by walking, hiking, doing yoga, eating healthier options, and finding balance in my life.
- Focus on what you can control. I was feeling really down about myself when I could no longer work, but instead of letting that affect me, I flipped the switch. I decided to go back to school so that I can work in another field that will better suit my new circumstances. By making this choice, I gave myself back the power that I felt MS had taken from me and turned from being sad to being proud of myself. While I recognize that this isn’t possible for everyone, this is how I decided to handle my specific situation.
- Reach out to your support network or join a group of people in the same situation. I joined a large Instagram community of friends who are all my age and live with MS. This allowed me to form beautiful relationships with people who understand what it’s like.
- Find out what works for you and reach out to your loved ones when you need help. I have four amazing sons and a husband who understand my limits. Their love and strength carry me when I need a little support.
For anyone living with MS or another chronic disease, it’s okay to not always feel okay. Living with MS and dealing with mental health challenges doesn’t need to be a barrier to living a full life, it just means we need to adjust our path. Never give up!
On World Mental Health Day, we want to remind you that you’re not alone. During the pandemic, people are feeling more isolated than ever, and it’s important to prioritize your mental health. If you live with MS and are facing challenges with your mental health, our MS Navigators can also help direct you to resources for support. Contact them today at 1-844-859-6789 or firstname.lastname@example.org.