It is May 1st. To repeat, it is May 1st. Today begins a special month that highlights the struggle, stigma, information, stories and so much more regarding mental illness. It is a month full of education, personal journeys, pain and healing. It is one month. It lasts 31 days. It lasts for 744 hours. It is a special month and provides meaning not only for those who suffer from mental illness but for the family members and friends, co-workers and basically, society. It highlights the victories in science in creating new treatment models and it offers a space for personal stories of struggle, pain and health. It isan important month and I deeply believe in it.
I want to go deeper though. Those 31 days are just that, 31 days. In my life, 31 days can feel like a never-ending eternity or it can pass so quickly, I am in shock when the new month begins. When I was ill, my pain was never-ending just as was the time.
My struggle during Mental Health Awareness Month is that while I strongly believe in the extra social media posts, educational opportunities, web series and individual openness of one’s experience, I also struggle with the fact that this also occurs outside of May. One difference may be that people are more aware that there will be more buzz about mental illness during May, but the truth is, the buzz is everywhere all the time now. I think this is such an important and valid point to make. The current push for pediatricians to follow guidelines to screen kids for depression is an everyday affair at doctor’s offices, the woman who attends therapy twice per week to work on her anxiety and the man receiving ketamine infusions to alleviate his severe depression are all dealing with issues that abound not only daily but sometimes in an hour to hour basis.
One’s mental health is a constant. Anyone who has a mental illness deals with a minute by minute existence that does not revolve around a calendar. Mental illness does not begin or end just because it is May 1stand Mental Health Awareness Month has begun; it only continues.
My intention here is to highlight an important 744 hours during the year where there are many resources that are utilized to provide a voice to those with mental illness who may not have the ability to use their own. It is a month full of fundraisers for important organizations to continue their work to de-stigmatize mental illness and lobby political players to increase parity and availability of services. My family and I will participate in my local NAMI walk in a couple of weeks and we are proud to do so.
While I will blog, post pictures and quotes on social media during these 31 days, there is no substantial change to what I post in any given month. This is the point. I wish we did not need a special month to highlight the realities, struggles, political policies, treatment options, etc. when we should be doing this every month of the year.
My everyday life is all about my mental health. I start my days taking medications for my depression and anxiety. I have thoughts in response to these illnesses throughout my day. I may need to take Ativan if my anxiety reaches its peak which could be in reaction to almost anything happening. I see my therapist three days per week where I continuously deal with and work on me. I may put myself down for not making a connection to a customer at work and spin this in my head for hours. I may need to take an Ativan in the evening when my irritability soars. I may need to take deep breaths to calm my anxiety. I end each day taking my evening medications. This is every single day of my life. It is not merely in a bubble of time in the month of May. It is my always.
So, yes, let’s promote this very important month and do everything we need to do to affect others’ disinterest, misunderstandings and/or fears of mental illness, but, at the same time, let’s also ensure that people recognize that this is not merely a 31 day or 744-hour mission. This is life. This is certainly my life. This is not only about May for many of us; this is about our everyday existence. #EVERYDAYISMAY