Shrink Rap

16 Mar

Mental health is a funny thing. Your body could be operating at 100%, while you run five miles daily and eat nutritious meals, but if your mental health is imperfect, the rest of your world fails you.

I’ve been wondering why we have such a stigma against mental health treatments in our society. My husband and I are both in therapy (for different reasons), and we’re both medicated for what psychologically ails us. My family is completely supportive of our efforts to improve our mental health, just as they are of our efforts to lose weight, eat healthy foods, and exercise. Coming from a family where mental health is valued, I am shocked when I hear of the stigma that accompanies it in the rest of American society. I know my parents and siblings are more liberal than the norm when it comes to their perspectives on psychology and psychiatry, and I’m sure that is why I can’t comprehend how mainstream society perceives it.

What’s the problem, people? Why, as a culture, do we look down on people who treat their mental health with the same focus as they treat their physical health? We’re a society who will admonish a smoker for polluting his lungs, but we choose to look the other way when a loved one is trying to cope with depression, anxiety, or stress without a physician’s supervision.

I have the MyFitnessPal app. Dozens of friends send me encouraging comments online when I remain under my calorie intake goals for the day. When I joined a local gym, I got virtual high-fives all around. When I lose pounds, I’m rewarded with congratulations. Everyone wanted to hear the gory details of my graphic and painful labor and delivery, and congratulated me for pushing the kid out with strength and gusto. But when people find out I’m in therapy, and especially that I’m on medical leave from work to focus on my mental health treatments, they’re astonished. “Mental health isn’t real health – why did you use up all your sick days and take leave?” If you haven’t lived at the mercy of debilitating mental health, you can’t possibly understand.

I even quit breast-feeding for the sake of my mental health. Those of you who read my “Why I Quit Breastfeeding…and that’s OK!” post remember that I was struggling with internal and external triggers for depression after I had my baby. My choices were to either continue breast-feeding and try to fight my demons independently, or to resume my medication schedule and stop breast-feeding. (And yes, they were mutually-exclusive choices. Psych drugs are categorized as a Class 4, which means that they do effect fetuses and do transmit to baby through breast milk.) A stable, healthy mother is so much better for my child than a crazy mother with active mammary glands.

For those readers who are wondering if therapy is a good choice for you: it is. Whether you suffer from extreme depression symptoms or are simply passive-aggressive, therapy is an excellent way to exorcise those problems and get to the root of your troubles, thereby extinguishing them. Contrary to popular belief, therapy IS for everybody. Shit, even my therapist goes to therapy. We all come with baggage. (Reminds me of that episode of How I Met Your Mother where people are carrying around suitcases that say things like “Daddy Issues” or “Oral Fixation” lol) Some people have more problems than others, but I don’t know of one perfectly stable, confident, mentally- flawless person. Insurance is a bitch, and these treatments can be costly, so research what your insurance will and will not cover. Did you know that in many states, Medicaid even covers mental health treatments?

Before you resume passing judgment on those of us who take charge of our mental health, why don’t you check out the benefits that therapy has for yourself? You may find, like I did, that you love it. To those of you who are already working toward psychological Nirvana, mazel tov. You’re making a fantastic choice for your life and the lives of those around you.

© Daisy and Violet 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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4 Responses to “Shrink Rap”

  1. peace4lauren March 30, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    I am loving your blog. Thanks for writing what all of us with mental health issues are thinking. It’s nice that you have such a supportive family, that really helps! Best of luck.-Lauren (peaceoutofpieces.com)

    • daisyandviolet March 30, 2012 at 11:56 am #

      Thanks for your comment!

      -Daisy

    • daisyandviolet March 30, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

      I’m making it my personal mission to educate people about this very topic.I’m so glad my post spoke to you. -Violet

  2. IK May 5, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    It’s strange. In a world where we’re encouraged to have financial mentors, business model mentors, career mentors.. somehow, mental health mentors haven’t yet made the list. That’s how I think of mine. I’m continuously surrounding myself with “advisors,” and to me, a “shrink” is just another one to help me on my way. I do think public perception is evolving though. Psychotherapy is young, talking about problems is a novel concept in most cultures. And yet, depression is a commonplace concersation piece. The next step is just taking the stigma off of it. It’ll come, I’m sure. We’re living in an increasingly crazier world, after all.

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