Is Mental Health Really ‘A Thing”?
“If we start being honest about our pain, our anger, and our shortcomings instead of pretending they don’t exist, then maybe we’ll leave the world a better place than we found it.” – Russell Wilson
The World Health Organization (W.H.O) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” Yes, mental health is really a thing!
Up until last year, I did not really understand the importance of mental health. Culture has played a huge role in downplaying the significance of mental health. Africans tend to believe that depression, anxiety, schizophrenia etc. do not exist. They believe “it is all in your mind,” and if one is indeed diagnosed, there is a lot of stigmatization. The fear of being judged or one’s feelings being belittled does not encourage a person to express the mental challenges they could be facing.
It is difficult to understand what people with mental challenges go through until you experience it yourself. Whenever I heard someone say they struggled with anxiety, I never really understood what they meant. In my mind, I thought ‘everyone gets anxious at some point. What’s the big deal?” I remember that fateful day in September 2019, around 11.47 PM, I was playing my favorite video game when all of a sudden, I started having this feeling that I was going to die. My palms and feet were sweaty. I felt I could not breathe, and I started pacing around the room. My husband was in another room, and I did not want to alarm him. Suddenly, the room felt too small for me, so I had to get out of the room. My husband saw me and asked what was wrong. I was still pacing, and he was pacing with me. I told him I felt like I was going to die. I told him to call my doctor, we needed to get to the hospital quickly because I was feeling like my heart was going to explode. I was crying and saying my last prayers, feeling sorry for my poor husband, I did not want to leave him so early. He called the doctor (this was around 12.00 AM), who asked us to meet him at the hospital. As we got to the hospital, my vitals were checked, my pulse rate was 112 bpm, I was given some meds to put me to sleep but my husband could not stay with me. Afterwards, I felt slightly better, and I was able to fall asleep. I was so grateful to see a new day. I honestly thought I was really going to die. And that was how I experienced my first full dose of a panic attack (I also had typhoid BTW).
I was able to get a full picture of what people who have anxiety disorder experience. Occasionally, I still have panic attacks, but I have found some coping mechanisms. I have a great support system (my family, and a few friends that I shared my experience with), the word of God, music and my games. I do a mental wellness checkup as often as I can. I try not to worry, and trust that I will be okay.
I would encourage everyone to take out time to do a mental wellness checkup – this could be as simple as taking an inventory of your feelings every week (there are lots of phone applications for this), also check on your loved ones, especially during this covid-19 period. Let them know they have people they can depend on during this period (and always). Knowing one has people who will show them love and listen goes a long way! Let us take this seriously because it is real. A healthy mind leads to a better life!