I didn’t understand when people said “take care of your mental health”.
One week in winter, I found myself sick in bed. My mother prepared warm bowls of soup, and offered to run to the store if I needed anything. Friends and family told me to “take it easy” and “rest up”. All week long, I did everything in my power to keep my fever down. Everyone would say “get well soon”. It was natural for me to accept the physical illness and persevere to get better.
However, when the coronavirus pandemic began to wear on me by late spring, I told myself to suck it up. I just needed to change my frame of mind, then I’d feel better. After all, I wasn’t the only one affected. So, through the waves of isolation, loneliness, sadness and distress, I persisted.
Gradually, my appetite started to diminish. I noticed a decrease in my weight, and an increase of a tight, suffocating feeling in my chest. Staying asleep for longer than five hours a night slowly deemed impossible, leaving me constantly on edge, angry and sad. Concentration was a struggle. My everyday life was taking a toll.
By the time summer came around, I felt like a hollow shell of what I once was, detached and less like myself. Visiting friends with the strict measures in place proved arduous, and my loneliness grew to a point where I began to resent my own solitary company. Crying spells would hit me in random moments, and on some days, it’d take every ounce of me to simply keep it together while on a phone call with someone close to me. ‘You’ve come this far, keep going’, I repeated to myself, trying to rediscover the pleasure in activities I once found enjoyable.
My mother had always stressed the importance of taking care of my mental health in spite of it being considered a taboo in today’s society. A short conversation with my mum prompted the realization that there were ways I could improve my well-being on my own. For starters, I had an exercise routine in check wherein I made it a point to set aside 30-40 minutes every day to do yoga. I ate nutritious meals, and I drank plenty of water. I took the time to be attentive to my body and its needs, and it paid off – I felt loads better than I did before! But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t until I found myself in my bathroom one night, trying to catch my breath and soothe my trembling hands that I felt my condition was ‘serious enough’ to qualify as a proper issue.
My biases stopped me from getting professional help much earlier. Admitting that I was struggling or couldn’t cope with what was going on in my head was one of the hardest things, but opening up to my mother was a step in the right direction. She immediately signed me up for therapy.
Therapy had not only helped me to identify behavioural patterns and correlate them to the root of my emotions, but also taught me suitable techniques to limit negative thoughts from manifesting. With the guidance of a professional, my weekly sessions gave me an uninterrupted opportunity to recalibrate my mind, and face the intricate web of my thoughts and experiences.
I realized that taking care of mental health meant taking everyday steps to maintain and improve mental well-being for which seeking professional support was a good option. Having a mental health problem created as much disability in my life as a physical problem, making studying, working, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and relationships very difficult. But now, I’m learning to deal with the full spectrum head-on.