Messy Reality Boxed in a Neat Packaging

Forewarning: The following post discusses an uncomfortable topic that’s hardly discussed openly. It’s one of the ugly realities hidden in a variety of neat packages. Mental Health is part of the overall wellness that’s not clearly understood by many.

Mental health as defined by mentalhealth.gov “includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”

According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, all of us are affected or impacted by mental illness through friends or family.

While going through a deep despair, a child of a dear friend took several prescriptive anxiety and antidepressant drugs. She was taken and confined to the hospital just in time and will now go through a form of cognitive therapy known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

Not everyone’s lucky.

Just a few weeks before the school’s graduation, a fellow school festival dancer to my 18-Year-old daughter ended her life by swallowing over a hundred antidepressant pills.

The National Center for Health Statistics reveals that suicide is the third leading cause of death to children between the age of 12 and 19 years. And 90% of the teens who die by suicide suffered from a form of mental disorder.

Know the facts here.

Not long ago, I had a wholehearted talk with a teen who confessed to once having thoughts of ending her life because of a deep feeling of grief and anxiety that she couldn’t explain. She said she tried to ask for help, but instead she was told that she needed to pray hard and look at the brighter side of life and that she had to practice gratefulness. That made her feel even worse and began blaming herself for her depression. Her body started manifesting the burden of her psychological sufferings. And even with a medical diagnosis, her parents couldn’t seem to accept, much more be understanding of her agony. Fortunately, they came around and supported her by finding an appropriate therapy while holding on to the faith and love that they profess. They are now realizing, albeit painstakingly slow, that it’s not just that she’ll have to go through a precariously lifelong recovery journey, but it’s also a continuous learning process of acceptance and understanding for everyone who’s involved in her life.

Although by God’s grace, my kids are thriving healthily, they too weren’t spared from mental health issues. There was even a time that one of them shared with us that an unthinkable consideration became a part of a short and fleeting thought while going through an emotional anguish. And hearing this from a kid we raise so well broke my heart and my husband’s in gazillion unrecognizable pieces. Nonetheless, now more than ever, we’ve become a little more aware of the different battles that young kids and young adults go through. It’s not easy, sometimes. It’s never meant to be, anyway. But there is hope and clear understanding of the only love that matters.

At some point in our life, many of us will suffer from varying levels of a mental disorder. Many of us would not even get an official diagnosis, and consequently, won’t get the help we need. And in some cases, even with the right diagnosis, we won’t even get the intervention that’s appropriate for what we have. And although people can recover from a mental illness, the emotional recovery continues.

Our beloved youths are not immune to mental illnesses. And it’s not uncommon that both child and adult are afflicted with psychological and mental health issues at the same time. And often, it’s not only ignorance why we missed the signals, but it’s also pride. We hesitated to consider that our kid could be suffering from a mental illness because if we did, then that probably meant that we also failed in our role as parents. We often would refuse to admit that we’re probably afflicted ourselves and thereby would not get the help we need because of fears of judgment and of the consequences of that.

The sooner we accept that suffering from a mental disorder is a possibility and that we are all affected or impacted by it, the more help we could get and the better effective our show of love would be.

The importance of embracing Mental Health and taking the stigma out of mental disorders couldn’t be more stressed in this age of Snapchats, Breaking and Fake News, Alternative Realities, and the curated reality of Facebook and Instagram.

As we encourage one another in truth and love, perhaps, we can also reassure each other by first reining our predilection to judge or to provide immediate answers. Maybe, as we take on the role of each other’s lifeline, we can also wear a lifelong learner’s hat.

And wouldn’t it be liberating to see our youths come forward and own their story while we embrace them with hope and show them a Christ-like love and devotion? But that’s far from happening if we’d remain comfortably hidden in our photoshopped reality.

In a tiny way, my family believes we can attempt to do something. It is for this reason why we chose TVCOC’s Teen Ministry to be my daughter’s charity of choice for the family’s upcoming formal hosted event. It is our hope that whatever amount we raise from the gathering would help promote a mental health discussion with the TVCOC teens. It’s not coincidental that Julia and Linda who are the event’s master of ceremonies and production manager, respectively, are huge proponents of mental health, too. They are devoted to helping the youths be their best self. In fact, starting this Fall, they will start a mental health awareness program benefitting the students of Springs Charter School in our city.

My 18-year-old teen and I firmly believe that through Kai’s and Bj’s leading, mental health will become a stronger topic to look into in conjunction to helping the teens develop stronger ties with the Lord. At least, that is our hope. Kai is the church’s lead pastor and Bj is the head of the Women’s Ministry and a mentor and adviser to the teens.

And for the adults, perhaps, we can talk more about mindfulness, practice being fully aware and being present, while also learning to curtail a high propensity towards caring for what other people’s thoughts about us.

I don’t feel okay most of the time. The times that I feel fine only mean that the pain and discomfort aren’t that bad. However, aside from a variety of medical conditions that include chronic pains, abdominal and spine issues, I also suffer from a high functioning anxiety and chronic insomnia. I’m learning how best to communicate an uncomfortable but honest answer without becoming too exhausted in the process and also without encouraging an awkward conversation that would add to my frustration. I’m learning to be more mindful and less and less caring about other people’s thoughts about me.

Here’s sharing my scripture reflection of the week as I get ready for my daughter’s formal event on Sunday, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples, then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John‬ ‭8:31-32‬ ‭NIV‬‬.

Here’s a TED Talk delivered by Thomas Insel on mental illness entitled, “Toward a new understanding of mental illness.”

 

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