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Mental Health IS Health

Make your mental wellbeing a priority.

People make time for annual physicals, routine dentist appointments, and they go see their doctor when they're sick or something physically hurts. So why don't more people make the time to care for their mental health if they're struggling? I truly believe you can be in the best physical shape of your life and still not be healthy if your emotional and mental health are not cared for too.

I've shared how I was robbed at gunpoint in my early 20s and how I experienced postpartum anxiety/depression in my late 30s. Never in a million years would I have guessed that they were related. Trauma plants seeds, which grow into roots that take hold and change how your brain reacts and responds to things. When I found an expert therapist, she opened my eyes to how trauma had truly affected me.

After the robbery I became hypervigilant. Everywhere I went, I was constantly looking for the shady person who was going to hurt me next. I lost faith and trust in people. Even at parties with people I knew, I refused to put my purse down because my brain assumed it would be stolen. I constantly got ridiculed: "you got somewhere else to be?" and "hey, put that down and stay awhile." Silly example, but a good indicator that my safe bubble had been burst and I was now living in a new reality that what you see on TV can really happen to you.

When I gave birth to my baby boy (which was like giving birth to my heart) sirens sounded and my brain went into high alert. THE WORLD IS NOT SAFE. As a result, my anxiety began and grew and grew. So much so, that it started affecting my quality of life and ultimately led to depression, something I had never experienced before. Eventually I started taking an antidepressant, which helped, but without actually processing the underlying cause, I was never going to truly get better.

Through my therapy sessions, I practiced something called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). I was skeptical at first, but can now attest that it really works and for me, was lifechanging. EMDR uses eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) while the trauma victim focuses on the worse memory from that event. As this happens (for reasons believed to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep) internal associations arise and people begin to process the memory and the disturbing feelings associated with it.

For me, the absolute worse memory was when I was laying on the floor of the bank and I accepted my own impending death. When I try to pull up that memory now, it doesn't trigger me and in fact, through the EMDR healing process, a new image has taken its place. I see myself as I look now picking my 5-year-old-self up off of the bank floor, hugging her and carrying her safely out of the bank. As I'm writing this, I find myself holding back tears. How amazing that my mind has replaced a terrifying moment with one of safety and self-love. And interesting that my brain doesn't remember me as a 22-year-old, but rather as a 5-year-old, representing the absolute vulnerability I felt in that moment.

I encourage everyone reading this who has endured trauma to seek help and support so that you can process the traumatic event(s) and move on without it influencing every other aspect of your life. Something I wish someone would have told me 20 years ago. I'm happy to see the current trend of people being more open these days about their mental health challenges, but I feel like we still have a long way to go. I'm an open book about my struggles and think we should all advocate for those who are suffering. Let's lose the stigma around mental health care and find hope through healing.

EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using EMDR, therapists can help clients activate their natural healing processes.


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