September 24, 2017

Opening a New Door

opendoor1Opening a New Door
Dan Connors

I’ve been very fortunate in general with my health. Good eyesight, good hearing (until I passed 50), plenty of energy and little disease. The one exception that has dogged me is mental health, which was a big issue in my youth.

I have suffered from chronic depression since puberty, though no one realized it until I was well into my 20’s. In just the past 25 years diagnosis and treatment of depression has come a long way, and it is hard to imagine the old days when mentally ill people were institutionalized or allowed to slowly waste away.

Mental health is something I never take for granted. Overcoming mental illness is one of the hardest undertakings that someone can attempt in this life. Once you are stuck in a depression or other unhealthy mental state, it becomes your reality. Your prison. You see the world through that reality and it is very hard to change the paradigm and move forward. Negative thoughts and feelings reinforce themselves in a self-fulfilling prophesy.

With physical ailments, it is easy to diagnose and treat once you can see the outward symptoms and understand what causes them. With mental ailments, there are no blood tests, no easy detection, and we still understand precious little about how the brain works. Instead there are the questions:

Are you eating regularly and healthily and are you taking care of general hygiene daily?

Are you sleeping well at night- getting at least 7 or 8 hours?

Do you rely on any other substances- alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to get you through the day?

Are you enjoying the present and having fun? Or do you resent those who do?

Does thinking about the future excite you? Or make you want to give up?

Are there any fears or phobias that keep you from doing what you want to do?

Do you have strong and satisfying relationships with other people?

Have you had trouble concentrating and/or losing motivation for doing things?
When all you know is faulty thinking, it’s a lot to ask to recognize that there is a problem and then figure out how to fix it. It took me a long time, different medications and different counselors. But just knowing that there is a new door that you can reach is a great source of hope. Having the courage to open the door and walk through it takes time and encouragement, but once we do, there are many more possibilities awaiting us in the unknown than in our familiar darkness.

On October 10 we celebrate World Mental Health Day. You cannot have good physical health without good mental health. Take care of your own mental health and be aware of the symptoms for those you know and love.