It takes bravery to take the first step in caring for our mental health. Emily Langr’s first step is self-care. “I’m not talking about candles and bubble bath,” she says. “I mean REAL soulful self-care.” Listen to the needs of both body and mind and take action. Terri Ufkin’s first step was admitting her need for help and asking for it. Psychiatrist turned promoter of the arts Rosei Skipper, MD, feels that the first step is the willingness to say that you need help.
What has been your experience?
Diagnosed almost 20 years ago, Rosei takes an antidepressant, goes to therapy regularly and exercises. She says, “Over time I have also gotten better at realizing when something isn’t helping me—for example, relying on shopping, sweets, alcohol, my phone, etc. Those things are all OK in moderation, but too much and they really make things worse for me.”
She adds, “I can definitely tell when I don’t go to therapy or I’m not getting enough movement or sunshine.” Last February, Rosei hit a low point and decided to buy a treadmill, which turned out to be very helpful. Walking on the treadmill while watching something fun on TV fulfills that need for movement in her life to feel well mentally and physically.
Emily says, “I struggle with feeling like my anxiety and depression aren’t ‘bad enough’ to be ‘real,’ but, on the other hand, some days they prevent me from living and working to the best of my ability.” She reminds herself that everyone struggles differently and that her health struggles are real and deserve care and attention. Healthy ways to cope include talking with a friend or a mentor, moving her body and safe use of medications and supplements.
It took her 15 years, but once Terri asked for help, she got it. She says, “I thought people would think less of me. I didn’t want to be someone who needed help, medicine or anyone for that fact. I didn’t want to admit that I was like my dad in my mental health, but at the same time, I really didn’t want to end up like him and hurt my children and family like he did to me and my family.” She was afraid of looking weak.
What, if any, were your biggest obstacles in sharing your inner thoughts and struggles?
Emily grew up in a culture where mental health struggles weren’t something that happened to you; they were a sign of weakness due to lack of faith. “That mindset is incredibly harmful, and I’ve come to recognize it as gaslighting and emotional/spiritual abuse,” she says. It has taken time for Emily to find a safe person to talk to about her mental health. It takes self-confidence to be able to talk about mental health and to help others understand.
Terri states, “The struggles that I faced had to do with admitting that I needed help, medicine and talking to someone on a consistent basis. I would be doing great then give up on all the things that were helping. I always told myself the medicine made me feel weird—which really, I just was not taking the right stuff. I have now found out that I would tell the doctors what I thought they needed to hear and was not fully honest, which in turn made me not get the right help.” While in the hospital, Terri learned important coping skills like breathing or taking a “time out.”
What would you say to someone who needs help but is afraid to ask?
Emily feels that telling someone—a friend, teacher or other safe person—that you are struggling is important. “Reach out, to anyone. You can reach out to me if you want. I am always here to listen, but I know there are others that are as well,” says Terri. “Be honest, be willing, be open to share your story. I can help others in the process, which I love to do,” she says.
It helps to listen to music, laugh, walk, enjoy the little things, read, meditate and remember to breathe.