Let’s Get Physical (and Mental)

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Trigger/content warning: Mention of suicide

The thing I talk about most in life is mental illness because society doesn’t talk about it enough, but also due to the fact that I have one. On top of my Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I have several physical illnesses: joint issues (rheumatoid arthritis; dislocating joints), asthma, chronic migraines, and GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease).

I’m not going to lie, it’s hard to live with my health issues. The line between physical and mental illness blurs all the time. My GERD, migraines, and asthma can be made worse by being anxious, and the times where these conditions worsen and disrupt my life take a toll on my mental health. One of my largest triggers (since I’ve had health issues my whole life) is my health. Trying to schedule doctor’s appointments, worrying about test results, the frustrations of treatments not working, missing out on important events, having to live life differently than others and adjust to never knowing when I’m going to have a bad health day. The stress and pain of having a physical illness can be too much for people and there is a link between suicide and having a chronic health condition, especially for adolescents and people who live with chronic pain.

What really makes me mad is when people try to say physical illness is more serious or legitimate than mental illness. What people don’t realize is that our mental well-being has such a huge effect on our body. The reason why we feel like our stomach is in knots or we feel “butterflies” is because we have neurons in our stomachs. The symptoms of a panic attack can mimic those of a heart attack. People can experience physical symptoms when their psychological symptoms are severe. This is known as conversion disorder. I experienced conversion disorder in 2011 when I had a “stroke-like episode” where I temporarily lost consciousness, my body went completely paralyzed, and I couldn’t speak after I had a migraine. All the tests that were done came back “inconclusive”, meaning that there was no physical explanation for my symptoms, but a psychiatrist thought it was due to a mental illness (the wrong one it would turn out, but a mental illness nonetheless) and I later figured out that it was because I was so stressed from hiding my Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression from everyone. Our mental health should taken more seriously because of the impact it can have on our physical health.

In order for mental health awareness to increase on a global scale, we need to start viewing mental illnesses as equal physical ones. Check up on a friend who has been feeling down by calling them or visiting them instead of letting them “sort their own issues out.” Bring dinner  a friend whose mental illness is interfering with their life. Let’s educate kids about coping skills along with the food pyramid so they can have healthy minds and bodies. School can teach kids about the warning signs for mental illness in health class just like how kids are taught the signs of puberty. The only way to ensure that future generations won’t have to suffer through mental illness alone is through early education.

If you need help finding mental health resources, you can click on the tabs on the side of this page (underneath “About”.) or feel free to tweet me!

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