Mental Health: A Different Perspective

Hi, friends. It’s me, Andrea! You know, the one who likes to talk about the sometimes uncomfortable topic of mental health? It’s a topic near and dear to my heart and I’m super excited because May is Mental Health Month!

If I’m being completely open with you...in the past, it’s made me a tiny bit sad when the articles we post about this aspect of macular degeneration don't get a lot of traffic. They’re the only articles I check to see how many people have read, liked, or commented on...only because I think that the emotional aspect of a diagnosis like macular degeneration is such an important one to consider.

The feelings that come with a life-changing diagnosis

Really...how can a person not have BIG and difficult feelings about something as life-changing as severe vision loss (or the threat of it)? And, why wouldn’t we want to understand and heal those BIG, difficult feelings so we can still live wonderful and amazing lives despite our diagnosis?

Can we just change the term already?

Can I be honest with you all about something? I wish the powers that be would change the term ‘mental’ health to ‘emotional’ health instead. It is just not easy to talk about mental health. It feels very intrusive with a little stigma thrown in, doesn’t it? Like something is ‘wrong’ with you. For as long as any of us can remember, people rudely use the term 'you're mental' when referring to being crazy or 'off.' And just like that ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a stigma that has proven difficult to redefine.

There's nothing wrong with having emotions

You see, what I’ve learned is that there isn’t anything wrong with me for having emotions and wanting to better understand them. It’s actually a super healthy thing to do. You wanna know why? Because when you understand your emotions (why they happen, what they’re trying to tell you, and what you can learn from them), you gain control of them...and they stop controlling you.

On your way to emotional healing

Read that again and take it in. I’d even venture to say that those of us who aren’t analyzing the emotional aspect of difficult things we encounter in our lives are a little less healthy than those of us who are. I say that with such a loving intention, friends. If you’ve read all the way down to here, I bet you’re well on your way to emotional healing.

We all go through things

Let me tell you something...every single human on this planet needs to care for their mental and emotional health. Every single person on this planet goes through things that are tough. Difficult things challenge all of our minds at some point in our lives. It isn’t anything to be ashamed of. One of our tough things here at MacularDegeneration.net is vision loss, but everybody has ‘something’ difficult going on...or they will at some point.

If there is one thing I know, it’s that being diagnosed with macular degeneration and vision loss is accompanied by a lot of feelings. Have you ever experienced fear from your diagnosis? Anxiety? Worry? Confusion? Concern? Anger? Sadness? Shock? Emotions are our body’s way of telling us to pay attention to something. And that, my friends, is emotional health.

Getting more in touch with my emotions

I know this because I have struggled with this feeling myself over and over again...and continue to struggle with it even many years after my diagnosis. I even have some therapy under my belt. But do you wanna know a secret? Tapping into my emotions and my mental health has been the best, most eye-opening, and amazing thing to happen to me in my entire life.

This diagnosis isn’t the end for us

So much so, that I am in many ways thankful for my diagnosis of myopic macular degeneration because it has forced me to become a ‘better’ person. I’m now thankful for my BIG and difficult emotions because they have been great teachers. Crazy how that happened, right (pun intended)?

I now understand that anger is really just a different form of fear and sadness. I can now name my emotions and talk to them. I can talk about them. I can tell them to stop. If they don’t want to stop, I can do things to make them stop like exercising and meditating. I can love myself so dang much that all of my scared goes away.

Our bodies are super intelligent

Our bodies do things without us even knowing or trying. Breathing, blinking, heart beating, feeling emotions...all of that happens to us automatically. Think about it. Do you ever tell yourself, “Self, feel fear now.”? No, you don’t. You just feel it when something scary happens - something like a scary diagnosis might I ask?

Did you know that anxiety is our brain’s way of purposefully making our bodies uncomfortable so we pay attention to something? Like, “Hello! Something is wrong...find a way to make it better, please!” And on the other side of that, feeling a sense of peace and calmness in a certain situation literally trains our brains to continue those feelings in that situation? So, when we feel anxious or scared we can go do that thing that gives us peace to calm down? It's pretty neat stuff.

We can’t prevent emotions, nor would we want to

So, here’s the deal...emotions happen whether we want them to or not. Some emotions feel really great and happy. And, some emotions feel really, really awful and difficult. There’s no getting around any of it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always know how to handle these difficult emotions.

I have lived enough life to know that if I’m not careful, they tend to take control of everything in my life...and not in a good way. So, I’m here today to support anyone who is struggling with big, difficult emotions. You are not alone...and acknowledging them is the first step in the right direction. Congratulations!

What can we do?

There are many things each of us can do to have healthy emotional responses and an overall positive mental health.

  1. Learn about emotions. Research and read (you're doing that right now, yay!).
  2. Go to therapy. I love therapy so much! This is where I have learned the most about myself. If you're interested in therapy but nervous to start, check out this article.
  3. End the stigma. Have positive conversations with others about emotions and mental health.
  4. Be vulnerable. Trust me when I say that you are not alone in this. Opening up to others about your struggles and triumphs with emotional health can help build their confidence to do the same.

I hope that even when the articles we post about mental health don’t get a lot of likes or comments it doesn’t mean they’re not being read. I can understand a hesitancy to like or comment on such articles as there is a certain stigma to some about anything ‘mental health.’ Thank you for reading this all the way down to the end!

I’m proud of you! I'm proud of US.

Andrea Junge

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