Emotional Wellness and You
Happiness and contentment are marvellous feelings. Being at peace with yourself and your environment is a goal well gained.
But the older you get, for many people life seems more complicated and stressful.
This world we live in is a whole lot faster and more complex than the one I came into in 1948.
It’s called modernization and progress and I’m all for most of it, but I must admit that I came kicking and screaming into the technological age.
When I was selling residential real estate in the early 1980’s there was one secretary for fifteen agents. She had to type all of our offers and even if you could type you weren’t allowed to do it. No one had computers or cell phones. Sign-backs had to wait their turn to be typed. Offers took days of back and forth to complete.
Today a hot real estate market means that agents have to be wired 24/7. They can type offers in their car from their cell phone outside a listing and make changes instantly.
The money is fantastic, but the pressure and stress levels can match the financial gains.
Coping with everyday life events is easy for some people, more difficult for others and impossible for many.
Just about everyone has experience all three of these phases at sometime in their lives.
There have been days when I have dreaded getting out of bed. Facing the day was terrifying.
Eventually I was able pull myself together enough to go through the motions and put on a happy face, but inside I was a mess.
I guess I’m a glass half full kind of guy, trying to be optimistic when things get tough.
My wife Carol wasn’t so lucky.
Carol was a beautiful young lady when we met on a blind date in 1969. We got married a few years later and had two daughters two years apart. Carol worked in the fashion business and had success as a model. We had a wonderful life until she woke up one morning and said to me,
“I had a black day yesterday.”
Those six words started our family, and Carol in particular, into a downward spiral that ended in the worst possible way.
Somehow Carol lost her emotional wellness, her ability to cope with her everyday existence. She lost her balance. She was suffering from severe emotional distress.
She was diagnosed as ‘clinically depressed,’ that’s what the medical profession called it. She was ‘mentally ill.’
Those two words are one of the most stigmatized phrases in our vocabulary, and Carol felt the brunt of being ostracized right from the beginning of her ordeal.
Her three year journey through a myriad of hospitals and psychosomatic drugs convinced her that this was not the world she wanted to live in.
Our daughters were ages twelve and ten when she left. Carol had just turned forty.
For the last twenty-five years I have devoted much of my time reading and listening to people discuss the ever growing tragedy of ‘mental illness.’
I know that billions of dollars have been spent on research and manufacturing of more palatable chemical solutions. Psychiatric white papers have being written espousing new techniques of psycho therapy.
Yet suicides increase every year at epidemic rates and mental illness continues to be stigmatized.
Recent study in Canada done by Women’s College Hospital sampling 1,500 adults found that forty-two percent of respondents said that they would feel embarrassed to admit that they have mental health issues. Chief hospital psychiatrist Dr. Valerie Taylor remarked,” People, despite everything, see it as a sign of weakness.”
So here’s my idea. Maybe if we used the term ‘Emotional Wellness’ instead of ‘mental illness’ people would be more apt to talk about what is bothering them.
All humans are controlled by our emotions. Our emotional wellbeing is paramount to having a happy healthy life.
So some days you are fine emotionally, but others you feel a little blue. If you continue to feel blue for a number of days then your wellness will suffer, just as it would with a physical illness like the flu.
If the flu goes away you start to feel better, and if your blues go away you start to feel better too. You can say, “I’ve been emotionally blue for awhile but I’m feeling much better now, thank you.”
As a primary care giver to a person that suffered from severe emotional distress, I know that the very best and most important thing a person that is sliding into depression can do is to talk to someone about it.
That is what Carol did with me. Remember those six words. They were critical in starting the dialogue that allowed me to at least try to help her through her ordeal.
Silence is not golden for people suffering from depression!
I have a writing partner that lives several hundred miles from me. Were working on a project with no real time frame but I hadn’t heard from him for a few months. I sent him an email to see how he was doing and he wrote back that he thought we should cancel the project because he was severely depressed and could’t write anymore.
What I wrote back to him was this. I thanked him for being honest with me and also being so brave to write about his depression and get it out to a safe friend. We communicated regularly from then on, often discussing his feelings but in one particular email he thanked me for saving his life.
He let it out, he talked to me, and it saved his life. So simple, yet so drastically important.
Here in Canada one of our major media companies, Bell Media, that has contributed nearly 70 million dollars to stop the silence and stigma about mental illness.
Bell has initiated a program called ‘Let’s Talk’ that sets aside one million dollars annually to distribute grants to local community based mental health initiatives across the country. The program is based on four action pillars: anti-stigma, care and access, research, and workplace best practices.
Canadians are urged to join the discussion on one particular day by tweeting, phoning and using Facebook likes to support the efforts of mental illness awareness.
It’s a great phrase, ‘Let’s Talk,’ because as I found out personally, for someone suffering from emotional distress, it really works.
Bell Media also went a step further in regard to engaging people to talk about their personal emotional situation. They prepared a tool kit for people in different communities to become ‘facilitators’, a position that would allow them to moderate live discussions with people about their emotional health.
I am proud to say that I am one of those facilitators.
The sessions are meant to break down the stigma of mental illness by talking to similar people in a relaxed, controlled environment and following a guide book that was put together by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.
What we talk about is trying to find a balance in all aspects of life, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Good emotional health is the willingness to think about and deal with everyday challenges such as making choices and decisions, adapting to and coping with difficult situations, talking about one’s needs and desires and maintaining meaningful relationships.
Just as our lives and circumstances change, so do our moods and thoughts and our sense of well being. We all feel sad, worried, scared or suspicious sometimes. But these kinds of feelings may become a problem if they get in the way of our daily lives over a long period of time. When there are changes in a person’s thinking, mood or behaviour and these changes cause a lot of distress and make it difficult to do daily tasks, that person may have emotional distress.
So try to find a balance in your individual lives. It is not always easy to do, but try you best.
If you run into emotional trouble, tell someone close to you. You are not alone. Everyone suffers from some for of emotional distress, be it on a daily basis or only once in a while.
I will be adding a forum to this section of my website in the near future so that individuals can write about their emotions. I will also provide resources for help.
Wishing you a balanced and emotionally well life.