Think for a moment what it is that you prioritize in your life. Your family? Your work? Your hobbies? How about leisure? Are your behaviors conducive to living a healthy, happy life, or is the antithesis true?
For many of us, such introspection may make us wonder if we actually care about living healthier lives in the first place. While most of us with anxious minds overtly profess this to be the case, our actions often say otherwise.
Day in and day out, we prioritize both our time and our effort toward things that seem to only lengthen the distance between our current status quo and our most sought-after goals in life, one of which is to live life healthily, both physically and psychologically.
Throughout my late teens and early twenties, what I wanted more than anything else in the world was to simply not have anxiety. My irrational fears seemed to be the only thing holding me back from experiencing many of life’s pleasures.
Although I can wholeheartedly attest that what I wanted more than anything in life was to be free from the psychological prison that was my own neuroticism, my behavior hardly intimated the veridicality of those convictions.
Sure, I took antidepressants on and off for most of my adult life, as well as received treatment from therapists here and there, but I was never involved in a sort of “bootcamp esque” style of treatment where my mental health was my top priority in life, at least not back then.
No. Instead, I saw my therapist once a week for an hour and swallowed whatever pill I was prescribed each morning before I started the day.
The sad reality is that this is what mental health treatment is like for most people. We get a diagnosis, a prescription, and a weekly therapy session.
For someone with anxiety as severe as mine was throughout my late teens and early twenties, such a method of treatment is the perfect recipe for a life of wasted potential, bitterness toward the world and everyone in it, as well as untamed, unnecessary psychological suffering.
Sure, my medication helped me, as well as my therapists, but the degree to which those things helped me was stunted due to the degree at which I didn’t help myself. Nevertheless, I cannot honestly attest this failure to sheer indolence and insouciance alone, as ignorance was indeed the main reason as to why I did not help myself to the degree I should have.
If it wasn’t for my dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) therapists, I believe I surely would have been doomed. Such a string of luck doesn’t happen for most people, especially for those who live in less developed countries where mental illness is not taken seriously.
In lieu of truly understanding the importance of making your mental health a priority, and of course, actually doing it, then you will likely find yourself like most people who suffer from mental illness, which is to just take a pill once a day and to go to a therapy session once a week.
This is especially true for individuals who are struggling with substance and alcohol addiction. Those who have willingly checked into a rehab center can attest that getting clean once is no guarantee that it will last. It is incredibly difficult to stay clean when you do not prioritize your mental health. Stress, anxiety, depression, and day-to-day boredom can easily creep back into your life, acting as triggers. The preferred substance of choice becomes the solution that can alleviate the malaise. But it is never the right solution. That is why you may struggle to move on when you fail to nurture your mental health.
The amount of skills needed to improve your mental health doesn’t get learned after 1 hour a week, or 4 hours a month, or 52 hours a year. There is much homework that needs to be done for anyone seriously looking to decrease their psychological suffering in the long-term.
If you’re unwilling to make your mental health a priority even after becoming aware of all the different things you can do to improve it, then perhaps your mental suffering is simply not severe enough for you to do so.
I sometimes think to myself, “Taking into consideration the full scope of everything I know about how to effectively reduce my anxiety, whether it be via in vivo exposure, mindfulness meditation, DBT skills, taking prescribed medication as it is prescribed, eating more healthily, or exercising, how can I possibly justify me not actively working on any of those things?”
I can no longer hold my weight on the crutch of ignorance as I am now aware of numerous ways to improve my mental health. Therefore, if I don’t use all of these tools which are readily available for me to use, then it would be due to nothing more than indolence or apathy on my part. And that alone is unacceptable to me.
So, I have no other choice but to take what I know and implement it throughout my life every day. I implore you to do the same.