Hello, readers! May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and so I’m going to be a little bit more serious than usual: today’s blog post is about prioritizing one’s mental health, and how I have done so over the past year and a half. I briefly mentioned that I started going to therapy sessions in my 2021 recap post, but I wanted to dedicate a post specifically to this topic.
My health realization #1: I should have started therapy years ago!
Regularly talking to a therapist for the past year and a half has greatly decreased my stress levels, improved my work/life balance, and positively impacted my overall mental health. I developed bad working habits early in my career that have been hard to break — first and foremost, I just simply work too many hours out of fear that I’m not contributing enough to justify my salary. I struggle with perfectionism. However, I’ve improved my relationship with my work by setting better boundaries, and I’ve also focused on improving other areas of my life — like making sure I stay on a consistent sleep schedule.
Some of the things I’ve done to break my bad habits:
- I rarely work in the evenings now
- I keep my work laptop and phone in my office (something I’ve done for a long time, but continue to do)
- I block out my calendar in the afternoons in order to have more focused time
- I decline more meetings that don’t have agendas or don’t fit into my typical working hours
- I try to go to sleep around the same time every night, and try my hardest to get at least 7 hours of sleep
My health realization #2: I deal with more than just stress and anxiety
If you’ve ever spent time with me in real life, you may have noticed that I tend to clear my throat quite frequently. I know it can be annoying at times — both for myself and for others around me. I started doing this as a teenager, and it’s been befuddling me ever since; for many years, my doctors and I all assumed that it was potentially resulting from chronic acid reflux, but taking medicine specifically to treat acid reflux just didn’t ever seem to help.
I’ve gone from doctor to doctor trying to understand this chronic throat-clearing issue, and now, I finally have a diagnosis that makes sense. Thanks to therapy, my psychiatrist, and modern medicine, I’m currently in better health than I have been in a long time. My throat clearing is manageable and often non-existent!
So, what’s the cause? My psychiatrist and I believe that I likely have a mild form of Tourette syndrome that gets exacerbated by stress. (Side note: I’ve also found that other things that increase the frequency of my tics include alcohol and lack of sleep.) The throat-clearing is my primary vocal tic, but I have other facial and motor tics as well that I can mostly hide or suppress without much notice. Had I made the connection that these were all related, I may have had a diagnosis earlier in my life than I did. Now that I do have the diagnosis, I’ve employed various techniques and medicine to help control my tics — primarily: better sleep, less stress, and a small dosage of aripiprazole.
I’m extremely thankful to my therapist and psychiatrist for helping me live a better life, and grateful for the mental health benefits provided by my employer! Without taking that first step and reaching out to a therapist to talk about my mental health, I may have never made progress toward understanding my chronic condition.
I write this post not for sympathy or anything like that. I write this post with the hope that I can help to convince at least one person out there to prioritize their mental well-being and take that first step towards a better life! And remember, we all have mental health struggles from time-to-time, and you don’t and shouldn’t have to manage it alone.