Guest Writer Dan Esterly: Mental Health as a Process

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While the conversations have been initiated, it is going to take a lot of work to end the stigma surrounding mental health.  Situations where we feel vulnerable can often trigger feelings of anxiety.  We are constantly reminded of this fear in everyday situations, such as going on a first date, and already stressing about how your issues with mental health may affect the relationship.  It is difficult to communicate these feelings to others and expect them to understand, while we often do not fully understand these feelings ourselves.

We all have good and bad days.  Everyone is different and can reach different levels of recovery. In short, mental health is a process. We live in an age that is centered around instant gratification. Want a date? Just download an app and swipe left or right. Are you lonely? Just open up Facebook messenger and you can find someone to talk to. Need a ride? Just hit a few buttons on your phone and a car will pick you up shortly.

Unfortunately, treating mental illness is not as quick and easy as putting a bandage on a cut or taking a pill for a headache.  Psychiatric medication is a supplement to treatment, but not a replacement. Many people think, ‘All I need to do is take a pill to feel better,’ but that is not the case. Medication helps re-balance chemicals, but does not address the issues that may have caused or resulted from the imbalance in the first place. Therapy is the key to getting well and taking care of yourself.

Counseling can be beneficial to anyone, regardless of an official diagnosis.  However, counseling is a process that can take months to years to complete depending on the situation. It can often take years of imbalance and unhappiness to even truly recognize that there is a problem, and for some, even longer before seeking treatment.

Neuro-plasticity is the brain’s way of continuously adapting and changing physically over time. Neuro-imaging studies have revealed that the brain’s wiring changes and re-constructs itself in response to environment and situations. Ironically, it is believed that disorders can both stem and be treated through this process. Therapy provides an environment to undo whatever “mis-wiring” took place.

Breaking a habit is not a quick process, and battling depression is no exception.  This is why it is important to give therapy some time before expecting results. When we are in a crisis, it’s normal to want instant relief. However, true, lasting relief can only be achieved with work and time.  Making little changes day by day can create a world of difference in the big picture.