by Christy Gualtieri
When I was a kid, my brothers and I owned the board game Mouse Trap. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the goal of the game was to use moves to build a Rube-Goldberg-esque machine that would eventually release a net over a plastic mouse-shaped piece. When the mouse was trapped, the game was over. The machine was meant to be built during the course of the game, but my brothers and I had no patience for that – we wanted to build it first and then see how often we could make it work.
It hardly ever worked.
I bring up Mouse Trap because any time-consuming, delicate thing you have to build and re-build (think standing dominoes, as well), reminds me of a person taking care of their mental health. For many folks, this is relatively easy to do. If they’re angry or frustrated, they could hit the gym or go for a run to release their emotions. If they’re sad, they can cry, vent, write letters. If they’re disappointed, scared, or heartbroken, they can find a friend who will listen and offer them some sound advice. If they’re stressed, they can visit a favorite place of worship or do yoga or meditate.
Nothing is wrong with doing any of those things, but if you’re a person who struggles consistently with their mental health, those things don’t become a one-and-done solution. People who suffer from chronic depression, anxiety, mood disorders, or any other issue related to their mental health – or just someone who hasn’t been technically diagnosed, but who has trouble finding enjoyment or peace in their lives, can feel like they’re constantly “building the machine” incorrectly. No matter what solution they try, their mousetrap never falls in just the right way, and the mouse gets away.
And it gets hard to keep building it up. My brothers and I stopped playing Mouse Trap for a reason: it takes a lot of work for not a whole lot of payoff.
Taking care of one’s mental health, though, is not a game. It is hard work. It’s hard work to have to confront issues that cause crippling fear and anxiety. It’s hard work to have to figure out how to reframe conversations with an inner critic or how to even relate to someone who is in a depression you can’t understand. It’s hard work to have to try new medications that come with an array of side effects, and decide whether or not they’re working well for you. And when words like “depression” and “anxiety” and even clinical terms like “OCD” and “ADHD” have been used so often they tend to lose their real meaning, those who suffer from these very real issues don’t get taken seriously. And when that happens, the support system that is so vital to those who are suffering can seem non-existent, and it makes it that much harder for a person in need to get help.
May is coming to a close, and with it Mental Health Awareness Month. But those who struggle with mental health issues keep fighting their battles all year long. If you are one of them, I encourage you again to seek help, if you need it. If you are not, but know someone who is, discover ways to help them play the game. Help them build themselves up so they can find peace in their lives and a way to enjoy the life they have – or can have.
It can make such an incredible difference.
Until next time, be well!
Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!