"Mental health matters."
Cute saying, but do you believe it?
You should. Mental illness is a wrecking ball.
If your mental health is in bad shape, the rest of your life will follow.
I don't say this to scare you. Instead, I want you to take mental health seriously.
1 out of 5 Americans have a mental illness as we speak. Big fraction. It gets worse...
You have a 50% chance of being diagnosed with a mental disorder before the day you die.
These statistics aren't fake news. They come from the CDC and National Institute of Mental Health.
It happened to me even though I eat healthy, exercise every day, and take a ton of vitamins and minerals.
I learned why mental health matters in the hardest way possible. Allow me to spare you from the same fate.
Below are four fatal risks of failing to prioritize mental health (plus anxiety types as seen in Frozen characters).
1. You'll sabotage yourself.
Superheroes always have an arch nemesis.
The Joker makes Batman's life a waking nightmare.
Lex Luthor spends billions of dollars to undermine Superman.
Green Goblin kidnapped Spiderman's girlfriend, who died in a rescue attempt.
Thanos the conqueror destroyed half of the world's population with one snap of his fingers.
Imagine having a powerful enemy who makes your life a living hell. Even worse, they live inside your head.
Mental health matters, because the alternative is a parallel universe where you become your own worst enemy.
In the past, I failed to prioritize my mental health. The consequence was a manic episode in which I set my entire life on fire.
Manic episodes, also known as bipolar mania, cause you to act a fool. Cops got called because I behaved like a weirdo in a restaurant.
Mania also causes paranoia. Due to a delusion that involved the cops being secret assassins a la Deathstroke, I resisted arrest.
In my defense, said cops behaved aggressively despite the fact nobody was at risk, which fueled the paranoia even more.
Thankfully, bipolar is a rare mental illness that only affects 2.3 million Americans (that's just 1% of the US population).
Anxiety and depression, however, are extremely common. A third of Americans could suffer from these conditions.
After my mental breakdown, I became depressed and anxious. It felt like I forfeited the right to a good life.
I was crippled by doubt. Every potential decision was overanalyzed and discarded as "dumb" or "stupid."
Seeing a therapist helped me beat this roadblock. She taught me to accept where I was at the moment.
There are different versions of you. Your ideal self isn't the same as "you" after a mental health crisis.
My ideal self can write an article, create a logo, and design a mobile friendly website in one day.
Post mental health crisis, I couldn't motivate myself to take a shower and brush my teeth.
See the disconnect? It was expressed in the form of anxious thoughts: "It's over for you."
My counselor asked me to set smaller goals like, "Make your bed in the morning."
In time, I regained self-esteem and rediscovered the reality I can control my life.
After the recovery period completed, my ideal self came back online.
To get where you want to go, you must first accept where you are.
You can't rush recovery. It will take as much time as it needs to.
2. You'll lose control of your emotions.
Do you trust every advertisement you see?
Do you believe every claim a politician makes?
Do you think every online dating profile is honest?
No way. Who would? Most people are liars by nature.
Add in selfish needs for nookie, money, or campaign donations...
And multiply by a thousand. That said, don't think you're a sole exception.
Everyone lies to avoid conflict, awkward conversations, and pointless debates.
If I know you're a diehard liberal and you ask about my politics, I'll say what you want to hear.
For the record: I'm a walking contradiction who identifies as a "Progressive Libertarian" (totally makes sense).
Lying is easy. Conflict is hard. And it can have repercussions when you're not self-aware enough to assess the risk.
The point: everyone is full of crap (and that includes you). Be skeptical of what people say. The same applies to your mind.
Have you ever felt soul-crushing sadness despite many blessings such as: warm shelter, a loving family, and no risk of starvation?
No matter how much you remind yourself of those blessings, you feel as if you lack something essential, and can't escape the sour mood.
To be fair, your definition of a "good life" might involve more than three things. But you shouldn't feel depressed until you manifest that stuff.
The longer these feelings of discontent continue, the harder it gets to banish the belief your life -- and you by association -- aren't "good enough."
This is especially true for people with anxiety. Their emotional responses are intense. They pay more attention to negative and threatening information.
Given the nature of this condition, is it wise for an anxious person to watch the news? I vote for NO. The media is designed to make you afraid. Boycott it.
Thought suppression doesn't work. The more you resist, the stronger a negative thought gets. Instead, brainwash yourself with empowering mantras or affirmations.
3. You'll create tension in your relationships.
Anxiety can damage your relationship in two ways. They're practically a yin/yang. The first one is avoidance or a refusal to discuss problems in your relationship.
Ever watched Frozen? Elsa is a classic case of avoidance. As a child, she accidentally harmed her sister (Anna) during an epic display of her magical powers.
Elsa can manipulate ice and snow. A frozen beam of concentrated energy struck Anna in the head. She fainted and was rushed to a shaman for healing.
Horrified of hurting Anna again, Elsa locks herself in the bedroom and refuses to play with her sister throughout the remainder of their childhood.
Anna and Elsa belong to a royal family. Elsa is the oldest, so she's the first to rule. The castle is briefly opened for a customary celebration.
Previously, the castle was under a strict lockdown. Elsa's dad cautions her to never display her powers (ask the "witches" in Salem why).
Anna understands none of this. She is a playful spirit who's curious about what the world has to offer. Lockdown makes her miserable.
When informed the kingdom will close after the crowning of Elsa, Anna starts an argument and refuses to take "No" for an answer.
Elsa's avoidance returns to haunt her. She gets mad, loses control of her powers, and the kingdom turns into a big block of ice.
If she was open about her concerns with Anna, they could have found a compromise. Instead, they opened Pandora's box.
Avoidant type? Remember this story. Avoidance carries a bigger cost than discomfort. Express yourself early and often.
The second form of anxiety is attachment. Anna embodies this style, as reflected by how fast she falls in love with a stranger.
Hans is a prince from the Southern Isles. He meets Anna and seduces her by pretending their interests are in complete alignment.
Given the seclusion and lack of attention, it's easy to see how Anna was a perfect target for this deception. She's desperate for change.
Hans proposes and Anna says: "Yes." Unfortunately for her, Hans has a secret. He's not interested in marriage. His true objective is power.
After tying the knot, he intends to kill Elsa, which would put his evil butt on the throne. Wait a sec. Is this a Disney cartoon or Game of Thrones?
Attachment type? Remember this story. Connection is great, but a need for attachment can cause you to date bad people or tolerate poor treatment.
Anxiety can also cause you to see problems that don't exist. I'm not saying people never cheat. Clearly, they do. But don't assume the worst without proof.
If a partner is late or absent enough times in a row to deserve scrutiny, ask questions. However, always ask yourself: "Do I have facts to back up this feeling?"
The same reasoning applies to dating. People -- men especially -- will say anything to woo a partner. Don't put stock in words until they're emphasized with action.
4. You'll struggle to be productive at work and school.
You have an urgent deadline.
Essay? Exam? Presentation? It doesn't matter.
Generally, a task that influences your overall standing.
"Standing" could mean your grade, salary, or employability.
Did reading the previous four paragraphs make you feel nervous?
If so, you have first-hand experience with how anxiety affects productivity.
Studies show interpersonal relationships are a huge driver of workplace performance.
I guess this is why people say: "Your network is your net worth" (FYI: quote originates with Tim Sanders).
Sadly, it's not easy for anxious or depressed people to befriend colleagues. The depressed can't find the energy.
The anxious are afraid of being judged. Starting a conversation sounds simple, but isn't when you have a mental illness.
I remember the feeling. When I was depressed post-mania, it took several months to engage with friends and family on social media.
As I mentioned in this article about suicide prevention, I unfriended everybody due to a paranoid belief they were conspiring against me.
How could I explain such an insane decision? There's no good answer. Thus, I didn't bother. The social isolation made depression even worse.
I can't single-handedly solve your work-related mental health problems. But I can provide a mental framework to help you see reality more clearly.
What's a deadline? An arbitrary date on a calendar. What's time? An arbitrary system we use to measure how many times Earth goes around the sun.
In other words, you're not anxious about a deadline. You're anxious about a made-up number we invented in a simplistic attempt to explain the Universe.
Sounds stupid, right? Save your anxiety for more worthwhile concerns. Deadlines mean nothing, I promise. Why not start the assignment as soon as it arrives?
On a similar note, why not build a network? It's easier to cope with depression when you surround yourself with positive people. That's the goal. Nothing boring.
Anxious? Don't be. You'll do a better job than most folks. Trust me, I get emails from people who can't even spell my name correctly. And "Daniel" isn't hard to spell...
Put these words into action... because mental health matters, friend.
For the record, I'm not a certified therapist.
And I'm not licensed to treat people as a psychiatrist.
This is why I focus on preventive measures instead of medication.
That said, I had a great counselor and psychiatrist, who helped me immensely.
Apply the principles discussed here, but also know when to seek help from an expert.