Adam in our office was playing kickball over the weekend, tripped over a depression in the field and broke his ankle. He was flushed with embarrassment as he came into work in a cast with crutches, trying to balance his lunch bag and his cell phone while opening the office door with his left hand. As he walked past the front desk, we asked him what happened. He told us the doctor said he might have to have surgery on it.
“That’s crazy. You went to the hospital for that?” one of us said. “Couldn’t you just rest it?”
“Yeah, why don’t you just let it go. I think you’re making a big deal out of nothing,” I replied. “I don’t think you needed to get a cast either. I think you’re just looking for attention.”
“I had a broken ankle and I got over it just fine,” said another person. “You should try yoga.”
Of course, none of this happened. First of all, no one here is named Adam, and none of us plays kickball. But beyond that, no one would minimize the concerns of someone seeking medical help for an injury, especially something as serious and painful as a broken bone.
So why do people do it with mental health concerns? How is it possible, especially given a global pandemic that has knocked us all off our moorings, that anyone would hesitate for a moment to seek professional help? Would we suggest an insulin-dependent person with diabetes just push through without medication? Would we want an athlete to take the field without physical therapy after a ligament tear? Would we withhold a blanket from our child who was shivering from fever?
I can recall several times during the pandemic, usually after one of the 465 times we thought things were “over” only to roll back into a “here we go again” scenario, when I found myself winded, heart pounding, breath quickening. I lost count of the 3 a.m. incidental wakeups that resulted in raving insomnia for the next few hours because my brain was firing like a 33 record on 78. (You may have to look that one up, young ’uns!) And hearing of yet another neighbor who died of COVID-19 reignited the grief I have not been able to escape, while that family was faced with an incomprehensible loss.
But help is out there, and none of us is alone. I would wager many people reading this have had at least some degree of feelings of anxiety, depression or panic in the last two years. Let us normalize it and take care of ourselves, and each other. Writer Stephanie Hacke does a masterful job of showing us how mental health care has changed. If you see yourself in the story, reach out. And if you’re fortunate enough to not need help right now, look around. Someone very close to you may be hungering for your unconditional support.