6-20-2021 is Father’s Day this year, it has been a few years without my father and Father’s Day has never been the same. Father’s Day always falls a week after my birthday, so not only do I not get to hear his voice on my birthday, I do not get to exercise my appreciation for him on this day. I never really thought about mental health until after my father passed. I mean, I did work with emotionally disturbed children and witnessed a coworker become mentally unstable over a certain amount of time. This however, took its toll and set its mark.
So, I have never been one to seek counseling for anything other than my marriage. That was only because my father advised it. I understood the suggestion, because I love my wife and I was taking a major step forward for the rest of my life. However, I cannot feel the same sentiment for anything that I was having personal conflicts with. As often as it was suggested, it is just not something I can conform to. I am not wired that way. I am good.
Over my years I have had brief stints of depression, that I did not know was depression at the time. The one thing that has got me through it all, was writing. Writing poetry, writing stories or just writing down my thoughts. I used to consider poetry my true love and even wrote poetry a breakup letter once, because I thought she wasn’t fulfilling my needs. I then turned around a few years later and wrote a poem asking her to come back. It was very necessary. Here I am again writing and getting things in the air, to not only help myself but to help others. Its because of my father who I miss talking to.
Before I begin, let me help educate some people. Mental health is a serious subject, but few understand what it is despite it being such a compelling topic in today’s society. There is a significant difference between mental health and emotional health. I came upon this information myself as I was preparing this subject for blogging purposes. According to Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare (https://www.pyramidhealthcarepa.com/what-is-the-difference-between-mental-health-emotional-health/). The phrase “mental health” is used every day, from being the subject of news reports to coming up in casual conversation. However, do you know what mental health actually means?
Mental health influences your thoughts and actions, and it covers three main types of well-being:
The status of your mental health can affect many different areas of your life, from your ability to manage stress to how well you maintain your relationships with others. There are a wide range of symptoms associated with mental health problems, including severe changes in mood, feeling a lack of energy, overeating or under-eating, insomnia, excessive sleeping, and increased use of drugs and alcohol.
Like mental health, the phrase emotional health can easily be used in conversation, even if no one is quite sure about the term’s meaning. Emotional health is having both an awareness of your emotions and the ability to manage and express those feelings in an age-appropriate manner. There are no instant fixes for bettering your emotional health; however, there are many steps you can take to improve it. For instance, try to identify the positive in situations and work on developing your strengths instead of focusing on any perceived weaknesses. While mental and emotional health are similar in some respects, it is important to remember that these terms are ultimately quite different. Some differences that separate mental health from emotional include:
- Difference #1: Processing Information Versus Expressing Emotion
Part of mental health is how well your mind processes and understands information and experiences. In contrast, emotional health involves your ability to manage and express the emotions that arise from what you have learned and experienced.
- Difference #2: One Can Thrive While the Other Struggles
An important distinction between mental and emotional health is that you can experience mental health issues while maintaining good emotional health, and vice versa. For example, while struggling with a mental health problem like having little energy for daily tasks, you can still exhibit emotional health by finding effective ways to manage that lack of energy.
- Difference #3: The Scope of the Two Terms
Mental health is not only about how well you understand and process what you experience. It also includes your ability to carefully reason through decisions and maintain a steady, focused attention span. The wide scope of mental health puts it in sharp contrast to emotional health, which has the more focused definition of actively understanding and managing your emotions.
In my grieving process I found Difference #2 to be my most challenging experience. I tried to keep moving, I took maybe a day off after my father’s funeral and went back to work the following week. Keeping the notion in my mind, “The world doesn’t stop, life keeps moving.” Knowing damn well I probably should have taken that whole week off to just take time to process everything. As I sat in my office one of my coworkers that I actually associated with came in and asked, “What the hell are you doing here?” I laughed because I took comfort in her concern and that she knew exactly how I was feeling. Emotionally, on the outside I was able to speak and keep my broken heart from letting the flood gates loose. Mentally.......? I wanted to just throw my face against the wall over and over again as I struggled with the specifics of whether I was a good son or not? Wondering did I make him proud, did I do everything he tried to teach me as a young man? Am I ready to stand in the same manner as he did when it comes to representing the family? Mentally these thoughts wore me down.
When my emotional health became unstable, it was just as hectic. I would take a lot of showers so crying would not seem so bad. Scenes on TV would spark my emotions, from cartoons with a father and son segment to movies, like Black Panther. When Chadwick Boseman died, I took it a little harder than I should have. It immediately reminded me of how my father dealt with his cancer. He tried to keep it secret from people outside of the family, honestly it was none of their business. He fought and fought and fought until the end. It was unexpected. Although we knew how serious the cancer was, we were in a position and had hopes that a specific procedure would turn some things around. We never got that chance. A day or two before that procedure, my father started to succumb to his disease.
“Soooo Close!” I thought. I wanted to blame people. My thoughts became frantic with self-doubt, blame, hatred, pain, neglect and uncertainty. I felt like this was avoidable, nobody heard me and I felt alone for a long time. I felt alone inside a building full of people. On a highway stuck in a traffic jam, I felt absolutely alone. On phone calls with friends or family I felt alone. I struggled for a long time; thank God I have an awesome wife who helped me as much as she could.
As I move forward, I understand the man I am and the man my father raised me to be. I still struggle with some of that uncertainty, but I make attempts to take each moment a little bit slower. I have invested my time in hobbies and activities that are very therapeutic. In the process of working on projects that I know my father would enjoy or be proud of, it has allowed me to detach from some items I was trying to keep. I have a few items here and there I am most certainly not getting rid of and hope to share with my son someday. I am able to laugh at stories that I tell my wife now and find myself saying things he would say or doing some of his mannerisms without freaking out.
In closing let me say this. How I deal with my emotional and mental health, specifically works for me. I would not advise anyone to follow my example. If you feel like you need some type of counseling, then by all means please go get it. What works for me, works for me and it was a daily struggle that I knew I could handle. I always advise people to look over your insurance benefits when it comes to mental health, you should know all your benefits. Counseling is often covered at 100%, call your insurance carrier and make them go over your insurance, word for word. I also advise to maybe look at a few websites for some insight.