October 7th began the recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week. In honor of this very important drive for awareness and advocacy in the field of mental health, I want to address some of the mental health issues that tend to show up during the midlife and menopause transition. Join me in building awareness of mental health issues and the valuable resources that are out there to support those who struggle with mental health concerns.
It Might Not Be PTSD
I recently had a conversation with a friend in which they shared their recent journey through their father’s death. This friend expressed feelings of being “wrecked” and suspicions that the symptoms they were experiencing might be a form of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). As a Spiritual Director and Midlife Mentor, I have witnessed many who have experienced similar symptoms – anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, mood swings, obsessive thoughts, even panic attacks which have mysteriously surfaced during similarly significant losses. While I am not able to diagnose the existence of lack thereof of PTSD, what I suspect about my friend, and what I have witnessed in both myself, and others I have accompanied through the transitions of midlife, is that more likely than not, what we are experiencing is ultimately our truth trying to find its way out, and that the harder we resist our truth, the more persistent and painful are the symptoms that present themselves.
Mental Health Issues
Anxiety, depression, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, mood swings and sleeplessness all fall under the category of mental health issues and depending on the degree to which we suffer from these complaints, may qualify as mental illness. It is NOT a bad thing to experience mental illness. In fact, the benefit of having a diagnosis is that we can then find effective treatment, support and medication where necessary and appropriate. It is imperative, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, to SEEK SUPPORT and then, to become your own advocate in the way of education, treatment and insurance coverage (where available). Mental illness is treatable and many experience satisfactory and enduring results which greatly improve their quality of life.
A Complement to Mental Health Treatment Options
As a complement to traditional interventions for symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic attack, sleeplessness, obsessive thoughts, mood swings; and the oft-experienced physical symptoms of acid reflux, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, auto-immune disease relapses that often show up in conjunction with midlife, it may be helpful to begin to explore your own inner truth.
- What are the past losses/changes/transitions that are in need of identification, grieving, healing and release?
- What are the heretofore ignored or suppressed dreams that might be trying to find their way into the light?
- Have there been past experiences of sexual, emotional, mental, physical, verbal or spiritual abuse that are calling to be revisited and healed at a deeper level?
- Are there sexual orientation issues that are seeking to be known and lived freely in the world?
- Are you being invited to realign your life choices and direction with your own desires instead of those of some outside perceived authority?
- Are you being invited to identify and claim your own needs?
- Are you being invited to take responsibility for your own life instead of being the hapless victim of some outside malevolent force which seems to be out to get you?
Midlife, unparalleled with other periods of transition, seems to unleash within us all the hidden and unspoken truths that we have silently hidden in the darkness. If we have to COURAGE to go into those places of darkness and EXHUME our unrecognized truths, in seemingly miraculous fashion, we are often freed of the previously judged as unpleasant symptoms.
If you are looking for healing and support of mental health related issues, contact your local NAMI chapter, ask your physician for assistance, find a mental health professional in the form of a psychotherapist, behavioral counselor or therapist, and if you suspect your symptoms may be related to truths unexpressed, contact Lauri Lumby at (920) 230-1313 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or find a spiritual director/life coach/personal mentor/ anam cara near you.