Mental health is health

For years, I’d been doing chaturanga dandasana wrong in yoga. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s when you’re in plank pose (or the top of a push-up) and lower down slowly. Sometimes after a sweaty vinyasa yoga class, I’d end up with shoulder pain for a day or two. I figured I just needed to get better at push-ups and blew it off.

I was also doing strength classes where sometimes we did 100 push-ups in one class, hurting my shoulder even more.

One day about 6 years ago, I went for a run and felt extreme shoulder pain.

From running!

I couldn’t blow it off anymore. I made an appointment at a sports medicine place. Dr. Paul told me I had a severely inflamed shoulder. (Probably from doing 100 push-ups, he told me. That doesn’t make you stronger. That makes you injured.) My rotator cuff injury put me in the physical therapy clinic–and out of the gym–for months.

I’d simply started doing chaturanga wrong until my body couldn’t take it anymore.

The same thing happens with mental health.

We hear something when we’re young, internalize it, and do it “wrong” our whole life until we can’t take it anymore.

I grew up believing that everyone else’s feelings were more important and bigger than my own. Subconsciously, I decided that I must put mine aside to attend to theirs. I was almost 30 before I knew I was doing this, it was hurting me, and I didn’t have to do it anymore.

Just like I was doing chaturanga wrong–I didn’t know.

For both issues, I used my health insurance and saw a therapist (one physical, one mental health) to identify the problem and learn how to stop doing it.

Now that doesn’t mean problem solved and all better. I still have to pause before chaturanga and do a quick check. Are my elbows tucked in right? Am I warmed up enough for full body chaturanga or should I drop down to my knees? Has my body already had enough chaturanga for today? No wrong answers here. Just doing what feels right to me.

And same with my mental health. Sometimes I have to pause. Am I dismissing my own needs? Is there something I should be saying or asking for that I’m not?

We’d never fault someone for getting their shoulders, knees, or toes checked out, so why should we when they get their mind checked out? I don’t know how to fix my own shoulder or teeth. I didn’t go to medical or dental school. I also don’t know how to identify my own mental defaults, so I found a therapist to help me out.

This year has been hard. Help is available. If you are hurting or struggling, seek out help. If you don’t want to talk to a person, try an app. COVID Coach was recommended to me. There are others. You could also try virtual therapy—where you text or video chat with a therapist instead of going in person. Of course, traditional therapy is also an option. You can also ask your primary care doctor about medication. Whatever you do, don’t wait. Reach out if you need help getting started.  

We need you in top form: Head, shoulders, knees and toes.

Published by Candace

I’m a journalist, nutritionist, doting auntie, one-time bobsledder, and wannabe health nut (who loves chocolate and pizza too much to fully commit). I don't want you to think my life is perfect. It's not.

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