Let's stop judging people for their choice of mental health treatment... because sometimes choice has very little to do with it
When I was first diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I started using an anti-depressant. It made me feel awful, which encouraged me to look into more natural ways of healing. As a nutrition minor, I started by changing my diet. Green smoothies instead of cereal or toast, and a whole 2 months without sugar. I felt great; mood improved and I was much less anxious. The transformation amazed me and I soon began advocating for a nutritional approach to mental health and belittling those who relied on pharmaceuticals.
"Didn't they know how the importance of eating greens? If they just ate right they wouldn't need those pills!"
What I didn't understand at the time was how my social location (my race, culture, socioeconomic status, gender, sex) affected my ability to adopt and maintain a nutritional approach. As a white middle-class university educated woman, I had access to a wealth of resources (books, bloggers, etc.) and a wealth of healthy foods and nutritional supplements. The two things that made it possible for me to approach my mental health the way I did.
It makes me cringe to think of the judgment I spewed on other people without understanding the realities of life. Optimal nutrition for mental health requires money (nutritionally dense foods aren't cheap) and time (grocery shopping and food prep takes time), which are two things unavailable to most people. Telling a single mom who is relying on a limited community services budget and food banks for her family's nutrition that she should be more *mindful* of what she eats is a complete disrespect for the challenges she faces.
As an advocate for energetic approaches to mental health, I talk a lot about optimal nutrition, maintaining a healthy living space, and using essential oils and other expensive tools because those things influence energy. And I am well aware those things come with privilege. Mental health challenges extend across socioeconomic status, and while there are people who can afford to attend Reiki sessions, have their homes feng shui'ed, and have meals catered to their specific mental health needs, most people living with anxiety and depression (and other mental health challenges) are living in poverty with very limited control over where they live and what they eat.
Because energy is not yet part of the mental health conversation, most of what I preach is not supported by the government, and not accessible to people living on community support. Pharmaceuticals are part of the dominant conversation, and because of that are more readily available. People supported by community services have access to a drug plan that enables them to walk into a clinic, get a prescription for clonazepam, and walk out. They don't have the same luxury when it comes to accessing nutritionally dense foods or holistic therapies. So anytime I talk about mental health approaches that fall outside of the biomedical model I am coming from a place of privilege. And it's really, really important that I recognize that.
What I'm learning is this:
There is no right or wrong way to approach mental health. The only thing that matters is that people HAVE mental health. That people don't have to live with the burden of mental illness. That people have access to a quality of life that allows them to enjoy their time on Earth. We need to meet people where they are at and work to reduce the stigma associated with a particular type of treatment.
I don't currently use a pharmaceutical because taking care of my energy and eating nutritionally dense foods works to stabilize my mental health. If at some point they stop working, or I become unable to afford regular Reiki sessions, and foods for green juice and supplements, I wouldn't hesitate to start a different form of treatment because my mental health is invaluable to my life and wellbeing.
Privilege isn't something everyone likes to acknowledge, in fact, it's made invisible in our society for that very reason. I'm convinced that social change will come from changing the little things we do each day. Natural health and energetic wellbeing are my passions and though I might slip up from time to time I am going to try to be as mindful as possible when writing my posts. There is an immense amount of power in language and anytime I use words that suggest one type of treatment is better than another, I reinforce the power dynamics present in our world. No one should feel bad for how they chose to treat their mental health, and no type of treatment should be considered better than, because, like all things in life, mental illness and mental health treatment needs to be understood in context.
Heavy conversation for a Sunday morning, but a conversation that needs to be had none the less.