I’m Remembering to Prioritize My Mental Health

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by Alyssa Silva |

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A banner for Alyssa's column, which depicts hands holding a cup of coffee — beside them are various desk items like a planner and plant.

During the height of the pandemic last year, a steady influx of people often reached out to me to check on my health. It was quite admirable. Friends, family members, and even people I had lost touch with would call or text for status updates, and I truly felt more connected to them than I had in the past.

However, the more I answered their questions, the more I began to realize a disconnect in my life I hadn’t noticed before the pandemic.

It started when someone asked how I was doing. Without sounding repetitive, I always responded with something along the lines of, “I’m healthy physically. Mentally is another story. Ha.”

After all, I knew many people were having similar experiences at the time. I wanted to tread carefully around the subject of mental health to avoid sounding insensitive to other people’s struggles. At the same time, I wanted to be honest and avoid pretending the pandemic didn’t affect my emotional well-being. If I was comfortable opening up to the person, I would honestly express my feelings.

To my surprise, I was met with the same response from different people: “Well, at least you’re healthy!”

Yes, I was healthy after all. To live with SMA is to know how serious any health condition can be, never mind a virus whose implications were still unknown to health experts at the time. So, I understood the reasoning behind their words. Being physically healthy is always a huge win.

However, for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel healthy. I was struggling mentally in ways I had never struggled before, and I began to question if this was really what healthy felt like.

The more I explored the relationship between my physical and mental health, the more I recognized a discrepancy between the two. For most of my life, I had been hyperfocused on my physical health, which caused me to unintentionally neglect my mental health.

I wish it hadn’t taken a pandemic for me to have this revelation. Nevertheless, I realized it was time for me to realign with my priorities if I truly want to live in good health.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, during which 31 days are dedicated to raising awareness about mental health and reducing the stigma experienced by so many people with mental illness. While I have sporadically struggled throughout my life, the past year has shed new light on my thoughts, feelings, and even experiences with mental health.

I am currently on a journey and have been for the last nine months or so. This journey of learning what it means to nourish my mind, along with my body, has been both messy and beautiful. I’ve learned so much about my inner self and what self-care looks like in terms of my well-being.

I’ve reached some peaks and fallen into some valleys. I’ve been unkind to my mind but found grace and forgiveness. And I’ve made profound strides forward compared to the person I was a year ago.

My progress hasn’t been linear. But the steady truth I’ve found on this journey is that my mind and body are more deeply connected than I originally thought. My mental well-being actually plays an important role in my physical health, and vice versa.

It’s not that I didn’t know this prior to the pandemic. I simply didn’t realize the magnitude of the power of mental health until my mental health felt like it was stripped away.

As the days in May pass by, I remain committed to raising awareness on social media and putting my mental health at the center of my focus. But I’m also reminded that mental health is more than just a month of awareness. It is a lifelong commitment that I must be willing to invest in if I want to live as healthy as possible.

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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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