May is Mental Health Awareness Month

by May 1, 2023

Can you believe it’s May already? Hard to believe we’re already into the fifth month of 2023. May is also notable for being Mental Health Awareness Month. The month-long observance was created to bring mental and behavioral health awareness.

Like many of us, I came face to face with my mental health struggles during the pandemic. While I had been living with anxiety long before that, I could always sweep it under the rug. I had developed coping mechanisms over my lifetime, though not all healthy. But when we were all forced to spend more time with ourselves for almost a year, it was time to confront the issues. I am by no means an expert in mental health overall and barely an expert in my diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but I believe we need to talk about it more and normalize it. Here is what I’ve learned about my mental health journey in the last three years.

It’s Okay to Be Not Okay

I learned during the pandemic that I don’t always have to fake it until I make it. It’s still something I struggle with. I will always put on a happy face, and no one around me knows I’m internally panicking. But sometimes, I panic and need to take myself out of a situation to avoid things spiraling out of control. It’s okay to admit that we need help or time to ourselves.

Get Thee to a Therapist

The OG misogynist, Hamlet, has the speech “Get thee to a nunnery,” where he commands that Ophelia live in a convent to preserve her purity. At the same time, “nunnery” was Elizabethan slang for a brothel, so his message is mixed. But we also see that Hamlet’s treatment of Ophelia leaves her desperate and depressed, and she eventually takes her own life, a rampant theme in Shakespeare’s pages. If only these characters had access to therapy instead.

The best thing I did during the pandemic was find a therapist. I had luck with BetterHelp online but tried several things before feeling comfortable. You don’t have to pick one person and stick with them. You can try out a few before you decide who is a good fit. But give the work a chance.

Keep a Journal

I struggle with letting thoughts accumulate in my head until they immobilize me. My therapist suggested keeping a journal nearby to write some of these things down when I am spiraling over someone else’s behavior that I can’t control. The journal I picked is “Get Out of My F***ing Head!” The irreverence helps me remember that I can get through it no matter what I write down.

Listen to Podcasts

Another tool that has been invaluable to me is podcasts. Along with my therapist, journaling, and being gentle with myself, listening to others discuss mental health issues has been helpful. My favorite is Jen Kirkman’s Anxiety Bites. As a fellow GenXer, I relate to her specifically. She has experts on, but she also talks about her own journey with anxiety and to guests who have had similar experiences. It’s helpful to know that I am not alone.

Talk to Others

I don’t mean unloading your anxiety onto others by talking about it. Living rent-free in someone else’s head isn’t the deal it’s cracked up to be. Instead, I mean talk to people about mental health. We have to normalize it so there are fewer feelings of shame around the idea of taking care of ourselves. That’s why I’m public about my Generalized Anxiety Disorder diagnosis and my actions. And I am public that I’m not perfect, and sometimes I still struggle, and I’ll probably always deal with it. But with the right tools in place, I’m doing just fine.

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Laura LaVoie

Laura LaVoie


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