Mental health and other things

It’s about time that I posted again. Life has been very hectic (when is it ever not?) and the thought of having to do that “one more thing” has been overwhelming to me for several months.

This naturally leads to writing a bit about mental health. It seems to me that one of the lasting outcomes of the pandemic (this is whether you agree that it is “over” or not) is a significant increase in mental health issues for millions of people, me included. I write this not as a “poor me” kind of statement, or a plea for help and sympathy. It is just a fact.

Over the years, I’m learning that mental health looks very different to different people. It is quite varied and at times, causes are hard to pin down, sort of like, for example, migraine headaches. As a momentary digression, I have managed to mostly rid myself of those migraines. How, you ask? Well, believe it or not, it seems to come primarily from grinding my teeth while asleep. When I had a routine dental checkup a few years ago, my dentist pointed this out and suggested also that I needed braces, specifically Invisalign, which involves using custom made trays that you are supposed to wear most of each day but especially overnight. And those trays then, you guessed it, minimize damage from teeth grinding. It is weird but it makes logical sense, and ever since I started wearing Invisalign braces, I have rarely had migraines. It is hard to overstate how much this improves my daily quality of life, and for that I am very thankful.

But back to mental health. For me, mental health problems are not new. Most, if not all, of my family suffers from mental health issues including depression (various forms from very serious to relatively manageable) and anxiety. Family members manifest problems in various ways. I, too, have often experienced depression. What is noticeably different, particularly since the pandemic, is my level of anxiety. In short, I feel a lot more anxious these days than I ever did before, and that is cause for concern. It is not unheard of for me to unreasonably dread meetings, for example. Again, this isn’t entirely a new thing; what is new is the level it ratchets up to.

Another aspect is a sense of being overwhelmed, which is related to anxiety. There are days when if I can focus on just getting one thing accomplished, that is all I can manage. Other days, I don’t seem able to get anything done at all, and do not feel productive, but somehow I seem to plow through. The reality is that regardless of how it feels to me, I am a pretty productive person. But there are more frequent episodes where it all seems too much to handle. One way of expressing it is that if life is a merry go round, I desperately want to be able to step off it for just a bit.

The truth is that the amount and degree of responsibilities in my life have definitely increased, and this is likely part of what is going on. I know there are many, many people with far busier and more stressful lives than mine who somehow manage to handle it well. There are also those with far less things to do who find it difficult to make it through life in the simplest ways. There is no judgment intended here; one of the things I continue to learn, again, is how different people exist and cope differently. Comparison is not healthy or helpful.

One specific combination of things I have come to enjoy more and more as a healthy activity is birding and photography. From a very young age, I have had a deep love and appreciation for the outdoors. Ironically, though, the older I became, the less time I spent actually in the outdoors. A growing interest in birding is helping, gradually, to change that. I will never be a fanatical birder, just as I will never be a fanatical fisherman. It is just not my nature. I simply enjoy being outdoors, and if I don’t see a special bird or catch a good fish, I am ok with that.

My brother recently gifted me the most expensive and best functioning camera I’ve ever owned. His generosity is staggering, and it is only the latest example. But over the past few weeks, I have enjoyed getting out and about and trying this new thing out. I have a lot still to figure out in order to make it work at its best, but in combination with a newer and nicer pair of binoculars, I feel extremely blessed and well-equipped to pursue these two interests. Below is a gallery of some of the photographs I’ve taken lately. Enjoy.

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