S1E2: Ready for the 'mental health' race?

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Transcript S1E2

In today's episode, we're going to talk about what its like to be mentally healthy and what is not. Also at the end, I'm going to share three things I wish I knew before starting my own mental health journey. So stay tuned until the end.

Hi, welcome to is like this podcast, the show that explores your mental and spiritual health, with analogies, common sense, and stories. I'm your host, Dr. Uejin Kim, a dual board-certified child and adolescent and adult psychiatrist from Texas, I am passionate about helping people understand their intrinsic worth, to accept and own their life so that they can live the life they were designed to live. While I'm a psychiatrist, I'm a human being too. I came a long way, but I have way more to go. I hope you will join me on this journey.

As a psychiatrist, I hear and see a lot of social media or other people's opinions on what being mentally healthy is like. And there's a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding out there. And I might have been one of them. You know, before I started my own mental health journey, quite often I hear people say, I just want you to be happy, I just want to be happy. And that is a very small sliver of being mentally healthy because being happy is probably the 100th of the emotional spectrum. Emotion is 1/3 of mental health components. You know, we talked about the cognitive triad, in the last episode, and as emotions, thoughts and behavior and emotions, just a third of it. So setting your goal just to be happy is really limiting yourself in not only understanding but being mentally healthy. And a second quite often saying like, oh, I'm just gonna take a mental health day, you know, taking a break and resting and relaxing and prioritizing your you know, relaxation and health over work. And the task is definitely part of the mental health journey. I think people just say Mental Health Day. And I think that's a misrepresentation of what mental health journey is like, Mental Health Day is every day, and resting and relaxing are just a component of your mental health journey. Right now I'm going to talk about like, what are the benefits that come from, you know, being mentally healthy. And the analogy that I use quite often is, you know, being mentally healthy is a lot like being physically healthy training for a marathon, you know, from a couch potato status. So I have six compartments of benefits. So number one is strength, capacity, and resilience. So when you're a couch potato, you're physically weak, and you're physically disabled, there's not a lot of things that you can do, there's not a lot of range of motions that you can do if you continue to be a couch potato. When you start to exercise, you know, just by walking or, you know, lifting weights. Over time, you're going to be able to carry bigger weights, heavier weights, walk longer distances, even run a longer distance, or even the same distance and faster time. Being mentally healthy in your journey is very similar to this, you're going to be dealing with bigger stressors, or handling similar situations with more grace, and it becomes easier and easier. So an example that I hear from patients is they are so aware of what's coming up like a difficult conversation with their ex-spouse or their parents or something like that, as they're getting healthier, they look back and they tell me, you know that conversation went a lot easier. You know, I knew what I was getting into, and it just went a lot smoother. And these are some of the small victories of the mental health journey. The second benefit of the mental health journey is awareness. If you're a couch potato, you know, you're not you're immobile, you're in one place. And sadly, this

is a picture of being aware, unaware of what your potential is like what your body is capable of doing. And or you might have a very false idea of what your body can do. People say like, oh, like I could just, you know, pick up and run a marathon if I want to, I just don't want to. But as you actually know, when the rubber hits the road and you're actually training, you're very in tune with what your body can do, and also what your body cannot do. You know, marathon runners know when to stop training, when there's an injury or when there's an ache and pain. They know that they need to go to a physical therapist and get it Check it out, you know, and they're very in tune with the body's pain. You know, unlike couch potatoes, they're like, Man, my back hurts, I don't know where it's coming from, you know, you're not aware of all the aches and pains, just like this, when you're in a mental health journey, and you become more aware of your emotions and thoughts, a lot of times, you know, when I start to work with patients, they say about life events that have hurt them, and they're like decades ago, and they're just processing it today with me, you know, hindsight is 20/20. And of course, you are able to, if you're able to remember what happened, you know, decades ago, you can process that. But as you become more mentally healthy, you'll be more mentally aware, as of instead of saying, you know, what, what my coworker says last month, that really hurt my feelings, as she saying it to you, and you know that you are hurt. And you can address it at that moment, and process so that you're not looking back with regret or resentment or built-up anger. So you will be more aware of what your emotions and thoughts are in real life in real-time. The third group of benefits is control insight and knowledge. So if you're a couch potato, you know, they finally get dragged to a physician's office, and they drew lab and they find out that they have diabetes, a lot of them, if you see in a TV show, or in doctor's office, they're so surprised of their health conditions, or have their blood work results or health status, right? They're so surprised because they don't have the insight and knowledge and awareness of what's going on. But if you're actually striving to be healthy, the first thing you do is you go to the doctor's office, and you get the lab done, so that you know what you're dealing with, you know what your current status is. So all this knowledge that you're applying to yourself, it gives you a sense of control and plan, and you have an accurate understanding of what's to come and how you can change that. So just like in physical health, and mental health as well, if you're becoming mentally healthy, you will be more in control of your thoughts and emotions and behavior, and you will no longer be reactive and surprised that these life events happen, you can almost predict it to be happening. And then you can be very proactive in how you react to those life events. So for example, mentally healthy individuals know their triggers, they can proactively prepare themselves going into certain triggering events. So just like the example of you know, my patients have an upcoming conversation with ex-spouse or parents, they know it and they prepare themselves. And they plan and prepare for that upcoming triggers so that they can handle them in a smoother way that they can be proud of.

The next group is integrity and maturity. There are a lot of people who are into couch potato status and various walks of life that teach a lot of people how to live. I don't know if you're familiar with these people, but they have a lot to say. But their life choices do not represent what they teach at all. They're not a credible sources of knowledge and wisdom. But when you're actually practicing what you preach, you start to actually have credibility and validity in what you're sharing with other people. And weirdly, if you're practicing what you preach, you don't have a policy problem, you actually have humility. When you're emotionally and cognitively mature, and you're mentally healthy, you start to become very humble, and honest. And this is a true sign of maturity. The next group of benefits is independence, when you're a couch potato secretly insecure about where you are, you're very reactive and hypersensitive to other people's comments and looks and criticism. And sometimes people react in anger and justify their status and say the world is just full of haters, right? But when you're actually practicing what you preach, no matter what shape you are, and what size you are, you start to become more independent from other people's opinions. As you're kind of doing this journey of being physically healthy. You have a plan and you're doing that and you're crushing it. When other people say you know mean things to you or even constructive criticism. You start to be able to take the part that is helpful to you and take it as information but doesn't change the status of what you think of yourself or your ego. When you're on a mental health journey. You're no longer defensive or desperate for other people's approval. You just know how to do you, you start to become very grateful. In accepting constructive criticism, and just seeing as that, and the last group of benefits is community when you're a couch potato, you're very isolated. Socially, you don't leave the house, you're sitting on a couch in your own thoughts or just trying to busy yourself watching TV by when you're out there, you're trying to achieve your goal. Soon enough, you will find people who want to achieve similar goals as you are, and go on a run with you, you know, workout with you, or cook with you, and share ideas and tips, you know, in the fitness journey. Just like this, if you're engaging in mental health journey for yourself, you might have a lot of haters in the beginning, as you move forward, you'll start to meet people who are like-minded, and who have the same goal as you. We explored the analogy of couch potato training for a marathon and kind of related that to what training for mental health race looks like, I'm going to start to share three things that I wish I knew before I started my mental health journey.

Hi, this is Dr. Kim. Again, thank you so much for being here. I hope that these episodes have been really helpful for you, I just wanted to take a moment and let you know that I have a SpeakPipe link in my description box. This is where you can record your questions and comments. So that we can connect and get to know each other. And I get to know what you want to hear more of. Let's go back to the episode.

So now I would like to share three things that I wish I knew before I was starting my own mental health journey. The first saying is no pain, no gain. Whenever I start a mental health journey, you know, with my patients, when we first meet, they have already gone through so much pain already, you know, and some have witnessed and experienced trauma, some have experienced, you know, years and years of chronic depression and anxiety. And for me to say no pain or no gain is very discouraging to hear at first. But it's just kind of like a couch potato, you know, trying to be a marathon runner, you know, you don't become a marathon runner, just by sitting and continuing to live your way it has to make a change, it has to take an active role of exerting energy and mental health journey and, you know, growing mentally, is exactly like that. So that's why it's also very ironic that when people just say I want to be happy, well, if just being happy is your goal, then you can be perfectly happy being a couch potato, but that doesn't mean that you're growing. And if you want to grow, it does take the pain, pain, such as you know, making changes, letting go of unhealthy or unproductive habits or people in your life trying out new, you know, habits, like affirmations, or meditation, it might feel really weird, and you might feel like a very weird loser. And people around you might be saying just dad that you're so weird, like, why are you doing this, you know, and they might really question you and doubt you in this journey. And also, when you're starting a new anything, in the beginning, the information overload or some unfamiliar concepts might be very overwhelming. You know, just like a couch potato who has no nothing but how to be a couch potato their whole life, if they're entering this whole world of fitness, you know, eating and, you know, eat this not that do this for your exercise could be really overwhelming. And this is very true for the mental health journey. But over time, you start to pick up the habits that fit you. And that's very aligned with what your goals are and your style. So do not be scared, you know, you might be overwhelmed. And I want to use this podcast to make this journey as smooth and familiar and comfortable as much as possible, just because I know how scary it could be. So I just want to encourage you that what you're feeling starting this journey is very normal. But still, the first thing that I want to recognize is no pain, no gain. And now the second saying that I wish I knew before starting a mental health journey is slow and steady wins the race. A lot of times you know whenever we're starting a medication or new therapy techniques with my patients. And we check in you know, a few weeks at a time. They say nothing has changed. My life still sucks, you know, I haven't changed. Why isn't this getting better to prevent from hearing that or experiencing that? I prophesize patients by saying things like this is gonna be a very gradual process and improvement and you won't feel great overnight, you know, and just like couch potato doesn't become a marathon runner overnight, you don't become a mental health guru overnight, either even the amount of information that you absorb and digest and put into practice, it has an element of time. And that is something that we all need to respect whenever we're starting any kind of journey, just like a health journey, you know, fitness journey, sometimes you go forwards. And sometimes you go backward, you know, sometimes life happens, and is something that you can't sustain for a short amount of time. And sometimes you give up and it's too much, or you lose sight of the goals. And you're like, I don't know if this is worth it. The mental health journey is just like that, you know, sometimes life happens, and you have to prioritize, you know, somebody in your family is sick. And sometimes you're, your own mental health journey doesn't look like what it was before, you have to adjust. And I just want to tell people, you know, when they get discouraged, not only in their fitness journey, but also in mental health journey is we have to take a day at a time sometimes, but the most important thing that you have to keep in mind is, do your best today. And also you can pick up, always pick up where you left off, or just start over another journey today. This is so real. And I know that I'm kind of a perfectionist. You know, whenever I have a plan and a goal, you know, I get geared up and I get motivated. And sometimes, you know, one day of falling off the track, I get so discouraged. And usually, my husband is really good at putting everything into perspective and just saying, like, look how far you've come so far. And I'm really grateful for that. And I just want to share that same message with you, you know, sometimes, we are so focused on what's in front of us and what we can't do today that we lose sight of the progress that we've made so far. The third saying that I want to share with you guys in your mental health journey is to run your own race. We all know that comparison doesn't get us anywhere. It's just used in the worst way in any other, you know, parts of life. And I just kind of want to share one big misconception about mental health. When I'm talking about running this race of mental health journey. I'm not necessarily talking about mental health, illness or diagnosis. Everybody has mental health component of their health, everybody, anybody can work on their mental health. But there will be a proportion of us that meets the criteria for mental health diagnosis. A lot of times people come to me seeking a diagnosis, and a lot of times people come to me resisting a diagnosis because there's a lot of misinformation or misunderstanding about the diagnosis. First, I want to say that having mental health issues doesn't necessarily mean that you have a mental illness or a mental illness diagnosis, you can be anxious today and do not have an anxiety disorder. And you can have an anxiety disorder as part of your diagnosis and have your anxiety controlled. So it's not one or the same. Having them you know, mental illness diagnosis means that you have met the criteria of a disorder that might make your mental health journey look a little bit different from people who do not have mental health diagnosis. You know, imagine if you're a couch potato, like imagine there are 10 couch potatoes, one has an autoimmune disorder, the other one has type one diabetes, you know, they're all gonna be training for a marathon, but they need different kind of help or experts to kind of guide them and making sure that they're functioning Okay, mental health illness is just like having type one diabetes and running for a marathon. It does not change the destination or goal of the mental health race, but it just means that you need different experts and different lifestyles to kind of fit your needs, because it's going to be different from other people. So just a person with lupus or type one diabetes can still train for a race, but the journey might look different. Having a mental illness diagnosis doesn't excuse you from working on your mental health or running that race. You know, we have, you know, Special Olympics or paraplegics participating in athletic events, having a mental health diagnosis is not an excuse is not a curse is not something that you should be ashamed of is something that makes you different in regards to what your journey looks like. But it does not change where you're going to go and how you're going to perform. And a lot of times, you know another misconception about mental health illness that really breaks my heart is when patients come to me and they get diagnosed and they sometimes find a sense of relief that finally they have a disorder diagnosis that explains what they've been carrying, but there's also a sense of shame. and killed because they think having a mental illness diagnosis means that they're weak. And I like to kind of rephrase this because of course, you're not gonna compare, right like this is talking about running your own race, you cannot compare a marathon runner with no chronic illness, to a marathon runner with type one diabetes, we all have to run our own race. And sometimes I feel like having the “disadvantage” of having an illness or diagnosis, it actually means that you're stronger, because you're running the same race with some physical and mental disadvantages, and you're carrying more burden, you're carrying more obstacles, you know, with you, but you're finishing the same race. So if you have a marathon runner, without any chronic illness, and you have a marathon runner with type one diabetes, and they finish the same race, you're actually going to congratulate and feel more inspired by the person with type one diabetes, right. And I want us to start thinking about mental health issues and diagnosis like that is, it's not a sense of weakness or spiritual failure, it actually means that you are stronger to carry a heavier burden by the finish the same race. And again, we cannot compare, you know, ourselves to other people, we are all of the same race. But the journey looks so different. And the only thing that you can compare, and you should compare is your old self.

In summary, in this episode, we talked about how being mentally healthy doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to be happier. And what it does look like when you are mentally healthy, is that you will be stronger, more resilient, more aware, and control more proactive, and wise, and surrounding yourself with people who are supporting in your journey. And then I share three things that I wish I knew. And at the end, I really try to clarify the difference between mental health concerns from mental health illness, and how mental health illness is not a sign of weakness or spiritual failure. And I really hope that that message came clear to you guys. In the next two episodes, I'm going to be breaking apart the components of the training. One is exercise, and one is nutrition. And I'll be digging a little bit deeper into what that looks like and what kind of experts can help you. I'm really glad that you're here. And I hope that you can come back for the next episodes. If you like what you heard today, please do me a favor. Go to the podcast platform that you're using to listen to this podcast, and leave a review. Subscribe and share with people who you think would benefit from this podcast as well. Also, remember to ask me what you want to know more about using the SpeakPipe link provided in the description box. Again, I really appreciate you listening in, and have a great day