I have to confess.....I don't watch medical shows...I don't like them. I don't want to know about them. I watch medical type dramas like Grey's Anatomy, but I don't watch shows like Dr.Oz. I turn off the news when a flu outbreak pops up on the television even if it is half of the world away. I refuse to read articles about what is in my pop, or a can of pringles, or where my chicken is processed and frozen. Not because I am callous and don't care or because I want to be unaware and stick my head in the sand, but because I can't watch them. I just can't.
These shows don't just make me aware of my surroundings, they make me hyper aware of them. It damages me. It leaves me afraid to leave my home, or eat, or buy a bag of chicken. These shows and stories don't help me or make me wiser, they scare me and put me into a tailspin of OCD triggers like you wouldn't believe. Suddenly, the symptoms of disease they have talked about on the show makes me feel like I may have it too. I can obsess so much that I actually lose the ability to tell when I am actually feeling something or if it is just my mind telling me I am. Convincing me that I have something I know I don't and yet I end up doubting the validity of that statement. The news broadcasts and articles make me fear every surface is covered in whatever plague they are glorifying on the news for ratings and I become more afraid to touch things. More unwilling to leave the safety of my home. More terrified of what lurks outside of my door. Leaving me fearful of not just leaving my home but also fearful of the very real possibility of forming a bad case of agoraphobia again, and I so prefer not to dwell in that form of hell twice in my lifetime. These shows are supposed to warn the public and make them safer but for me they terrorize me and make me more alarmed than safe. It makes me feel even more crazy than I already do and I hate it. So I do what a lot of people with OCD do, I avoid. I change the channel.
I have had to make concessions, living with severe OCD. Some of them have been tougher than others and some of them have really sucked. This is yet, another thing I have given up. Not that I miss it, because I truly do not. I am not good with the alarmist type of news or television. I know they are there to inform people but in my case the information is too much and so it plays on my anxiety and I just can't handle it.
It might seem strange to some people that I can't simply get through a health news broadcast or a hour long episode of doctors discussing various health concerns, but I have to think of my mental health first. My mental health has to stay intact so that I can be physically healthy and it is really important for people to remember that.
Often times, we forget that mental health is just as important, if not more so, than physical health. I find it odd that at any given moment you can find t.v. shows talking about the dangers of being overweight or smoking cigarettes but not many about how mental illness can impair your life. It kind of bothers me that besides Dr. Phil, there really isn't a huge daily broadcast about mental illness and it's affects. Actually, it doesn't kind of bother me, it really bothers me....There isn't a small portion of news dedicated to mental illness and it's sufferers either, and yet there is always sections about eating non processed foods or how to not waste your money. The mental illness front is rarely covered, rarely openly discussed, and rarely launched into the public eye. Why is that? Why is it that we are comfortable talking about strange growths on our elbow or why not to buy a lottery ticket on a wednesday, but not about depression, anxiety disorders, Bipolar, or even PTSD ? Why do we pretend that mental health issues are not a big deal, when they so obviously are?
Mental health is very important. We need to be more open about mental illness and not only it's affects on our families but also the toll it takes on ourselves. After all, if you aren't taking care of your mind everything else falls apart as well. If you are suffering you tend to forget to to take care of yourself physically. Mostly, because all of your energy is focused solely on what is going on with your head. On how emotionally torn you have become. On how desperate you feel. Eating, bathing, working, and sleeping start to take a back seat to the issues you have always pushed away. They are no longer willing to be ignored or denied. Your mental illness needs your immediate attention and you are powerless to do anything but finally give it the attention it needs to get better. We end up spending our whole lives trying to pretend nothing is wrong until the hammer falls and our lives are left in pieces. If our mental health declines unchecked it takes our physical health out the window with it.
For me, avoiding medical shows and articles keep me calmer. It makes it easier to leave my home and go to the grocery store without wincing when I have to touch the grocery cart. It keeps me from feeling like I have some incurable ailment because my left big toe hurts. Sometimes to be healthy, you have to avoid things that make you feel unhealthy. I just can't subject myself to this type of media. It doesn't mean I don't care, it just means I can't handle yet another thing that could possibly be out there to "get me". I already have enough fears and triggers funneling around in my brain. I don't need to worry about what fungus grew on what and made who sick. I just can't do it and function on a daily basis. I know these shows are there to inform and save people but for me they do the exact opposite. As an OCD sufferer these shows play into my fears and anxiety and actually make me worse. They harm me more than they do good for me. The worry me more than protect me.
I think it is great that these shows are out there to provide us with information and understanding but I also think it would be an even bigger help if there were just as many shows about mental illness. I think that even more people could be helped if there were news stories and hour long specials on how to take care of yourself mentally. Not only would it help those of us that suffer from mental illness but it would also help others to learn the signs of when they need to start looking for help when they first see signs of mental health issues pop up, as well. Not mention the huge impact it would have on ending stigma. We need to be represented and we need to be just as proactive in our mental health issues as we are in our cholesterol intake or the sugar content in our children's juices boxes. It should be in the forefront of our thoughts just as much as our physical ailments are. That would be a show I could watch and not be terrified to eat to eat a piece of beef after, or leave my home because of, or be afraid to listen to. We need to get the message out and start to remember to take care of our brains just like we do our hearts. You can't live without either one, so we might as well take care of both. And really, we should be more cognizant of both equally. They both are EQUALLY important.