Dear Financial Samurais, many of you know I love talking about personal finance. But, today I want to take a few minutes of your time to emphasize the importance of mental health. You can have all the money in the world, but if your mental health is poor, you can’t enjoy the things that money can buy.
The older I get, the more people I encounter, and the more experiences I gain, the more and more I appreciate mental health. Nearly one in five people in the US suffer from a mental illness according to the NIMH. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was even higher than that during the pandemic.
Even with the prevalence of mental illness in our country, there remains an unfortunate stigma around it. However, I would argue that mental health is just as important as physical health if not more. Mental illness deserves sick days just like physical illnesses.
If Your Mental Health Is Suffering, You Are Not Alone
I’ve had my own struggles with mental health at various times in my life. For example, I had struggles with anxiety when I first became a father. I clearly remember bringing him home from the hospital driving as slow as possible. I was so nervous having him in the car completely helpless and entirely relying on me to protect him.
And the first time I took care of him by myself so my wife could sleep, all I could think about was making sure I kept him safe. Come back home soon honey!
You would think life is a piece of cake being a stay at home and work from home dad with a stay at home spouse. But I went through some intense lower back pain for the past couple of weeks due to stress, anxiety, and fear.
The last time I went through this type of pain was during the dotcom collapse between 2000 – 2003. I was constantly fearful of losing my job. But after reading Dr. Sarno’s book, Healing Back Pain, I became back pain free for 14 years until my son was born.
What was the issue that challenged my mental health? It was simply adapting to the loss of 100% freedom, worry about my son’s visual impairment which may inhibit him to keep up with school work, and the stress of keeping up my posting schedule on Financial Samurai.
Something had to give. And that something was my back. Chronic pain is the mind’s way of distracting you from emotional stress.
Prioritize Self-Care And Mental Health
Over time I adjusted and got used to my loss of freedom. Not having a day job for over five years made me spoiled and soft. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of anxiety that can accompany parenthood.
Part of how I coped was getting to know other parents and talking about my worries. Every parent knows what it’s like to have concerns about their kids. And sometimes just acknowledging our worries and finding someone who listens can help us overcome our fears and anxieties.
So what am I concerned about? I’m mostly worried about my son’s future. I don’t know if his vision will make it more difficult for him to keep up in school, e.g. finish reading assignments, playing sports etc. I also worry about bullies, his self-esteem, and a myriad of other things that come with having a visual impairment and being a parent.
I’m keeping the faith his vision will get better as he ages. So far his gross motor skills and his vision are on track. Ophthalmologists say eyes don’t fully develop until about 2-3 years old. And most parents have told me their child’s nystagmus improved from when they were a baby. All we can do is always be there for him through every single challenge.
Health Is More Important Than Wealth
My chronic back pain was a reminder that health is more important than wealth. It doesn’t matter how much money you have if you can’t take care of your physical AND mental happiness.
Do not be embarrassed to seek help, especially for mental health issues. Do not be afraid to talk about the things that are keeping you under.
After leaving working in 2012, my plantar fasciitis, TMJ, teeth grinding, and tennis elbow all went away. I had literally forgot what pain free living felt like.
If you’re suffering from chronic pain, please read Dr. Sarno’s book, and please know that work stress is killing you.