Saturday, April 1, 2023
Welcome friends, to Dr. Brainerd’s B.R.E.A.T.H.S. Health Saturday’s edition of my blog. For the month of April, I will be discussing some self-health tips I have learned in the last 20 years from personal experience, books, and medical professional advice I have received. This first week, health Saturday falls on April Fool’s Day, so I decided to take this time to start a serious discussion regarding our mental health sprinkled with a bit of health humor by Artist Holly Chisholm.
Mental Health Awareness
May, not April, is actually Mental Health Awareness Month, so why not get a jump start on it this month? I will begin with personal experiences of my mental health journey. Next, I will follow up with some books about mental health that have helped me.
My Mental Health Journey
Spring of 2004, almost 20 years ago, I was into my second year of teaching in Los Angeles, California. The first year teaching here was quite the culture shock coming from a rural education background and immersing myself into a large urban setting. My diet consisted of pizza and beer almost every night, my weight gain was very noticeable, I was smoking cigarettes in the car to and from work, and I was constantly fatigued.
First Mental Health Breakdown at Work
My new set of friends in California were having huge parties every weekend, which didn’t seem to be a problem at first since I was still in my twenties, it’s what we do at that age. Along with heavy drinking, we were experimenting with party drugs. One day while teaching, I got a shocking phone call that sent me into a panic. I had shortness of breath, dizziness, increased heart rate, and I really thought I was going to die. I was able to calm down enough to drive myself to urgent care where the doctors told me I was having a panic attack and suggested I follow up with a mental health professional.
First Time Learning About Mental Health
Thankfully, I had really good health insurance with the school district. I was referred by my general practitioner to see a psychologist and a psychiatrist, and I had no idea why I needed both, or why my general practitioner couldn’t be my only medical doctor. What I learned is there are medical specialists in every field, the psychologist specialized in observing social, emotional, and cognitive behaviors using talk-therapy, while the psychiatrist specializes in diagnosing mental illness and prescribing treatment for a wide range of mental health issues. My two doctors worked in the same building and would utilize one another’s assessment of me to determine the proper therapy or treatment. I attended monthly sessions with both doctors trying just about pill form of treatment for anxiety and depression. I recall the one pill that worked best for me was Wellbutrin due to the side effects of making cigarettes taste like shit which helped me stop smoking, increased my libido which was great for my relationship with my partner, and decreased appetite which helped me to lose all that weight I gained.
Second Mental Health Breakdown at Work
It seemed like most things were working out well for me, but in Spring of 2014, ten years after seeing mental health professionals, I had another mental health breakdown at work. This time, I had to take the last two months off of the school year, and I missed culminating my class of fifth graders whom I had looped up for a second year (I taught them in 4th and 5th grade), and that sent me into a deep depression where my past pills and doctors were just not working out for me. So, I went on the search for a new health care provider with new doctors and new mental health treatments.
Third Mental Health Breakdown at Work
Just two years later in Spring of 2016, I had my third and final mental health breakdown, again taking the last two months off the school year and not culminating my class. I guess they say third time’s a charm, in my case, I was not going to let this happen again and knew I had to change more than my doctors or pills, I had to completely change my lifestyle, relationships, and environment. This time, I was on a mission to learn more about overall health, and started researching all types of healing methods from a variety of resources like naturopathic doctors, books, and peer reviewed journals.
My Mental Health Today
The last five years I have completely changed my mental health patterns that started with getting approved for time off work due to multiple physical and mental disabilities, ditching unhealthy relationships with family and friends, quitting teaching in institutional environments, moving out of the state where I had three breakdowns, talking to my doctors about getting off all prescriptions, and researching about holistic self-care mental health methods.
Authors Who Helped Me with Mental Health
In my previous blogs I posted about my favorite authors who have helped guide me on my mental health journey starting with Dr. Brené Brown, Ph.D./L.M.S.W.. My next favorite author, Rhonda Byrne, was not a doctor but a writer and producer of pseudoscientific beliefs in the law of attraction and the power of love. My second favorite author, Dr. Wayne Dyer E.d.D., had a doctorate in education like myself, with a specialization in educational counseling (my specialty is educational technology with an emphasis on alternative and distance learning). A more recent favorite author, Dr. Sue Morter D.C., has a doctorate in chiropractic with a speciality in bioenergetic medicine and quantum field energy. My all time favorite author, Louise Hay, who studied science of the mind and received an honorable doctorate of divinity, wrote several books on self-healing, and I carry all of the digital copies in my Kindle, especially to quickly access “Heal Your Body” on a regular basis.
Conclusion on Mental Health Awareness
Throughout the last 20 years, I have learned a lot about mental health, therapy, pill treatments, self-healing strategies, and listening to my body along with advice from medical professionals. I believe that a combination of these methods will provide me with the best holistic health care and tools that will help me when I am not having a good day. Truth is, when I am having a bad day, my regular coping tool is napping. Just recently, I have started using meditation techniques and found that research suggests that is the best method for calming the mind and body.
Sending lots of love and healing energy,
Dr. Jaime Brainerd, Ed.D.
*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and I am not giving any medical advice. My doctorate is in educational leadership and technology. I am a health enthusiast who feels that sharing health-related information I learn about myself might help others heal themselves through holistic care.