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Mask Off by Jessica Kuhnen, LCSW, MSW.

It’s an age old saying; In order to get people help they need to want it. What I have found though is that a lot of people don’t know that they need help. How many times have you heard: that’s just the way I am, that’s just my personality, I’ve always been that way, I was raised that way? My last installation of Mask Off talked about ways to identify mental illness and I specifically described symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. After making some observations in my personal life and with clients at my mental health practice, I realized I still needed to proverbially zoom out some more.

Taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, I realized a lot of people attribute their mental health symptoms to things outside of their internal control. Things such as their zodiac sign, their childhood upbringing, genetics or their personality traits. How do you differentiate from predisposed character traits and actual mental health symptoms? The answer is quite easy; if it’s interfering with your overall happiness it is a mental health issue. For as long as I can remember people told me that because I was a Gemini I was naturally moody. I accepted this as a part of my identity. I embraced lashing out and being angry one minute and being happy and energetic the next. I almost found some sense of pride in my lack of impulse control and in my uncontrollable anger. However, if you talk to some of family, friends or previous partners they will say that they did not find it amusing. This thing about myself, that I took pride in, hurt me. It hurt me, my friends and family.

If anything about you is hurting you. It is a mental health issue. Eventually, I realized I deserved to be happy and that I would not get in my own way of that. I eventually learned triggers to my anger, ways to catch my reactions, ways to control my impulses and man have my relationships benefited. You can be an introvert and not isolate. You can naturally be caring and set healthy boundaries.  You can be a Leo and suppress your ego and sense of pride. You can find balance in every area of your life. Those things about you, do not have to be a life sentence. Liberate yourself.  If you review some of my previous articles, I discuss mindfulness, which is just one way to create that balance within yourself. Over the next couple months, I will continue to discuss ways to identify mental health symptoms and disorders, as well as ways to address them. Come back! And I will leave you with this question-

Chicago what about you is getting in the way of your happiness?


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