The headlines as usual were sensational....911 Call From Heather Locklear's Home....Unconfirmed Suicide Attempt by Heather Locklear....and then a statement from her publicist claiming that the call was misconstrued. Now weeks later, Ms. Locklear is again in the news with a report that she has gone to an Arizona clinic for treatment of anxiety/depression. Whether she likes it or not, her story is out there and just maybe her story is our story.
I think a lot of us suffer from some degree of anxiety or depression. In most cases it is situational and more often than not it is mild - manageable - transient. We're just lucky that our story doesn't become headline news. Frankly, as much as we are considered a "hip and with it" generation, I still think most of us view mental health issues quite differently from physical health issues. There's just a little bit of cringe factor before empathy - for some of us, anyway. Personally, I wouldn't think twice about sharing a questionable PAP smear or an alarming ECG with my friends and family - I'd want their concern and support to assist me as I navigate the journey to a clear and finite diagnosis. But I know I hold back when I am under serious stress or when my anxiety regarding a situation begins to mount and temporarily paralyze me or when, on occasion, I get devastating news that puts me into a depressive funk.
My friends and family know me as "eternally upbeat," the woman who always sees life thru "rose colored glasses," the one for whom the cup is always "half full - not half empty." Frankly what goes along with that is the fact then when the bottom falls out - so to speak - they're usually not there for me - cause I'm so strong and resilient - they either don't know what to do or don't realize I need their help. And foolishly, I rarely ask for it. But my moments are few and far between. I suppose that's why I applaud Heather. She knows she's not going to be able to go "off quietly to get help." She knows the news of her "falling apart" is going to hit the airwaves and print media, and pretty much, we're all "going to know." So it had to (a) take an awful lot of courage to admit she needs help (b) take incredible resilience to break away from her professional life - and motherhood to get the help she needs. The question I ask is, can we learn from her actions??
Anxiety and depression can slowly build or hit with a vengeance. They can present as manageable - when we take them seriously and seek help - or overwhelm us and swirl out of control. We need to recognize when we need help - we need to learn to ask for help - and we need to recognize the signs of these diseases in others - before they become medical emergencies. Let's all take a lesson from Heather and remember that our mental health is just as important as our physical health. I, for one, applaud her actions and know that she and other high profile individuals quietly serve as our mental health models.