Mental [un]Health[y]

person holding white printer paper

Last year, I found out some shocking news about a good friend of mine. His bones and teeth had lost their density and were literally rotting away from the inside of his mouth.

What happened? He was one of one of many people impacted by the harmful side effects of Truvada (PREP, for short) and a participant in a $97 million dollar class action lawsuit against the company. Thousands of people just like him have had their smiles destroyed because of an FDA-approved pharmaceutical drug.

Wait, I thought we could trust everything from the FDA? That’s another topic for another time.

As time has gone by, I’ve watched my friend suffer in relative silence. The cost to replace all of his teeth with implants is over $50,000 – a number he doesn’t have in his bank account.

This week, he sent me a photo of his smile. Half of his front tooth had broken off, and he was in tears from the embarrassment.

How many of us would rush to the dentist as soon as possible if we had a broken front tooth? I’m guessing most of us would, if we were able to afford it.

Dental pain is one of those ‘high priority’ healthcare items. Few people wait for Black Friday deals when they have a toothache.

In the last two years, mental health has risen in its priority, because a lot more people are experiencing symptoms of being mentally unwell after the last two years of transition from what used to be normal life, to a world where it seems like everything has been turned upside down.

Mental health seems to be one of the ‘softer’ priorities in personal healthcare. Sure, we know all about anxiety and depression, but how often do we treat those elements in our lives with the same high priority we give a screaming toothache?

Lately, I’ve been able to connect with a lot of strangers and have candid conversations about mental health challenges. At Lowes, the cashier shared this Christmas was their first time celebrating without their mother, who recently passed away. They shared they were too sad to put any decorations on the tree, but still put it up in the living room because it was one of Mom’s favorite things.

“Paper or plastic?”

There are a lot of people just like this cashier. They’re your coworkers, friends, family and neighbors. Behind every smile is a story, if you are willing to give enough time to somebody else for them to feel they can trust you enough to talk and share.

“How are you?” Is a question that can actually mean something if you choose to care enough about somebody’s response and give them space to share more than the usual “I’m fine. How are you?” Response.

Fine. Fine. Is. Never. Enough.

Fine. Feeling. Insecure. Needy. Emotional.

This year, I hope that we can all find a little more compassion in our hearts to give our love to others who need it. I’ve personally found that when I give love to others, my ‘love tank’ rarely runs empty. Rather, I find new hope, joy and moments of peace in places I least expected to find them.

How are you, really?

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