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    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | May 17th, 2020


    I was speaking with a sister-friend over the weekend and she suggested that I discuss mental health in my blog this week. She said that it was important that people dealing with mental health issues know that they are not alone and should not feel any shame in seeking spiritual and psychological help. I am not sure if she knew that May was Mental Health Awareness Month and that the theme this year is – YOU ARE NOT ALONE. In this surreal moment of COVID 19 pandemic, the issue of mental health has been laid bare and is affecting everyone in different ways.  Individuals are suffering from mental ailments ranging from anxiety to manic attacks. Our mental health cannot be understated even as we are concerned about our physical health. 

    To cope with the times, I found this public service announcement from The Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide useful tips for dealing with stress.

    Be Kind to Your Mind – Tips to cope with stress during COVID-19

    1. PAUSE. Breathe. Notice how your feel.
    2. TAKE BREAKS from COVID-19 content
    3. MAKE TIME to sleep and exercise
    4. REACH OUT and stay connected
    5. SEEK HELP if overwhelmed or unsafe

    We all have a story and The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is encouraging people to tell their stories. I thought I would share mine with you.

    In the beginning of this pandemic, the obstetrician/gynecologists in my hospital made a decision that some of us would work in the ambulatory setting, while the others work in the hospital. I was assigned to work in the hospital. Working in the hospital obviously carried the higher risk since it was the place you would most likely be exposed to the coronavirus. The week before I was to start my shift in the hospital, I became very anxious. I could not sleep. I would go to bed and stay awake. My mind wandered endlessly. What happens if I catch this disease? Would I survive? What would happen to my children? What about my husband? Was the job worth it? I did not like hearing people say  ‘thank you for being on the frontline’ because at the time  I had not yet gone into the hospital. After many hours of tossing, I would finally doze off and wake up in the morning exhausted because I had not had a restful sleep. That week before going to the hospital to work in-house, I was doing telehealth (using the telephone and video to consult with patients) from the comfort of my home.  I would drink coffee just to stay up during the day and then night would come again and I would just stay in bed and my mind would wander again with the same questions. I did not talk much to my husband or children. I just wanted to make sure they were okay. After about four days of this cycle, I knew I had to do something or I would not be functional when I started my shift in the hospital. I finally had to call my mother, who has always been the first in line of counselors when I felt bothered by anything, and told her about my anxiety. Full disclosure – she is not only my mother but she is a chaplain. She listened to me without interruption.  She then told me that I should do what I had control over and leave the rest to God.  She prayed with me and then I fell asleep. I woke up well rested and then got back to my routine. The session with my mother was enough to overcome my anxiety. I went back to praying, meditating and exercising, which improved my frame of mind and allowed me to be ready to start my shift in the hospital ready to provide care, even while exercising the appropriate safety measures.

    It is pertinent to mention that sometimes we may need more than spiritual counselors and we have to seek out professional psychological counselors. The most important thing is to recognize that you are not alone and you should not be ashamed to ask for help.

    We all have stories and I would encourage each of you to share them. We all have different ways of managing stress and taking care of our mental health. Just know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

    For more information:

    National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

    Mental Health America

    One Response to “YOU ARE NOT ALONE”

    1. Chukwuemeka Ben Bosah says:

      The link below also speaks to the issue of mental health.

    Leave a Reply

    Secure Your Copy of Sincerely, Your Gynecologist by Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu.

    With her trademark wit and straightforward communication, Dr. Osuagwu continues to dole out valuable medical advice using the letter form and addressing women’s health conditions and issues in a method that was praised for its innovative approach in her earlier award-winning book, Letters to My Sisters: Plain Truths and Straightforward Advice from a Gynecologist. In this book, each letter is paired with reference sources and statistics about the condition that is the subject of the letter.

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    Secure Your Copy of Letters to My Sisters by Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu.

    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.

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