JAANUU » My Mental Health Journey: How Therapy Inspired Me to Reimagine Greatness

My Mental Health Journey: How Therapy Inspired Me to Reimagine Greatness

Dr. Neela's Mental Health Journey
Reading Time: 4 minutes

When the world shut down nearly three years ago, I geared up to treat my patients through the deadliest pandemic we’ve ever seen. But in doing so, I inevitably came face to face with my own mental health struggles. 

As a busy mom, wife, daughter, sibling, friend, doctor and entrepreneur, I realized I had never, not once, stopped to be an advocate for my own self-care. 

This incredibly hard time became a forcing function to finally prioritize what was happening with me. Therapy opened my eyes even more, which resulted in evolving Jaanuu’s mission to include our community’s mental health as a top priority. We truly believe that better care has the power to create a better world—and on our journey to reimagine greatness, it absolutely starts with self-care.

Hindsight Isn’t Always 2020

Though my anxiety began much earlier, I only first acknowledged it in 2020—for obvious reasons. As a pediatrician, how do I treat my patients with a gripping fear of getting sick myself? I’d come home terrified of giving my family COVID, unable to touch or hug them. And I felt awful not being able to comfort my patients or their terrified parents. My purpose both at home and at work felt fleeting. 

This fear deeply impacted my sense of fulfillment. I became unhappy and endlessly worried that I’d contract a virus that my medical community battled every day—and often lost. My growing anxiety eventually peaked, begging the question: Do I even want to be a doctor?

I questioned whether my time was better spent with my kids versus at work—was it worth seeing patients only to risk getting my family sick? Let’s be real: nothing could have prepared us for the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic. As healthcare professionals, we lacked the resources to answer our patients’ questions or even confidently reassure them. It made it all feel futile. And to make matters worse, we were simply not equipped to deal with the ramifications the pandemic had on our own mental health.

Enter Therapy

I’ve been a lifelong advocate for mental health—talking about it in my clinic and while reviewing new scrub designs at Jaanuu, often handing out hundreds of referrals for therapists and psychiatrists. Though, I’d never opened that door for myself. I just didn’t think I needed it. Before COVID, I went through life with blinders on—blocking out my anxiety. I jumped from one thing to the next like a hamster on a wheel, numb to my own needs. Enter COVID, and everything became too real to ignore. I finally sought therapy, to better understand my current situation as well as past traumas that were impacting my every day.

Therapy proved monumental. It helped me cope with the fear of COVID and potentially infecting my family. I realized things that once brought me joy were no longer fulfilling me, and that was okay. With the right mentality, I felt hopeful that my joy would return—but it would take work and dedication, and I had to be the best version of myself to do that.

Most of all, therapy helped me take a hard look at my true feelings. I used to deal with my issues by numbing them, swapping one hard task for another, adding an occasional glass of wine to bury them further. I stayed busy with work, family and friends to disguise and hide my stress. I literally didn’t feel a thing because I was just so busy. So I coped—in a very unhealthy way.

Turning Down The Volume

Half the battle was grabbing the remote and turning the volume way down. I now practice living life slower and more deliberately. I have a newfound passion for gratitude journaling. I’ve downloaded all the right apps and taught myself to meditate for the first time in my life. I work out daily and I increase my own serotonin with self-care practices that I never allowed time for before. I make sure I feel good, inside and out. Most of all, I’ve learned to bring a lot more gratitude into my day to day—with a lot less. 

As a healthcare professional, giving to others is what makes us tick. But I honestly believe you can’t truly give from a deep place when you’re running on an empty tank. I didn’t understand this until the world shut down and I started showing up for myself. 

Quality Over Quantity 

Therapy also taught me to focus on the qualitative nature of my experiences rather than the quantitative. Our culture gears us towards the belief that more is more. Bigger cars, bigger rings, bigger homes, bigger boats, bigger vacations, bigger events, bigger birthday parties. Bigger is better, right? And then that go-culture bleeds into work. More patients, higher efficiency, longer days with more faces means you’re doing it right. If you’re exhausted, you’re a success. There were actually times where I’d literally lose a patient and then be whisked to the next without anyone asking if I was okay. Instead, I’d cry in the bathroom by myself and then go see another baby or teen with a smile on my face. Fake it until you make it.

I no longer prescribe to this. It’s infinitely damaging. I want to replace the philosophy of ‘more is better’ with one that promotes deeper connection, slower moments and gratitude—for both the joyous experiences and the challenges we’ve surmounted together. I’m grateful just being able to take a deep breath and say that.

Better Care For a Better World

I started Jaanuu as a platform to support my brothers and sisters in medicine in their day-to-day lives. After going through my own mental health journey, I began thinking of the thousands of healthcare professionals who were likely going through their versions of the same struggles. I knew I had to lean in, starting with an evolved brand ethos, mission and purpose

Our belief today is that better care has the power to create a better world. When the people who take care of people show up for themselves—that’s when true greatness happens. Join us in our great challenge to reimagine greatness

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