The Science of Being ‘Okay’ Part III: Dr. Josephine McNary of Calpsychiatry & Meghan McCommon, MSW

The Science of Being ‘Okay’ Part III:  Dr. Josephine McNary of Calpsychiatry & Meghan McCommon, MSW
Words by Erwin Davis II

My journey behind what it means to be ‘okay’ had been as informative as it could be. I’d gotten the chance to speak with amazing minds in the fields of psychology and psychiatry to learn how to better my own mental health. Only one more thing needed to be tackled for a solid baseline of cognitive cohesion.

The easiest state to fall into, and the absolute worst to escape: depression.

Dr. Elliott spoke on the importance of finding bits of control in life—to which, I appropriately embraced by choosing to wear the same pants I wore yesterday because I wanted to control my comfort while at the DMV for hours. The knowledge divulged by Dr. Adhikari was invaluable as he explained the steps of how to slow the mind down, and listen to one’s thoughts—true mindfulness.

But, for this one, I needed something different. I needed someone who could give it a viewpoint that I hadn’t yet received. Enter, Dr. Josephine McNary of CalPsychiatry, and Meghan McCommon, MSW.

Dr. McNary offers a unique bridging of Dr. Elliott and Adhikari. While she is on UCLA Health Staff—similar to Dr. Adhikari—she received her M.D. here in the South from Tulane University. This puts her in the best possible position to understand the science of overcoming depressive states, whether you live in Louisiana or Los Angeles.

“Be able to first recognize shifts and intensity of your mood states,” she says in regards to my question about coping with depressive states. “Explore and identify healthy tools you can implement to improve your mood. For some, this could include exercise, time with friends or family; engaging in activities that bring you joy.”

This parallels similar lines I’d heard from doctors Elliott and Adhikari. Becoming aware of your thoughts and ‘factions’ followed by a choosing to take control of what you do to proceed.

Clearly, depression and depressive states are not ‘one size fits all,’ and Dr. McNary emphasizes this religiously.

“It depends. The mind is complex, and only gets more complex as you expand into human thought flow. Everyone has different triggers for their moods, and a wide-range of coping strategies can work for some, but not others. A good way of keeping tabs on your mental health is to just be curious about your thoughts and feelings. Communicate honestly with family, friends, and mental health providers about how you’re doing. Be willings to ask for help if you are suffering.”

Depression is something that we talk about as amplifying as we grow older. Unsurprisingly, when you have more to worry about than where your juicebox went, you tend to have more of a tendency to dip into depressive states. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in our college years.

I.E., Our 20’s. Hey, I knew this would all come full circle.

My last stop brought me back to the South, and to one of our shining towers of education. The University of Alabama is internationally known and recognized for its achievements academically and athletically. However, like any other college in America, it is home to a studentship cursed with the woes of loan debt, post-graduate career outlook, and enough depressive states to start a second country. This is where we find Meghan McCommon. Meghan is a recent Master’s level graduate of Alabama, and received her degree in social work. Like Dr. McNary, she finds herself as a member of a unique group in the mental health field. She simultaneously must provide cognitive care and support utilizing her degree in her day-job, whilst also being burdened with the financial, professional, and social cloud of being a mid 20’s American searching for direction in life with an outdated map. Through her schooling and personal experiences, she echoes Dr. McNary’s sentiment about finding exercises in joy to help ease a spell of depression. “One word: spiraling. For me, it’s about finding ways to manage the spiral before I get lost. Talking to friends, physical activity—even sleeping. Sleeping is a huge part of being able to stay level headed and in good mental standing.” Meghan also uses journaling, doodles, and drawings to unwind the unwarranted spiral. She explains, “whatever I can do to put the thoughts on to paper, or see them face to face.

That’s a way I can just look at it from another angle and go, ‘Hmm...what? That’s ridiculous.’ Or, ‘Oh, okay. That’s why I feel this way.’”

As Meghan explains her feelings on counteracting depressive moods, we begin to formulate a set of drawings to accompany this series. One that helps us visualize what it means to have control, calm your mind, and find ways of bringing joy to the waning mind. As I finished my interviews and sat down to write this set of articles, I found myself wondering if I had come any closer to finding the foundation for ‘fine.’ Had I done anything that would be read by someone looking for assistance with their mental state and feel comforted? The more I thought about what my partners had expressed, the more I knew the answer. The more I knew just what to say.

If you’re reading this, know that you are someone of incredible mental power and independence. Your mind, imagination, day-dreams, fears, loves, and moods are all valid. While they may seem daunting at times—having the ability to overtake our lives at the drop of a hat—remember that you can take the lessons from these individuals and begin on the pathway to feeling okay.


And, that’s a solid place to be.