Mental Health Month
Updated: Nov 4, 2019
I would be remiss if I let the month dedicated to mental health go by without vocalizing my own struggles with life at times. While I could write a book at this point of enduring other people's problems and being witness to mental illness, I instead want to keep this post about myself and my personal struggles in a hope it helps even one person out there that thinks they might be alone, or that their experience makes them less than. The fact is, we are all human, and humans have emotions. Were it not for a beautiful photographer/ artist/ natural creative talent out of Australia that I follow, I might never have known how important it is to talk about these things. Her own documented version (much stronger, and effects her deeper than I have ever experienced) of what I will talk about in a minute made me realize how connected we are as people and that somethings are more normal than most of us think.
I'm incredibly lucky as a person to be perpetually happy, hardly ever take my rose colored glasses off, and can find a pleasant disposition in most situations. I wake up most days at 4am ready to tackle the world, giggling about my dreams, and only get a little grumpy if I go too long without coffee. I tend to find ways to smile right after crying, I get excited about the smallest things, and am that annoying friend that will see the sunny outlook to a relatively shitty situation. Positive thoughts and a vibe to life does not shield me, however, to random bouts of anxiety.
There are days where - for lack of a better way to describe it - the world simply feels too big, and I'm too small to effect any change or shift any outcome. I become acutely aware of things in my life I would have no way of changing and I meditate on them as though they are solutions I'm meant to solve and I've been falling behind on the job.
These feelings were/are even more jarring, as they are such a variation from my norm that I would often spend these moments feeling like something was wrong with me.
It took me a little bit of growing up to realize they were often tied to hormones, and the help of a good friend that would talk me off the ledge by gently reminding me it was probably a certain time of month. It took a little more time (and I'm not even sure I'm an expert on it yet) to realize they were also a good barometer on how in balance or out of balance my life may be. I've often been criticized by people that don't know me for tooting my own horn when I talk about my over abundance of positivity or empathy (my friends and family are actually the first to describe me this way, so I've adapted it over the years as I've grown to know myself better).
What people don't understand is that this attitude is not always a "blessing" and I'm not using it in a way to boost myself up. While we all have empathy, being truly empathic - where you genuinely feel other people's moods most of the time - can be tiring, scary, and very confusing because people are typically good at disguising their true emotions when out with others. Being overly happy and genuinely an idealist can often lead to being used or abused by others because you are more willing to forgive or see someone else's perspective and ignore the fact that no matter what someone is going through you don't deserve to be the dumping ground for people's anger or depression. It can make you the person in the group that others roll their eyes at because you are smiling and finding solutions when the situation should be called what it is... absolute crap. I've even been called ignorant for not seeing the truth, when in actuality I was trying to find the silver lining.
Because of this ability to be patient with levels of stress that are ordinarily too extreme for most people has left people like myself with the need for a biological warning system and mine - as might be for a few of you- ends up being anxiety. Though it took me years to figure this out, I now see my anxiety as a reminder to check in with myself, to trust that something is out of wack, even if I don't know what it is, and to pay attention to/ and nurture myself a little bit more in those moments. I wish I could say I've gotten better at honing in on what the anxiety is warning me about, but like an ink blot the picture is often fuzzy. It doesn't change the fact that the solution is the same, I need to take time to relax the way I feel by paying attention to myself and checking in with me.
There are a million blogs out there about de-stressing and ways to practice this, but just like diets I've found they tend to be person specific. What works for a lot of people doesn't always work for me so I encourage anyone reading this who's tried things and they haven't stuck to try some more things. Play around until you figure out what truly helps with your soul. Also know that while one thing might work for a while, just like only exercising the same muscles over and over again, it can eventually not work over time. When I run into that roadblock I usually try to pull another technique out of my bag to mix things up, so make sure you find a few methods that help you in your moments of need.
What works for me?
Being in nature is always a de-stresser. This one never fails. Hiking, biking, just enjoying nature calms my soul.
Taking a hot bubble bath with lavender scent, some nice music, or some whiskey works wonders at times too. Relaxing the body can often correlate to my mind.
My cousin Anne talks about her Joy list. Writing down things you are grateful for often helps put things in perspective.
Exercise can work.
Being with people I love, people that make me laugh often helps put things in perspective, makes me feel safe, and recalibrates the space I'm in.
Most of the time it's accepting that something in my life is bothering me, taking the time to meditate on what that truly is, and seeing if I need to change it or let it go. Usually when I can clear the problem my emotions balance out.
I don't know if you've ever experienced anxiety, or if your trigger tends to be depression, anger, impulsiveness. Whatever it is you struggle with I hope reading this makes you feel less alone. Maybe for the first time ever you will see this as less of a flaw and more of an internal guidance system, telling you that something is a little off kilter and you simply need to check in. Remember first and foremost that nothing is wrong with you, and that spending time getting to know yourself doesn't make you broken, it often gives you the tools you need to survive this life in your own unique way. Because let's be honest, we are all so different and life isn't one size fits all.
I hope you take some time this month to do something for you!