World Mental Health Day
It’s Mental Health Day — don’t think that because I’m smiling here that my mental health is always this good to me, or that I’m always good to it.
I’m not here to be a person that tells you to be happy all the time. But I am here to shed light + joy onto others because I KNOW how terrible it feels otherwise, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.
Feeling trapped in your own head + thoughts can be terrifying. It can be traumatic in itself. You fall down rabbit holes, get stuck, become unmotivated, lose your zest for life, stop feeling connected those things + people around you…so you disassociate + feel like if you don’t care, why would anyone else. “They’re all lying, they don’t actually care”. You might become paranoid that others are being pitted against you. It’s all a slippery slope of “I don’t care anymore” and “what’s it matter anyway”, until all of a sudden you think “fuck it, I might as well just not exist then”.
I know because I’ve been there:
I’ve been suicidal, and attempted 3 times in a span of 3 months at the end of 2015 to beginning of 2016
I had to go to the doctors every 2 weeks for a number of months in 2018 so they could test me, as I was on suicide watch after I finally bit the bullet to go to therapy
Upon my first visit to the doctor, she rated me and when she told me my final “tally” she was overtly concerned for me, and when I laughed and said “oh please, everyone feels this way”, she stopped me dead in my tracks and looked straight into my eyes to calmly but firmly tell me “no, they don’t actually” (which I continued to doubt her and tell her that was some BS)
I was referred to a hospital’s Urgent Psychiatric Clinic (from a non-urgent service provider), to be added to the top of a wait-list to be admitted to stay there for a few months until I wasn’t on watch anymore (ended up not happening as I moved away, which I was fortunate of but also I regretted a little because maybe I’d be further along my journey now had I stayed)
Even though I haven’t tried since, the thoughts do come up from time to time of just how better it’s be for everyone else (and myself) if I just let it all go…but now that I’ve been “on the other side”, I know this not to be true
Listen, I know all about the dreaded spiraling or falling straight down the rabbit hole. If you’re not ‘on top of it’ so to speak, it can become so easy to fall into that state within SECONDS, but then take days, weeks and sometimes even MONTHS to get out of this place. And it all started from something someone said or did that triggered us into this “safety net” (we’ve more or less trained our neuro-pathways over time that this is the safest route to bring our brain) …but this safety net is no longer safe for us. It’s actually more detrimental + damaging.
But if we know this about ourselves, why do we allow it to continue? Well, simply put, we’ve been traumatized + need to face it to heal it. Not to mention, this downward spiral way of thinking has really become a pattern…a habit almost…and we all know how hard habits are to break.
Facing it is sometimes scarier than running from it because we will have to relive the trauma (in a way) in order to see the root of it, AND be able to take accountability for our own life and how to move FORWARD. Someone else “did it to us”, so it should be on them to fix, to apologize, to “make me feel better”. The problem with this is that in most cases, the person who initially traumatized us either doesn’t know it, knows it and doesn’t care, or isn’t even in our lives anymore to do any apologizing/reconciling. So, we have to pick ourselves up to carry on...even when the load is extremely heavy.
It’s also hard for people to face their traumas in a healthy way because we only see one perspective, and in order to gain a new perspective we usually need another person to guide us there. It can be hard to open up to friends and family about it, because as mentioned earlier you’re already in the state of “no one cares”, so why would you dare bother; and if your family, friends or coworkers don’t see signs of your mental health diminishing (because you’re so good at hiding it from others), they won’t be reaching out and asking you (or sometimes they are so caught up with their OWN shit, they may not notice/have the energy or wherewithal to help). On top of all of that, mental health help is expensive, and with it being a recurring need, that cost continues to grow.
So how do we start? It sounds like there’s no winning.
I promise there is.
“The 4 M’s” is something I recognized I was utilizing to fight my own battle against self. I’ve been using this in my tool belt for 5 years now:
mantras + affirmations
mindset (journaling, therapy)
These 4 tools have been my pillar when I want to proactively stay in a healthy mindset, or when I notice the signs start to pop-up with my usual mental health decline and I need help finding my way out. The thing is, it looks different for all of us, so you need to first know what your triggers are and what your symptoms look like for you. That can be the hardest part, especially if you’re in a place where you aren’t able to gain a new perspective on your situation(s) or can’t see the forest from the trees.
They may just work for you, too.
So what does that look like?
- Knowing my triggers:
First things first, I know my TRIGGERS — not so that I can avoid them all together necessarily, though for my PTSD there are definitely certain things I’ve cut out of my life so I don’t purposefully put myself into a triggered moment/situation. But these are things that I KNOW will cause a flare up of emotions that I haven’t dealt with/overcome/learned how to healthily manage yet. If I know my triggers, I can PREPARE myself ahead of time if I know I’ll be in a situation where my trigger may cause a flare up of emotions for me that will start my decline. If I’m prepared, at least I know I have tools to help get me out of the emotion, or handle it better than I used to. If I’m prepared, I’ll be able to use the tools I have to MAINTAIN my current state and not fall into the depths of despair.
For me, some of my triggers are:
- Certain people (I won’t list specifics, but in general we usually have someone in our life who triggers us deeply; it can be a family member, friend, coworker, etc); this trigger is one I need to prepare myself for if I know I’ll be around them, so I can set boundaries to maintain my mental health
- Certain surroundings; this can be an environment where the trauma first happened OR something close to it…it can also be things that make us feel the way we felt when we were triggered (a great example can be being in a small place where the trauma happened and now you deal with claustrophobia, and don’t want to put yourself in that position)
- Certain visuals; this is a big one, especially because I’ve got a photographic memory so certain scenes in movies are extremely triggering and this is an example of something I will purposefully avoid so not to trigger myself
- Knowing my symptoms:
Second, I know my SYMPTOMS — this is so I can be on alert when I notice myself feeling “off”. I know enough about myself now that I’m fairly aware of my symptoms to be able to be on the look out for them. Symptoms are the things we tend to do when we’re in that uncomfortability/feeling triggered. If I know my symptoms, I can then use the tools I’ve learned to get back touch “regular self”. If I’m prepared to know my symptoms I can *sometimes* even prevent a full blown attack (panic attack, PTSD moment, depressive episode). Sometimes though, the symptoms have gone unnoticed (because they also show us we’re “in it”) and when I finally recognize them for what they are, I realize I’m already in those states I could have potentially prevented.
For me, *some* of my symptoms are:
- looking at everything negatively with no end in sight and no hope for change/a better future/a future at all;
- becoming restless (can’t stop fidgeting, but can’t focus on one thing);
- not able to sleep or stay asleep until it’s the early morning, and then falling asleep but not able to get up because I’m so tired. Then being so tired all day all I want to do is sleep (the most vicious cycle of them all);
- eating all the time out of anxiousness, or not eating at all because I’m too depressed and don’t feel worthy of giving my body the nutrition it requires + deserves;
- becoming irritable + angry OR getting incredibly upset where all I can do is cry and putting up barriers for others to reach out to help
- if I get really far down the hole, the suicidal thoughts come alive again — that’s when I know I’ve reached the tipping point
- Knowing my tools:
Third, knowing my TOOLS — this is so I know how to dig myself out when I’m feeling like I’m in that 6 feet under stage, OR when I notice a “flare up” and want to prevent it from getting worse. These are the things I use to help me get back to homeostasis, mentally. It’s not that the shadow feelings are invalid, or that I want to avoid feeling them altogether, but rather it’s the wisdom in knowing that if I get there or allow myself to wallow in them I’ll usually stay there for an elongated period of time that then becomes detrimental to me, my loved ones and the world around me. Knowing what my tools are, means I have the self-awareness of how to get myself into a new perspective ON MY OWN. Having tools + knowing how to utilize them for yourself is most definitely a privilege that not all of us have. This is why I like to share my experiences, that way if you resonate with them you might be able to try these things for yourself to see if they help you.
For me, some of my tools are:
- physically moving my body; running, yoga, stretching, dancing, hiking…getting outside + breathing in fresh air, looking at nature, putting my barefeet in the ground
- spiritual alone time; this can be quiet meditation, active meditation, getting creative, talking to my higher self, chakra work, baths
- emotionally amping myself up; affirmations are a big one, talking to myself out loud, recording audio when I’m in a healthy mental state so I can listen to it when I’m not doing so well (instead of listening to your brain in that moment, listening to yourself from when you k ow things can be good)
- psychological self-reflection + development; speaking with others to see a different perspective/ bigger picture (women’s groups, friends, therapy, etc), journaling, listening to uplifting podcasts that challenge my thoughts or make me think a little differently
Let’s not kid ourselves. Just because I’ve gotten help, I’m not fully “recovered”, and honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever be. But that’s ok. I’m learning to accept this, and finding ways to “work around” it with the tools I have at hand.
I still go down the rabbit hole
I still have panic attacks
I still deal with depression
I still have to handle my PTSD when the triggers get me
I still trip up and get into funks where I don’t “self care” for days on end
“So you’re telling me I might not be permanently ok after all this facing my trauma? What the hell is the point then? Why bother trying if I’ll just be back here again?”
Because you are WORTH IT to be here. You have been through some shit, and once you find YOUR way of getting around the psychological warfare you’re dealing with, you’re going to want to make sure no one else has to do it alone, or go through it all all.
It sounds so cliche, but your pain can most definitely be your power in a way. It sounds sick and twisted, I know, but it can’t be closer to the truth.
I notice the patterns I fall into in certain cycles, I have. I recognize I’m doing it, and continue to. Then when I’m totally self sabotaging, I go “why the fuck am I here again? I know better”…and start the cycle over with self care to boost myself back up and out of the hole I dug myself into. But then I can also relate to others around me, and in conversation we can bounce ideas off each other to help one another. THAT is the point, for me anyway. Deeper connection. Helping others.
Even though I know I will trip up again + fall into the hole. I’m not bad for doing this. I’m not a terrible person. I’m not going to be perfect 100% of the time. That’s an impossible ask. All I can do is try to find tools that will help me ‘come back to me’ more quickly than I used to. With every fall down, I learn new tools to help pick me back up if the old tools no longer work as well. And then I have more ways to help others.
And if you’re falling down and find ways to pick yourself back up again, you’ll have ways to help others too. If we all just shared the tools with each other, we would be so connected and able to keep ourselves afloat.
I think the world would be a beautiful place if we knew what our own life jackets looked like + the intricacies of how they worked, so that when someone else falls in the vast ocean of life we knew we’d be safe if we fell in to help them get back into their lifeboat (our our own until they got to safety).
So let's get to saving ourselves, so we can help save each other.
Nothin' but heart chakra love,