Stranger Things fans… you know what’s up. And if you DON’T watch Stranger Things on Netflix, you. are. missing. out. It’s Sunday… get on that shit NOW.
Today, I am getting real vulnerable with y’all, because I’m very passionate about the importance of mental health and ending the ignorance and stigma behind it.
The mind can be a scary place. Whether you experience something traumatic or not, anxiety can take over your thought process at any time. The “Mind Flayer”, who I personally refer to as Karen, can contort your thoughts and literally suck the life out of you. It doesn’t discriminate. It can choose anyone it wishes. It doesn’t matter what you have or haven’t been through, anxiety can start over what seems to be the smallest thing. At the time, you may not realize what’s happening… maybe it’s just a string of bad days, maybe it’s just one thing after another lately, and you pass it off as nothing- you’re just being crazy. You’re a sane person, you don’t need help… only crazy people with actual mental problems need therapy. “I can handle this myself.” “I know what a therapist will say to me.” “I’ve tried EVERYTHING already.” “I don’t need someone to ask me how anything ‘MaKeS mE fEeEeL'” …. sound familiar?
The truth is, once a few days become weeks and then months, and you start to feel your heart race, you can’t seem to catch your breath even while laying down, you lose interest in things you once loved, you can’t be out in public without an overwhelming sense of discomfort… honey- that string of a few bad days has become much more. Your mental health is officially suffering and it’s time to change some patterns that are no longer working and ignoring the reality of the suffering is only going to send you deeper and deeper into a hole you feel like you can never get out of. It’s time to recognize that whatever you’re going through is changing who you are into someone you don’t want to be. Even though it seems like an all-consuming darkness, it doesn’t have to be forever and you don’t have to ignore it or be embarrassed about it. Your mind doesn’t have to continue to be ‘flayed.’ It’s time to slay that ugly ass Mind Flayer.
Let’s just be real fucking REAL for a minute- just being a human in general is fucking HARD. Think of all the life forms on this planet and then think of yourself, a human- we think, we feel, we work, we play, we create, we have homes and bills, we raise tiny humans and teach them how to live life when we’re not even sure if WE are doing it “right”, we suffer loss, we have to be conscious of what we eat and our health, we make decisions, we want money and success- the list goes on and on. No other being on this planet deals with all we have to deal with on a day to day basis.
Another one of my favorite shows called “One Strange Rock” (narrated by Will Smith and a freakin’ incredible documentary about our planet… add it to your watch list! It’s on NatGeo for on-demanders) really put this all into perspective for me by explaining the life of a Golden Jellyfish. These invertebrates literally survive off sunlight. That’s all they do. They don’t eat, they don’t think, they don’t feel, they don’t work, they don’t raise children- they just migrate to the sunlight and float in it. But they’re ALIVE. They’re living what they know as a fulfilling life. Now think of yourself and all you do and feel in one 24 hour day. Doesn’t it seem more probable that our mental health can suffer? Doesn’t it seem more realistic that whether we experience something traumatic or not, we can still find ourselves in the dark with all of that in perspective?
EXACTLY. Now stop shaming other HUMANS by saying things like “what do you have to worry about?”, “You always seem so happy, why be sad?”, “Look on the bright side…”, “You have a great life, so many people have it so much worse.” The bottom line is- IT. DOESN’T. FUCKING. MATTER. We deal with so much every single day on this Earth. Some can handle more than others, or maybe those people who appear “stronger” are just denying their reality- that life IS just fucking hard. We don’t always have to have it all together. We don’t always have to appear strong. We need to support each other instead of telling everyone to “get over it”, because the truth of the matter is- every single person struggles, whether they admit it or not. We need to end the stigma. We need to TALK about it. We need to accept that shit happens every single day that we cannot control and it’s okay to be upset about it- no matter what it is. I don’t care if you stubbed your pinky toe and then ran into a screen door- if that makes you cry, then cry about it. If that makes you spiral into an abyss, that’s okay. But what’s not okay is letting that abyss take over your life and consume your soul. Because while living life is an undeniably hard task, we have to still make it a life worth living.
I am no professional with this, but I know how it feels to struggle mentally and I know how dark and scary it can get. Being an empath, I FEEL things a lot harder than some. Things affect me a lot deeper than those around me. And here’s the honest truth- I have NOT experienced some horribly traumatic things that a lot of people have and to outsiders, I’m sure my life could seem pretty perfect… and that right there makes me a great example for the idea that depression and anxiety can consume ANYONE. I am teaching myself and learning that this doesn’t make me any less of a person and that I am actually a lot stronger than I give myself credit for. I cannot stop my deep thoughts and feelings completely, that’s just who I am- but I can control how I let them effect my life. Some days are a lot harder than others and I still have yet to get a good routine in place that I know will help me cope better… it’s taking me time to find the right combo of things and apply them to daily life, but here are some things that DO help me:
- Journaling. Truthfully, I struggle with journaling and I always have. Something about putting a pen to paper makes my thoughts sound ridiculous at times. I envision someone else reading my journal and laughing at me, and telling me how ridiculous my feelings are. And THAT is what the stigma about mental health has created… fear of being open and honest, even with your damn self. Your feelings are your feelings and you’re entitled to feel them. Once I do get going with journaling though, I always feel better once it’s out of me. There’s a sweet release to writing down your thoughts, no matter how insane they feel to you in the moment.
- Going for a walk. Sometimes when life seems heavy, the last thing you want to do is move your body. I’ve had literal internal battles with “Karen” about just going for a god damn walk. But once I hook up my dog, put on some music and get my ass outside, I almost always feel better when I get home.
- Listening to good music. Put on your favorite playlist and clean the house… or just lay there and listen! Music has always been a part of my soul and my favorite songs always lift my mood and make me shake my booty. How can you be sad if you’re dancing?
- Talking with a therapist. Here’s an important one, folks. Therapy is not only for people who are mentally ill or people you’d label as “crazy”. Let me say it again for the people in the back…. THERAPY IS NOT ONLY FOR “CRAZIES”!!!! You know when you call up a friend just because you’re having a hard day and need to talk… guess what? You’re looking for some therapy RIGHT THERE. Our friends can’t always help because GUESS WHAT? They’re probably going through some shit they aren’t talking about either!! Know what a professional therapist is good for? Someone to talk to with unbiased opinions, someone to validate your emotions and not judge you (which friends/family can sometimes do), and someone to help you cope with your overwhelming feelings in a different way than you could think of yourself! Imagine that, huh? I don’t know who the asshole was who made us all believe that therapy is only for people who have diagnosed mental issues… I hope he/she found their happiness somewhere, but my guess is they haven’t or ever will with that kind of mentality. I personally have tried 3 different therapists in my lifetime and haven’t yet found the one I click with. This can be discouraging, but I still highly recommend and praise their practice, regardless. I hope to find my match soon with some more research. To anyone who wants to make the brave jump and speak to someone about their struggles, no matter how small you think they are in comparison to others, DO IT. They can give you the tools to cope with feelings in a different way from what you’re currently doing, which is obviously NOT working. Visit psychologytoday.com and search for someone in your area! Like me, it may take some time to find the right person (and someone who takes your insurance), but I have faith that I will find the right one for me at the right time. And so can you!
- Meditation. I just downloaded the app Headspace which I have been wanting forever, but it’s normally $100 a year… which I think it asinine for a fricken app, but I found an ad for 40% off so I finally said “screw it” and I bought it. I hope to include meditation, along with journaling, into a healthy daily routine. There’s hundreds of different types of guided meditations to help calm your crazy mind. From sports training meditation to sleep meditation to breathing exercises, there’s something for everyone and every scenario. The first time I ever listened to a guided meditation felt ridiculous, but that was just my own insecurity and negative judgement. What you do in the privacy of your home is your own damn business and meditation seriously helps to get my “Karen” to shut the fuck up. Download the app for some of the free meditations offered to try before you buy! Or if you don’t want to spend money on it, YouTube has a bunch of different, free guided meditations to try. Headspace just has a lot of great content in one place, listed under many categories, and I like that.
- Grounding yourself. Sometimes anxiety will take you on a crazy ride of shit thoughts. You may start to feel derailed and out of control. Once this happens and you recognize it, you should practice some grounding exercises. When I start to feel my heart beat out of my chest, my mind race, my breathing accelerate and I don’t want to tolerate it anymore, I start by looking at objects around the room I’m in. I point out their color, shape, or what the thing is to myself. If I’m sitting in my living room, for example, I will look around at my decor.. “Yellow Bird. Blue lantern. Striped pillow. Purple ribbon.” Etc, etc. until my breathing slows and my mind calms. It sounds ridiculous, but by recognizing the normal things surrounding you, you realize how far your head was up in the clouds and that your panic is not REAL LIFE. Nothing is happening, you’re safe, you’re loved and you’re surrounded by things that comfort you.
I can only hope that all of this helps someone else realize that their feelings are valid, that any kind of anxiety is real and that ALL of us struggle and have the RIGHT to struggle. Let’s end the stigma around discussing our mental health!!! It’s important to recognize that just living the lives we do and all that life expects out of us, is enough to make anyone a little crazy. Let’s make it easier on one another. STOP COMPARING. STOP JUDGING. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. What’s ridiculous to you, can be devastating to someone else. THAT’S real life. The reality is that life without struggle, isn’t a real life at all.
And anyone who needs a shoulder to cry on, someone to vent to, someone who will try to understand any situation you’re coming from- because that’s the empath in me- I AM HERE. I KNOW how hard it is to struggle and feel like you’re struggling alone. I KNOW how dark things can feel. I’ve accepted it and try to work on it every. damn. day. And you should learn to be open to accepting it too. Life is plain fucking crazy… let’s make it a little easier by being crazy together.