World Mental Health Day is this month! We find that to be an exciting day. Why are we excited? Well, because we take mental health seriously. Caring for yourself is so very important. Raising awareness about mental health issues means normalizing the experience so we can talk about how to heal.
Today I’m going to share some of my story. Our blog writer, Elise, thought of some intentional questions to ask me to commemorate World Mental Health Day.
The purpose of World Mental Health day, according to the World Health Organization is to "raise awareness around mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health". Are there particular mental health issues that are important to you?
I think the biggest step forward to mental health is to legitimize and destigmatize when people are struggling in this way. When I went through my mental health crisis, a major depressive episode in 2010, I literally didn't know what was wrong with me. I was married to a doctor, daughter to a high school guidance counselor and when I told them how I was feeling it was met with confusion and diminishing suggestions like "get over it" "look at all you have, what are you sad about". It was true, my kids were healthy, we had money, I did have a lot to be grateful for, but I was in so much pain. You cannot look at the outside of a person or their external situation and tell what their status of mental health is, you have to trust them when they tell you they are drowning and often you have to trust them before a medical professional is involved!
I fell all the way into the deep, dark hole, head first, making irrational, harmful choices to try to feel better on my way down, before someone in my support system took my pain seriously. That's not ok. I don't want anyone else to have to feel that way.
I think World Mental Health Day and any other event or platform that brings awareness to this struggle should be amplified and celebrated. I would love to live in a world where we believe and honor a person who speaks about their mental health, where all of us can ask for rest and ask for help without fear that we will be shunned/dismissed/made to feel weak. I know from experience it takes guts to speak up and say, "y'all, seriously! I need help." big time guts.
So, let's turn down the judgment and listen to our loved ones.
What are ways that mental health issues are misunderstood? How do you wish, or hope, that this particular issue can be understood?
It is first misunderstood by the person experiencing a mental health issue. We are so programmed to be bubbly, positive, to hustle, to be productive, that we will continue to drink coffee and shrug off the signs of mental health issues until they become emergent.
Also, it's tough to assess because mental health can't be seen like a rash or a felt like a lump, I think (HOPE) we are getting better about this! I hope we are normalizing the ebb and flow of our internal hustle. NO one, i mean no one, not even Martha Stewart, is all GO all the time. Those are lies.
Depression is misunderstood as apathy or laziness. Anxiety is misunderstood as being high strung or being dramatic. If you are thinking these things about yourself or someone you love, do yourself a favor and take this seriously enough to learn about it. Read about depression and anxiety from someone who has lived through it, and gone to therapy to understand it. Listen to podcasts about it. Follow instagram accounts about it. Educate yourself. The way to understand is to dive into the water, however scary, and swim around with those of us in the pond with you.
How do you "raise awareness" within yourself about mental health?
That's a good question! It's taken some time but I'm getting better at the thing that I think is most imperative to this: patience.
When I am tired, or unmotivated (sometimes for hours, or days) instead of leaping to judgment and disappointment in myself, I step away from the emotion of the moment and just observe it. I lay flat on my back, close my eyes and say to myself "hey girl, you aren't feeling so good today, huh... what do you think you need?" Then I listen. (how are we so good at this when it comes to other people and so bad when it comes to ourselves!?)
Sometimes I need connection, so I text a friend to take a walk or meet for tea. Sometimes (often) I need a nap or an early night. Sometimes I need to paint for NO REASON, not to sell or make into a bandana, but just express, to move the paint around on the paper. Sometimes I lay there and my mind takes a little stroll around my life, taking stock, and I'll see a situation where I've been inauthentic or a task that I'm resisting because I know it will be difficult. In those instances I know I need to dig into my courage a little deeper and take action.
It's amazing but our spirit, our heart, already knows what we need.
How do you care for your mental health?
I take my medicine everyday, with gratitude that it exists. I am grateful that I don't have to fight my brain—which doesn’t produce enough serotonin—every single day alone.
SLEEP! my biggest gift to myself: nonjudgmental rest.
I have a good wind-down-before-bed routine, to keep my sleep healthy.
Ultimately, and always, I listen to myself. I act from a place of authenticity. That is the lifeblood of a mental healthy life, in my opinion.
Do you have a favorite/helpful mantra when it comes to mental health struggles?
The one we started this company with, 'be brave' is probably the single most important part of my mental health journey. Courage is the seed for possibility; it is what we call upon when we need to look deeply at situations that are unhealthy for us and begin to make the change. It is what we need to take the first steps toward living our truth.
If you can whisper 'be brave' to yourself when you are at any type of crossroads, it's going to guide you well: towards your authenticity, towards your heart's content. True bravery doesn't lead you down a dark and lonely path. Even if the beginning of that path feels dark and lonely because you are leaving behind safety and comfort.
However, what you will find is being alone while trusting yourself, listening to your heart and connecting to your dreams is not lonely at all. It is the strongest belonging we can hope for.
What do you want to share with people who struggle with their mental health?
I would urge anyone struggling with mental health issues that are staying quiet about it to start speaking up. trust that you know when you are feeling off and start talking!
If it feels too scary to engage others at first, you could start by doing some 'stream of consciousness' writing or talking into your phone's voice recorder. It's amazing what happens when you listen to yourself talk about what you're feeling. Do you know how when you think you are just dead-stopped at an intersection of choices and you call a friend, then as you're explaining the quandary to them, the best choice becomes obvious! It's like that! take judgment out of your body, literally pick it up and set it outside on the porch, then with curiosity at the helm, start talking.
When you feel ready, take it to the people: the therapists, the counselors, your trusted friends... let them help you validate your feelings, understand your struggle and figure out what support looks and feels like to YOU.
you are NOT ALONE, you are brave and you are capable! We are rooting for you everyday!
With love + gratitude