Hello dear friend,
I hope the weekend has been treating you well. In today’s post, I want to reflect on lessons I’ve learned from my mental health journey. I hope that what I’ve learned may in some way help someone else to avoid falling as far as I did in 2018. I hope that what I’ve learned helps someone else.
Let’s jump in.
Therapy is invaluable and I sincerely wish I had started it sooner. I often wonder how things would be different if I had started therapy during my very first depressive episode back in ninth grade – would the coping skills I learned make the subsequent episodes less severe? Who knows, but I am so grateful for the skills I did learn last year. I really cannot emphasize enough how much it helped to be able to talk to someone who had no investment in the situation at hand – to gain an outside perspective, to be reminded that my feelings and perceptions were valid. I’m not saying you absolutely have to see a therapist, but I am saying that speaking with a counselor of some sort – be it a licensed professional, a member of your local religious organization, heck, even someone else who has been through a similar experience, or a kind stranger you meet – it helps. Talking to someone, having a living sounding board to listen and offer advice, it helps. It helps so much.
Tracking my moods has been really helpful in identifying days when I need to be more gentle with myself. It has also helped in identifying patterns and triggers for specific moods. I have tracked in both my bullet journal and the Youper app (not sponsored – I just really like this one) and both have been beneficial for me. I particularly like the Youper app since it has the depression, anxiety, and social anxiety monitoring quizzes that you take on a regularly scheduled basis. It really helps paint a picture of how my journey is going. I’ve also learned that if I see too many “tired” days in a row, I need to check in with myself to determine the cause – am I physically tired or is this a mental/emotional issue?
Tracking other things – I don’t know about you, but when Nox starts talking loudly to me, I find that I let chores go unfinished for several days and I don’t take as good of care of myself as I should. I’ve noticed that if I haven’t done certain things for more than three days, I need to check in with myself – has my schedule been too hectic to allow time for those things? Or have I been too tired to do them (if yes, physically tired or mentally/emotionally)? Am I letting this-or-that slide deliberately or because I really, truly, don’t have the time or energy?
Cutting cords and actively working through past hurts that need healing – I know I’ve touched on this in other posts, but I have found that it is so important to identify what is holding me back – negative thought patterns, unresolved grief, limiting beliefs, toxic relationships, etc. It is so important to identify those and to work on resolving them because when I let them continue, I know I am actively adding to the ammunition Nox uses against me when it gets loud.
Acknowledging my emotions. I know I’ve touched on how badly things went for me when I bottled up my emotions for too long. I’m actively working on identifying what I’m feeling, acknowledging the validity of that feeling, and then choosing how to react. I know that I am not served by bottling up and shoving away my emotions. I know that refusing to face my feelings leads me quickly back to the Chamber of the Ordeal. I’m not saying it is easy to process feelings, but wow oh wow is it necessary and worthwhile.
Trust your people. The people who love and support you, the people who build you up, they are in your corner and they want to help you be happy. You aren’t a burden to them, no matter how often Nox may say so. Trust that they want to listen. Trust that they want to help. Because if they are your people – they will always have your back. I don’t know if your people will always be family or close friends, but I do know you absolutely have someone in your corner somewhere, even when you can’t see them, even when you feel unworthy of that support. Trust. Reach out. Have faith that your support system will catch you and hold a safe space for you while you heal.
Find things that make you smile, even when you feel like you can’t summon a real smile. For me, that’s my puppy. That’s my sister. That’s Disney movies and Sailor Moon and soft stuffed animals. It’s also silly little wind up toys that serve no purpose other than being amusing. It’s staying up late chatting with my friends about everything and anything that crosses our minds. It’s deep thought conversations with Susie over coffee before the sun has even risen. It’s hearing the kids down the street making up random games that don’t seem to have a point other than allowing them to shout at the top of their lungs. It’s puppy videos. I don’t know what it is for you, but I do know there is at least one thing out there that will make you smile even when it can’t quite reach your eyes. Even when you feel numb, there is at least that one something that allows you to feel an echo, a memory of feeling better. Hold on to that. That helps.
Find reasons to keep moving forward. I don’t care how big or small the reasons are, I just know you need them. And the minute you achieve one of those goals, choose another and another and another. Maybe it is as simple as – I have to feed my dog. I have to make sure he gets out a few times a day. I have to be around because cutting his nails is a two person job and Susie needs me for that. Maybe it is as simple as – I want to know what happens next on this show. I want to see that movie. I have that trip planned that I’ve already paid for. I haven’t seen the neighbor’s new kitten. I don’t care what the reason is – I just know that having at least one reason to keep moving forward is so, so, SO very important. And for me, one of the main reasons, the one I always keep listed as incomplete is – I want to see what else the universe has in store for me. I know there is more to life than the bad moments. I don’t want to regret not being around for something good.
Trust in the power of positive affirmations and positive thinking. Yes, I know – that advice feels so very stupid when you are deep in the dark. I know it does. I remember thinking the same thing, over and over again. And yet, I still started a “positive thoughts” save folder on Instagram. I started following people who posted positive affirmations frequently. I started forcing myself to repeat them – because even without believing them at the time, I am willing to swear that doing so helped raise my vibration, helped me to keep saying “I won’t give up.”
Finally, trust that it gets better. Nothing can stay bad forever – energy does shift. It may take time, it may take you entirely overhauling your thought system and forcing yourself to start reframing how you talk about things, but it does get better. So much better. Better than you can possibly imagine when you are at your lowest – and the only way to find out how much better it can be is to hold on long enough to see it – and then keep holding on because now that you can see that, you want to see what other blessings the universe has in store for you. It’s worth it.
I’ll stop there for today. I’m sure there are other lessons I learned, but these are the ones that came to mind today. Wherever you are in your journey today, my friend, I hope you have a good day today. I hope you know you are loved and special and absolutely needed in this world – even if you can’t see the reason why at the moment. I hope you know that the lessons you learn from your own journey are worth sharing, too.
Until next time, and with love always,