Greetings lovely one,
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get a letter to you this month. It’s been rough over here in really subtle and also not so subtle ways. Then I remembered that this is a love letter and that I didn’t need to be anything other than myself with you. Instead, I’m going to keep it real.
One of the ways I often lose myself is in service to others. It can be seen as a positive, but there’s also a downside. Burnout and compassion fatigue come to mind. People-pleasing is another. But burying myself in work is my go-to distraction and from the outside looking in, that can be a good thing. Our society values productivity and feeding the machine, so to speak. Personally, it’s a way to avoid the inevitable feelings that lay beneath the surface. The symptoms bubbling up which remind just how much happiness is a fleeting emotion, and that I either have to eventually face all of my humanity or it will come beating my closed door down … without a courteous greeting.
According to therapists past and present, I am considered “high-functioning.” And several professors called me a “wounded healer.” I’ve made no secret that while, yes, I’m a small business owner who prays multiple times a day – I also live with mental health disorders. I became a public mental health advocate after I was ready to accept that about myself, which took some time. I say that because once upon a time, I thought mental illness came and went after social circumstances changed. Silly rabbit, me. I try to tell my truth without blame or judgment, and while occasionally failing, I also show up (sometimes dragging my feet and kicking and screaming) to inner healing work and course correction even when it’s painful.
I am not too ashamed to share that I have a hard time accepting some aspects of myself, and that I believe in shadow integration, which won’t happen without acceptance. (The Dark Side of Light Chasers by Debbie Ford was a good intro book for me on shadow work.)
As a result, I tend to self-sabotage when things are too ambiguous, too uncertain, too mucky, or too much of a wilderness for my acceptance. 2020 introduced us on a large scale to SO MUCH that was (and is still) too uncertain, too mucky, too what the heck is normal anymore? I’ve had an uphill battle, constantly looking over my shoulder to see if I made any movement at all. Constantly worrying that I’m climbing the wrong mountain in the first place. I honestly cannot remember the last time I had a depressive episode like the one I recently experienced … but I guess I’m human after all.
If I hadn’t been paying extra attention to my moods through my journaling, I would have missed the occurrence in a bid to keep up and act normal. Which is why I will almost always suggest journaling to anyone who asks me what’s a favorite mental health tool. Notebook and pen, my friends, notebook and pen. Luckily, I am already in therapy, but with my symptoms aggravated I had to really monitor what is on my plate and commit to saying “no.” And then, actually do the techniques my therapist taught me to use (she gave me PDFs too – bless her sweet spirit, helping my type-A personality) which were collecting cyber dust particles in a folder “somewhere filed away. I’ll get to it.”
My gratitude is in being cohesive enough to do even this much. The first major depressive episode I remember, which occurred in my early twenties, left me tucked in a corner on the floor instead of at my job … and too prideful to seek help. That was then; now team therapy and team peer support groups form just part of my care plan.
I decided to share a little bit about my personal struggle because those of us who are in the business of helping often feel we need to “have it all together” in order to do what we do, and be who we say we are. But getting too wrapped up in keeping appearances means neglecting the work we have to do to be stable, stay healthy, and live well; this is especially true for those of us who have been on “both sides of the couch.” When deciding to use personal experience to help others (writers are healers too), it’s important to avoid becoming the kind of messenger we ourselves wouldn’t want to receive.
Anyone involved with the U.S. healthcare system in any capacity knows what I mean when I say there’s a big difference in working with a person who loves what they do, and are caring and compassionate, versus someone collecting a check and who “others” you. But if we can’t “to-do,” then we … just can’t. We need to remember to give ourselves permission to be vulnerable in our own brave spaces, to be loved, to be held.
Suicide Prevention Month is over, but suicide prevention is an everyday ordeal. I’ve lost too many fellow mental health advocates and activists in this recovery journey to only acknowledge one month of their collective efforts. Have the courage to reach out and if you’re good, then check on a “strong” friend or two.
Peace, Love, and Wellness,
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Tales from the blog keepers
There are still many harmful attitudes and misunderstandings around mental illness, which may make people ignore their mental health, fuel stigma, and make reaching out for help difficult. Take the following mental health quiz provided by the CDC and see if you can separate the myths from the facts.
Faith and community leaders can help educate individuals and families about mental health, increasing awareness of mental health issues and making it easier for people to seek help. Community connectedness and support, like that found in faith-based and other neighborhood organizations, are also important to the long-term recovery of people living with mental illnesses.
“Mental health” can mean a lot of things, depending on who you talk to. Many people confuse mental health – which is a positive state, like physical health – with mental ill-health. Mental ill-health is the anxiety that rears its head when an estranged son pictures a conversation with his mother. It’s the depression that settles on a college student facing a fractured world and a new set of life decisions. It’s the bipolar diagnosis that reshapes a young adult’s self-perception.
Muse of the month
Blerd’s the word
It’s football season around the family shindigs and which means trash talk galore and loud neighbors chanting “Fly Eagles Fly.” I just discovered one of my former business coaches is a Cowboys fan and I was going to give her an angry reaction on the Facebook because I by geographical default cheer for the Eagles. Apparently Eagles fans and Cowboys fans rivalry is a thing … but that felt like too much work. Because the reality of the situation is… *shrugs*