Over the past five years, my mental health has gone from chaotic to manageable - and the journey, my friends, has been a rocky one. After the passing of my father I was at a breaking point. I had a choice: call in the men in the white coats or get some help. I chose the latter (obviously).
I was 26 years old when I started my journey to becoming more mentally stable. Prior to seeking therapy I didn’t even know the true definitions of stress, anxiety, trauma, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, etc. My early twenties were spent in a high-stress sales role (which I liked at the time) but coping with that high-stress job meant self-medicating with alcohol and cigarettes to dampen those anxious feelings. Luckily, in my early twenties, hangovers were non-existent! Looking back, I was in a constant state of anxiety or panic, often caused by my job but also by years of bad mental and emotional habits and failure to recover from difficult childhood experiences.
My 31 year old self has become a little more resilient in the face of life's challenges. I no longer ask “Why me?” I’ve found that once you go down that rabbit hole, it is hard to come back up. Instead, I accept the cards I’ve been dealt and exercise gratitude for all the amazing blessings in my life. Yin & Yang, right?
Now, I have a daily mindfulness practice. Some days I focus on meditation, others yoga, HIIT classes, writing, listening to Oprah, or walks in nature. If I’m feeling angry, sometimes I punch a pillow - which is always better than punching a person, no matter what you’ve heard. :) The difference between five-years-ago-me and me in the present is that now I have a bag of mental health tools from which to choose. And if the mindfulness exercises fail to ground me, then it's back in the hot seat (aka the therapist's chair.) And that’s ok too. Sometimes we need doctors to care for our mental health, just as we need doctors to care for chronic migraines or a sprained ankle.
What I’ve learned in the past five years is that we all struggle and suffer - we have all felt pain, hurt, sadness, happiness, betrayal. That is life. It’s not the emotion that hurts us, but rather how we cope with that emotion.
Ask yourself, “Do I crumble or do I grow? Do I let it get the better of me or do I let it show me a different path?” Be honest with yourself when you answer. Managing painful situations is a steep learning curve and one that only comes with experience. Believe me, I know.
We all need help when it comes to managing our mental health. The question you need to answer is “How do I manage mine?” What do you do when shit hits the fan? If the answer is “Nothing”, then start. Start Now. Start today. Make a plan. You owe it to yourself to look after your whole self: body, mind, and soul. Give yourself that gift, and know that you deserve it.