life lessons Self Care & Healing Wellness

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS: HOLDING SPACE FOR OTHERS, BEING HONEST WITH OURSELVES.

Hi everyone! I hope you are doing well, and whether you honestly are or not, this blog is centered all around #mentalhealth, so this is a safe space regardless. Do you mind if I get very honest here? I am just going to jump in with how I have been doing lately, you may have noticed the very short blog last week, and the skipped one the week prior.

I have just found myself in a position where I feel completely drained. With that, the motivation/creativity engine is sputtering out, my thoughts aren’t clear, and my body is heavy and dragging from one moment, or one spot, to another. I have been trying to sit with myself and check into where this feeling is coming from. While life never fails to supply a healthy serving of challenge and inconvenience at any given time, I still really don’t know where to point the weight of blame. There is no oddly specific reason. I just don’t feel good. My body, mind and spirit are signaling this to me now—but what do we do in these moments when we know we aren’t good?

First, I tell myself sulking is not a solution. I tell myself abandoning my responsibilities will ultimately make me feel worse, even though it seems the most appealing in the moment. I tell myself to suck it up and push through, paint a smile on and force a livelier tone. I think of that responsibility in itself— of being pleasant and easy going, on beat, positive, for the most part. I consider what is irrevocably expected of me. If nothing else, that is what I usually channel my remaining energy into. Faking it. Cleaning this up as quietly as possible. I realize now, that this faking and working away these low feelings is not cleaning anything up. It’s more like stuffing everything into a closet, for later, which always becomes much later. Now all of the messy stuff you put into the closet has grown eight beady eyes and long squiggly legs. It’s mean. It wants to eat you. Don’t ignore your mental health. 

As much as I wanted to sweep myself under the rug and remain in perfect character for the regular inspiration and uplift; I also see the importance of showing up as my entire self, in each human moment, God willing I can be constructive with it, and then find the courage to share. It is also #mentalhealthawarenessmonth, and I want everyone to know just how important it is to monitor and care for our own mental health, but also, to be more mindful that we all have this fine balance to walk. Some days are harder than others. 

There is this idea that we should always push ourselves. Whether it be pain, exhaustion, whatever kind of sadness or emotional discontent, we are instilled to believe that the respectable thing to do would be to simply push through it. While challenging ourselves is required to get to the next level in all areas, we cannot push and push and push without stopping for a breath. Stopping for nourishment. Stopping to aid natural injury that comes from the weathers of life and circumstance.

We can have the most amazing work ethic and sleep schedule, but we are all going to lose someone close to us one day. Most of us will end up heartbroken at least once. We might realize we’ve been working hard at a job or towards a degree we don’t really want. We might feel crushed under the political and societal climate, feeling helpless to the dangers of daily life for ourselves and our loved ones. (The collective trauma on the black community is heavy and compiling right now, and my mental health has felt more under fire than ever.) We can also appear majorly successful and then dip into a dark place of self doubt. No matter what it looks like on the outside or who it is— mental health is a real, fragile, essential function that our entire livelihoods rely on. No one is exempt from the lows, no matter how many highs they have representing your *perception of them.*

Mental health is often mentioned alongside self care, and self care is a big topic right now, it gives off the feeling like it just walked into the room, and everyone is realizing it is not shameful to do nice things for ourselves. That point in itself, is very true and important. 

But self care isn’t all it is cracked up to be, or should I say, marketed to be. There is a whole “treat yo self” industry booming right now, and while I certainly enjoy and pay into that as well, (boy do I love me some treats,) you might hit a point where a iced coffee or a new pair of shoes just doesn’t quite do it for you. And that is understandable, because mental health goes deeply beyond that. It is not something that can be bought.

Self care— the act of caring for our whole selves, is more than how we dress our bodies or feed our mouths for the afternoon. This is the way we speak to and reconcile conflict and discontent within ourselves, how gently we hold our hearts when they ache, and how patient we can be when this process takes real time. Self care is choosing to not abandon ourselves when we feel like we’re losing.

Self care is showing up the next day, and the next day, and the next day, to advocate for ourselves, our whole selves. This can look like sleep, lots of super unproductive, lazy, wonderful, sleep. This can look as simple as allowing yourself to cry and release pent up emotion. This can look like journaling the ugliest thoughts that will never see the light of day.  This can be finally setting up some counseling or therapy. This can look like stepping away from social media for a while. This can be temporarily clearing your schedule of all the unnecessaries, so you can catch up with yourself. This can be something that you gently and steadily release through an outlet that is just for you— working out, painting, sewing, meditating, etc., Much of this care is very personal. When our mental health needs attention— we can feel extremely vulnerable, or even ashamed. The process can be sticky, unpretty, unpleasant, slow, painful, uncomfortable, and just terribly hard at times. It is understandable why so many of us keep this piece of reality under wraps.

We should consider the way we pay attention to and handle our own mental health, and how we allow space for others to do so as well. One thing I don’t appreciate is how self care gets a grand spotlight when it means it’s profitable, but mental health is stigmatized when it means inconvenience for others. 

Taking time to attend to our mental health can be tricky to do, still, despite the growing awareness. When I lost my older brother a few years ago, my job at that time had a two day bereavement pay policy. Two days. To grieve the loss of someone in my immediate family. That means this policy is the same if it were my child or my mother. Taking time beyond the two days would mean I compromise my ability to pay my bills- not really a problem you want to add amidst a death in your close family. And this was, and still is, considered a very big, financially successful, “progressive” company.

Time off to care for mental health or times of mental illness can be very hard and humiliating to get, oftentimes needing to over explain, through picking and prodding, to the point where we end up lying about why we need a day, to spare us that questioning and humiliation. Even then, many places of work will begrudgingly give you the time off, then hold it against you, downplaying your circumstances— Your leg must be literally falling off before time off is considered logical and forgiven. This “push through,” and “fake it,” mentality goes for entrepreneurs as well, perhaps especially, as they do not have as much professional support as an someone within an organization does.

As a lot of careers move online, we have all heard that you cannot be successful as an online presence without a constant presence. For those in this arena, we are all well aware that taking time away from posting online, even a tiny amount of time, can mean losing hard earned growth and progress for our business. We are well aware of the pressures and punishments and that surround the idea of stepping away to care for our mental health, and yet we quickly withdraw support when we observe any inconsistency in presence from friends/brands we follow, and the very same companies that preach and echo the importance of mental health give their own employees two days of bereavement pay, (or have no policy on bereavement, for that matter.) They give swift, merciless consequences to missing time due to mental health matters.

This inability or inaccessibility to tend to our mental health— to consequently be seen as negatively absent, weak or incapable, or to even lose our financial stability/income in some cases, drives people to “push” themselves straight into their breaking point. 

Mental Health is a matter of the brain, the most essential organ we have. Why is it that we are still trying to convince the world that an illness of our minds should be taken as seriously of one in another area of the body? In fact, our mental health has a large influence on our physical health, and in many ways is the true root of our well being. We can’t let that root rot, we can’t let it go unnourished, or unaddressed. And when someone needs to tend to their own mental health, we need to try our best to give them the space to do that, without harsh judgement or punishment. Say it with me: people are not machines. People perform better when they are healthy. Mental health is a huge part of general health. We never really know what someone else is going through, and we are no one to determine that for them. 

As I am coming down my own journey, I have realized that my mental health is best cared for proactively— and what I mean by that, is I try my absolute best to NOT ignore my mental health until I’m about to crack and need to miss work over it. Every now and then, I request time off in advance, so it’s considered and covered appropriately, (so everyone can win there on the consideration front,) and so I know my life isn’t always go, go, go. I do entirely too much with too little time to never take a break. No matter how romanticized nonstop working is. I encourage you to proactively set aside uncompromised time to check in and care for your whole self. Do not wait until you are at the break down point. Take the early signals from your body and mind. Do not apologize or feel ashamed for having a schedule that includes regular and reoccurring time off for rest and recuperation.

None of us are so perfect that we are exempt from needing to care for our mental health, no matter how great we can be at hiding this part of reality. Empathy and kindness can go a long way for those of us who are struggling— whether that is privately or openly. I would like to be more open, even if it’s scary, because I know that sometimes we need to know we aren’t alone in our experiences. The journey upward has peaks and dips, oftentimes what we are shown is exclusively the peaks, and that can further shove mental health into the closet, as a private, shameful thing. It is not.

And for anyone who is concerned, I am okay. I just need to invest a little time into genuine self care, I am taking those signals from myself now. I am working on incorporating higher quality, consistent self care into my weekly and monthly routines. Writing this blog has actually helped me transmute these feelings into higher ones, being able to be honest and make an effort to create a safe space for others makes me feel good, truly. 

If you are struggling with mental health, I encourage you to reach out to someone and share how you are feeling. Take the time you need. And be gentle with yourself. If you suspect that someone you know is struggling, reach out to them and if nothing else, let them know you appreciate them and they can come to you in confidence if they need anything.

Check yourself if you are putting unrealistic or unfair expectations on someone in your life who may be struggling, whether personally or professionally. If YOU are good, use that as a catalyst to ensure others around you are good as well. We are meant to help one another. 

Thank you for reading. I hope you guys enjoyed the blog this week! 

 Some resource numbers I found below and a friendly reminder 😉

Sending out so much love! take care, really. Until the next one-

-Katrisha

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