When you spend everyday talking about mental health, what do you write on a day like Bell Let’s Talk, that you wouldn’t say any other day?
That’s been the question I’ve been grappling with all day, as I sit in the fort I built in my living room. Maybe, that it’s okay to be you. Everything that comes out of my brain seems cliché. But, it is the truth. Find people who like to be around you in all your weirdness. I sent my roommate a message last night that I was going to be taking over half of the living room with a kickass pillow fort and his response was “sounds awesome.” That’s how I know he's a good roommate. He accepts all my weird stuff. In turn, I accept all his weird stuff. And we are happy.
So, on this day of mental health awareness, I ask you to be aware of your mental health. Do the things that you want to do. The things that make you happy, which may not be the same as the things that society expects. From my experience, society doesn’t know how to be happy. There is no set of rules that apply to everyone and trying to get everyone to fit into the same box makes most people feel uncomfortable and crowded. Stay out of the box!!!
So, here is my "out of the box"... these are pictures of my kickass new blanket fort called, The Fortress of Soliloquy (because it is also my new writing office). I’m 34 years old and it felt great to build. I made plans and everything and I’m very happy with the result. I shared these photos on Facebook and it was one of the most liked albums I’ve ever had. It’s funny, all the things that I share that are really weird and out there get the highest response from people. Doing things that make me happy, seems to make other people happy too. Being brazen and confident about my eccentricities let's other people feel comfortable about their own.
And that’s really the heart of what I have learned in my own journey to mental health; when you take care of yourself, others are inspired/free to care for themselves as well. I think that’s the real principle of the “teach a man to fish” parable – you can help someone with their problem, or you can show them how you solve that same problem. You couldn’t teach a man to fish if you didn’t know how to fish yourself. You can’t help someone love themselves, if you don’t know how to love yourself. You can’t make someone happy, if you are not happy with yourself. Everything starts and ends with you.
That’s why mental health awareness is important. Too often it is the voice in our own head that makes us miserable. Our inner dialogue tells us that we aren’t good enough. We haven’t done enough. We aren’t worthy. That is the demon we all have to face. And the scariest part is that no one can change it but us (and it knows all our secrets!). That’s why talking to people helps. We get to know our demon when we give voice to it. We can see how it thinks. What it says. How it feels. Then we can begin to change.
For me, therapy was the answer. For others, it was yoga, or exercise, or writing, or art, or any countless number of things, but the important thing is to express whatever is locked away on the inside. And to not be scared of the darkness. From a very early age, we are taught that bad things lurk in the dark, so why would we want to look at the dark corners of our souls? That’s where the bad things are, right? Wrong. That’s where we hide the things that hurt, but hurt is the other side of joy. It is much like Newton’s Third Law: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Every feeling also has an equal and opposite feeling. That means until we look at our hurt, we cannot know the full extent of our joy. We need both of them. And if we’ve tucked all our hurt away where we can’t see it, then of course we feel empty, because we have no basis for the joy we know we should be feeling but aren’t.
Also, check out my post written as a guest blog released for #BellLetsTalk, here.