In Praise of a Difficult Mental Health Day.
In one way or another, each of us is seeking the light at the end of the tunnel yet completely ignoring and dismissing the actual role of said dark tunnel.
Most people in my life know that the past three decades of my life have been intense and heavily infused with trauma, illness, conflict and sadness… and yet nothing compares to what I’ve experienced these past twelve months.
Mental health isn’t permanent, it’s not static and most certainly not guaranteed.
Psychological well-being waxes and wanes as we navigate the landscape of being alive… it is undeniable that we are all feeling our own version of how intense it is to be alive right here, right now.
When things came to a head for me three-hundred and seventy days ago, I made many choices.
I made a choice to not run. I made a choice to not override, medicate or deny any part of my experience.
I made a choice to take a slower and more painful path than one where I am internally repeating the mantra ‘let it go’.
I decided to stop, look my proverbial ‘monster’ in the eye and waited for IT to flinch first.
Letting my darkness ride shotgun next to me every minute of the day for over a year has been interesting. Saying it wasn’t easy is being glib to say the least.
I knew that the darkness I carried would make most (ninety-five percent) of people around me uncomfortable, awkward and sometimes even hostile, but I chose it anyway.
Not only did I let it stay, I invited it to be with me at every step along the way.
Pharmaceuticals and/or prescriptions were never an option for me, although I did try them for brief periods. Mercury and lead poisoning not only seriously affected my trust in the medical industry but also my vital organs have been through far too much already.
As an Highly Sensitive Person adding on antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds or even Roacutane would overwhelm my liver, kidneys and digestion.
Instead I chose the very slow, rather painful and definitely unattractive way of healing myself. I healed according to my own intuition and according to my own timeline.
Reality shows are not my thing but I do find myself fascinated by the shows featuring cluttered and messy houses.
The process in which the house is cleaned out, re-organised and curated is a perfect metaphor for our mental health.
How often can we honestly say that we’ve emptied every junk drawer, cupboard and shed of our thoughts and emotions?
That we’ve laid it out on our front lawn in order to evaluate each and every single item carefully before even considering re-introducing it into the sanctuary of our physical/mental homes?
How many of us have laid out our junk drawers in plain sight for our neighbours and community to see?
I chose to carry out this exact exercise but on a deeper level.
I chose to display the most unattractive parts of me and my life out for any passerby to see. I chose to take on the enormous task of evaluating every single component and aspect of my life, without exception.
Family, work, money, friends…. all of these have been evaluated and re-evaluated, over and over.
Many, many times this past year I have found myself to feel judged, whispered about and pushed aside. I could actually feel it in my bones that those around me would feel utterly exasperated and want me to just ‘get over it already’…. move on, be happy, let go while ever so subtly rolling their eyes.
I refused. I was and continue to be defiant in my process.
Mourning has no time limit. Life evaluation is not to be rushed. Relationship curation is of utmost importance. Process is process and none of its steps are to be hurried, skipped or overlooked.
I have chosen to fall apart for the purpose of my own healing and also to show others that it’s okay to do so.
The irony isn’t lost on me that the ones that have been hardest on me during this year-long nervous breakdown, are also fellow sufferers of psychologically injury. Some are diagnosed, some not.
Some use prescription meds. Some use a variation of a ‘coping’ mechanisms.
Some carry the deepest trauma but find themselves repeating how ‘happy’ they are through gritted teeth. These are the very souls that have shown to be less forgiving, less patient and much more inclined to run away in the face of darkness.
What would it be like if we were kinder to each other in times of such deep injury? Would it serve as good practice for us to learn how to apply compassion toward ourselves in times of psychic pain or injury?
Would we have the experience and practice of being kinder, gentler and more understanding when one of our family members or loved experiences a mental rough patch?
I used myself as a proxy and as a case study for falling apart.
Utterly falling apart down to my most common denominator and reintroducing only the highest quality relationships, connections and routines.
I have faith in myself and in the cosmic intelligence that put me together to KNOW I’m ok, no matter what. I’ve learned to call it a ‘controlled burn’.
I wanted to know who I would be without a family. I wanted to know who I would be without a country. I wanted to know who I would be without a defining career.
I wanted to know who I would be without cash or resources and occasionally even friends. I wanted to know who I would be if I appeared unattractive. I wanted to know how to heal my body, my mind and my skin holistically and thoroughly.
I wanted to know how much can I let fall away and still feel the steady unwavering vibration of my soul.
Today I know all of these. The facets of my life and my psyche have been tended to and given their due time and attention.
These new learnings, the visceral knowing of my internal landscape and utter command of my internal ‘home’ environment provide me with the highest sense of personal agency, empowerment and courage.
When being asked to choose work, money, friends, lovers, family, stability in the name of keeping up with the herd, I refused to push myself aside and give up on my process.
At every turn, I chose myself rather than these external markers of success.
Mercifully, the breakthrough came. Hooks have been released. Weights lifted. Buoyancy restored.
My soul feels fuller and more loving of myself and others than ever before.
Growth is not for sissies. It comes with sadness, grief and mourning. Eighty percent of the people and things from my former life cannot continue on this journey with me sadly.
Many of those that were once so close must now be loved from afar, and that’s okay. It’s okaybecause grief and loss no longer scare me.
It’s okay because I know who I am as I stand alone on mother earth. I know how to cope with the reality that no one is coming. We are here for ourselves by ourselves.
I do find myself noticing this one recurring wish.
I do find myself hoping that more of us are gentler, kinder, more compassionate and even more courageous in the face of heartache.
I find myself hoping that someday the stigma of psychic illness fades away completely. I find myself hoping that the ones that suffer the most are not abandoned by the very people they love the most.
Most of all, I am hopeful that the ones quietly suffering find solace, kindness and the affection in the in the private conversations they have with themselves by themselves inside their very own injured minds
We walk our journeys alone, that’s just how this life thing goes. BUT we live in community. The gift of love despite judgment and expectation is healing not only for the recipient but mostly for the giver.
Some have argued that my ‘commitment’ to such a difficult process is a continued attachment to misery when in fact it’s the very opposite.
I have remained loyal and committed to myself as a whole without turning my back on any part of myself or the pain. Wholeness by definition encompasses light and most especially darkness.
Learning to befriend darkness has become the only way for me to tame it. You know we’ve all read the meme: ‘the only way out is through’. Well, this is what ‘through’ looks like folks, and yes it does get better, eventually.
The darkness does let up and fade. The weight does subside. The claws unhook. Dawn inevitably breaks just after the darkest hour.
Daybreak no longer feels like an overwhelming experience. The birth of a new day is infused with an internal strength that I have yet to describe succinctly.
Regardless of what this new day has in store, I have never felt more connected and in line with my own soul. My compass is resetting according to the true north of my own definition.
This level of commitment to the self is what I wish for all those who are suffering.
May you find compassion for your pain by keeping your feet to the fire.
May this fire burn away everything that no longer serves you.
May you know that illness of any kind does not define you.
May the darkness be a reminder of the cosmic benevolence your soul is made of.
May you stand alone, naked, empty, broke, unwell and yet more powerful and more loved than you could have ever imagined possible.
May you also come to notice that your darkness is the very superpower you have been praying for.
In fact, it’s the portal that pulls us towards our light.