What World Mental Health Day Means To Me

Today is World Mental Health Day. I've never heard of World Mental Health Day before this morning when I woke up and saw Ed Sheeran and Prince Harry raising awareness about it on an Instagram Post.

This was the caption:

Both Prince Harry and Ed Sheeran want to ensure that not just today but every day, you look after yourself, your friends and those around you. There’s no need to suffer in silence - share how you’re feeling, ask how someone is doing and listen for the answer. Be willing to ask for help when you need it and know that we are all in this together.

I think mental health is such an important topic, and it should be talked about openly and often. Even though a post like this is very much outside of my comfort zone, on World Mental Health Day I felt it was important to practice what I preach.

We recently had to take some pictures for a project at work so we called up Yeagershots.com to come in and do a photo shoot with us. Here is one of the pictures from that day, I wanted everyone to see it for two reasons.

1-- I have a great job, that I'm grateful for, and I spend a lot of my day looking just like in the picture, laughing fully and with my whole being. I love to laugh and for people to laugh with me.

2-- I also never posted this picture publicly before today because I didn't think I looked good. Even though I love the picture because it perfectly captured how much fun we had that day, I mostly only see my double chin and fat cheeks. I chose to post a more composed picture from that day that wasn't as candid.

I am both things. A happy, fulfilled, confident person. Also a person riddled with insecurities, anxiety, and self-doubt.

My insecurity about the way I look is probably my biggest trigger. I get anxiety when thinking about going to new places or seeing new people to the point where I often stay home instead.

I am a chronic over-thinker. Almost all day long I think to myself, "Should I have said that? I shouldn't have said that. I should've said this. Did they understand what I meant? I bet they took what I said the wrong way. I wish I had said this instead."

I do not feel I have accomplished as much as I should have in life, therefore I regret many life decisions, and then I dwell on past mistakes that I can obviously do nothing about.

Those are just a few of the things that affect me mentally, there are many more, but moving on I am also guilty of trying to cope with these feelings in unhealthy ways. First and foremost, I know that so many people are dealing with so much worse than I am, so I often don't talk about the way I feel, I'd hate to "burden" anyone. I've turned to substances to feel better temporarily- too much cake, too much alcohol- even knowing that in the end it will only make me feel guilty and perpetuate the cycle.

Even though it takes an effort, I am aware of how important it is to break the cycle. Here are a few things I do to get myself in a better place mentally.

I think about my family, especially my nieces. On the day of this picture, we went for a walk around my parent's neighborhood after dinner, and I listened to them chatter about nothing really important. We all stopped to appreciate that gorgeous sunset. It is a simple joy to take a walk with people you love and I hold the memory close. Time goes by so quickly and I don't see my family enough, so I make it a point to find time to visit. (Find joy in the simple things. Make time for what's important.)

I think about this woman. That's my mom. There are, of course, a million things that I could say about her, mostly all good, very few bad, but what it all boils down to is that she loves me. When I'm not feeling good mentally, I am rock solid confident in the knowledge that someone on this planet loves me. It holds me down.

I am beyond blessed to have great friends. No matter what, I know I can count on each of the smiling faces pictured below and more not pictured. The good times with friends are countless, but there are days where I feel like I come up short. I don't text people enough, I don't reach out, I'm not good enough, I don't deserve them. There are days that go by where I haven't heard from anyone and I think it's because I'm not as smart/pretty/ambitious/popular/funny/nice as my friends are. It's such a bad place to be when I feel that way, but I've found that those thoughts are not usually valid, they're mostly only just in my head and the best cure for it is to reach out. I do not post a vague meme on social media--that solves nothing. I do not lash out and accuse anyone of anything--that only leads to hurt feelings and arguments. Simply texting, "Hey, want to go to dinner/lunch/coffee sometime this week?" Or "Want to go to a movie this weekend?" usually makes all those bad thoughts go away and gives me something good to look forward to.

Most importantly, I like to go out and talk a walk in the trees. No music, no internet. I bring my phone for emergencies and pictures, but I put it on airplane mode so I can stay "unplugged." I know it sounds cliche, but it has never failed to make me feel better to breathe in fresh air. Study after study has shown that physical movement, even moderate movement like walking, releases endorphins that make you feel better about yourself. It's science. Also, the world has a way of reminding you that your problems are small.

Here is a pic I took on one of the rail trails around Florence, find more info here: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/south-carolina/florence-rail-trail

Here's a rail trail map: http://www.cityofflorence.com/www/docs/documents-home/42850cofTrailMap-b.pdf?sfvrsn=0

Finally, I just try to have more good days than bad. I try to cherish the good days, and let go of the bad ones. I always, always, always remember to thank the sun for being so dependable and letting me see another day.

Your list of "joys in life" will probably be very different than mine, and I am keenly aware that all mental health problems can't be solved by a walk in the woods. I just wanted to share my personal journey, and let people know that it's okay to not be okay.

If you feel overwhelmed, or like you can't cope, there are so many ways to get help.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide: https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2017/handouts-depression/family/en/

The website for the World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/

Pee Dee Mental Health: https://www.peedeementalhealth.org/

843-317-4073 TTY: 800-647-2066

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.


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