It's hard to believe we are wrapping up May already, entering into an uncertain Summer. This also means that Mental Health Awareness month is coming to an end. Did you know Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May in the United States since 1949? Although there are more conversations and less stigma around the topic, it's clearly nothing new or abnormal.
It took me almost 3 decades to figure out exactly the type of personality I have, why, and how to communicate my specific needs and boundaries to my loved ones. I believe that these personality and mental 'issues' come from a mix of 3 things : environment (current and childhood), each individual's brain chemistry and trauma exposure. Since I was a child, I was overly curious and sensitive, always in my head. In my preteen and teen years, it continued but with added self-consciousness and hormones, it turned into anger, isolation and depression. I learned much later that I am a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). I am also an empath, but as a highly sensitive, my brain is literally different than "normal". I respond to dopamine different and my neurons are more active, causing me to notice more details and get overwhelmed by people and places easily.
I can't say for sure how one becomes an HSP or empath (absorbing others feelings and energies), or any other unique personality. It could be something from our childhoods. It could be genetics, or astrology. I personally believe it is a mix of all of those but I think the most valuable thing to do is figure out how your mind works and that is the first step in learning how to take care of yourself, your needs and how to let others know how to take care of you, too.
My highly sensitive nature, along with an overprotective upbringing, and extended amounts of time completely alone, led me to become socially anxious and depressed. From the time I was in high school until about my late twenties, I struggled with anxiety so high, that sometimes I'd avoid even going into a convenient store just to pick up something I actually needed because of the anxiety I'd start to feel. I'd have days upon days of just laying in my bed and not wanting to do anything. I sometimes would go a full week without leaving my house. I'm also an introvert by nature (INFJ) so sometimes it was partially due to that, but when the seclusion is accompanied by racing, negative thoughts and heavy feelings of hopelessness, it's definitely a mental health concern.
Look-i'm not a believer in hardcore prescription drugs. If it has helped you-great, but that's just not what I am about. I prefer wholesome, natural remedies, both from what we ingest in our bodies and the stimulation we allow ourselves to receive. Now, there are theories that state that people with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and so on also have chemical imbalances, specifically related to serotonin, but it's not proven. I do believe that our brain is the strongest tool and muscle we have, and it is something we need to constantly take care of and build. Keeping your serotonin on the higher side is something we can do naturally and will help us always feel the best we can.
Although I have gotten so much better, I still have my days. Those days where you feel like you are just in a sunken hole and can't get out. Those crushing moments that you feel worthless, hopeless and completely lost, like things are spinning out of control. Those nights of insomnia where your negative thoughts are intensified by 1000. Those simple social interactions that feel like it will make your heart and mind explode from anxiety. Those crying spells. That restless irritability. Those temper tantrums. Yes, I still have those days. Listen, I know ups and downs are part of being human, but when it is consistently painful, it is a sign that something bigger is going on in your precious mind, and your soul is asking you to take better care of it.
I know we can alter our mental health for the better through mindful self-care because I have experienced the results. The days that I meditate, exercise, eat well, create, go out into nature, stick to my boundaries with work and people, limit my phone/social media time and minimize pointless TV, expose my mind to books, good music, positive or funny shows and videos, have meaningful conversations, talk it out with a close loved one, laugh more-those are the days my mind is truly balanced and I am thriving. Moving your body, meditating and eating real, whole foods is proven to balance our brain chemicals and hormones-so why not do it? It's also important to note that when we have something happen in our lives-job changes, heartbreak, setbacks,global changes, illness, etc-it's OKAY to rest and sit with your emotions for a while. Be mindful-learn to distinguish between coping and suffering. The former is healthy, the latter can be destructive.
Life is beautiful, and we deserve to fully experience it, without fear and sadness in our minds holding us back. Get to know yourself and how you operate. What is something that is just who you are at your core? For example, for me, it is being an HSP, and I have learned to voice my needs. Now, what are things that are formed when you are just not fully taking care of yourself (ie my ruts of depression)? Do you get more anxious when you are on social media a lot? Do you have more mood swings when you are not being creative? Do you start to feel depressed when you've had nothing but junk food the past few days? Then, do the opposite. On a deeper level-meditate on where the roots of your mental illness were formed. Was it from being bullied in high school? An abusive parent? Once we figure that out, then we can understand all the habits we have formed as defense mechanisms or avoidance.
It's a process, and you have to be gentle with yourself on all days. That is crucial. Along with this kindness, I encourage you to get disciplined. I wish you all bliss on your journeys. Lastly, I know it gets so heavy sometimes, but change your narrative. Instead of getting upset with the ruts, remember to thank your mental state, no matter how "bad " it seems. It means your spirit loves you so much, that it is speaking to you through your body to give you a signal of where you are holding yourself back.
Much Love and Light,