I am not fine... and that is fine
Hi my name is Meg; I’m a senior at university who loves to plan and think about the future. Recently, my five-year plan has changed MULTIPLE times, so currently my life feels like a raging dumpster fire. Now that we’ve gotten introductions out of the way, let me tell you what I’m doing about it.
In the past I would’ve dealt with this issue as so: 1) suppress my anxiety 2) isolate myself from people who care about me 3) berate myself for not being able to handle everything with grace, poise, and, well, perfection. GUESS WHAT? THOSE ARE NOT HEALTHY WAYS TO COPE WITH PROBLEMS. AND YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE? THEY MIGHT MAKE PROBLEMS WORSE. shocker, I know.
But, before I get into how I’m trying to deal with the implosion of my life in a healthy way, I want to STRESS that mental health is an extremely personal journey. I am sharing my story to release the frustration I have been feeling this past year, as well as create a kind and positive mental health support network. Here are some numbers for organizations that can guide you, or someone you love, to specific resources and provide the support you need:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
National Drug Helpline: 1-888-633-3239
Remember ~ you are loved, you are valued, and you are not alone
Therapy has been a game changer. I’ve spent years bottling up all of my “negative” emotions and using the resultant pressure to fuel my work ethic. However, starting in 11th grade, I felt less motivated and more burnt out. Counseling has helped me learn healthy ways to manage my anxiety and depression and, most importantly, to be kinder to myself. I have a tendency to put myself down, something I’ll delve deeper into in a second, and for the longest time I thought I was a freak or not good enough because I just couldn’t handle my mental health on my own. But in reality, that is not the case. Reaching out for support doesn’t show weakness, instead it shows strength and courage. Honestly, it’s not easy to ask for help and is definitely difficult to be vulnerable with others. However, finding a tight support group and a dope therapist makes talking about thoughts and emotions much easier; slowly all the anxieties and negative thoughts that have caused so much mental strain will start to weigh less and less.
Something else I have been working on is cutting out negativity. Negativity can come in all types of forms – from thoughts and habits, to people; let’s break negativity down into sections:
Negative Thoughts: As I mentioned earlier, I put myself down on a near constant basis. Whether it’s a “Wow I am so ugly” type of thought or a “Gosh, I’m never going to achieve any of my goals” put-down, I always justify these internalized beliefs as either truths or being humble. Recently, I came across this quote that has altered my perception of, well, everything: “feelings are not facts.” My therapist has told me essentially the same thing over and over again but seeing these words in front of my face triggered this instant realization: no matter how crappy I feel, the reality is that I am a hard-working boss-babe; eventually my hard work will pay off because actions always speak louder than internal put-downs.
In terms of humbleness, Merriam-Webster defines being humble three different ways:
1. “not proud or haughty: not arrogant or assertive”
2. “reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission”
3. “Ranking low in a hierarchy or scale: Insignificant, unpretentious” or not costly or luxurious.”
No offense to Merriam-Webster, but I don’t like these definitions; this is how I define humility: acknowledging the skills or traits you have, but not necessarily bragging about them constantly – i.e. knowing when to flaunt what you got and knowing when to listen to others that are wiser than you. In this definition, there is no allusion to being submissive or lowering yourself; instead it’s about acknowledging what you know and don’t know, as well as realizing that it’s okay to not be perfect at everything in life. Truthfully, there will always be someone who is better than you; however, instead of letting this statement tear you down look at it as a way to build yourself up. If you know that someone is more experienced than you and have the ability to learn from them via videos, lectures, or just conversing with them – do that! And if you can’t learn from them directly, find another way to acquire more knowledge. We are lucky to live in an age where almost all information is accessible by pressing a few buttons on electrical gadgets that we carry around in our pockets. If the internet cannot help, there are books (I know, I’m talking about ancient stuff here, but bear with me). It’s okay to not be perfect, but don’t let negative thoughts about not being perfect stop you from being the best possible version of yourself J.
Negative Habits: As a college student, I’ve picked up some bad habits. From eating ice cream for breakfast to staying up until 2am finishing a ten-page, single spaced paper only to wake up two hours later to study for an exam, these habits have wrecked my physical and mental health. Being constantly lethargic due to poor diet and sleep habits only makes it easier for those negative thoughts to persist. Every year I tell myself “this is the year I’m going to eat SUPER healthy, and workout every day to achieve my DREAM BODY.” The problem with these goals is that I’m not setting them for the right reason; instead of wanting to be healthy to maintain overall wellness and set up long term healthy habits, I’m trying to get skinny quickly because I feel like then I’ll be happy with myself -- which is not healthy. Happiness comes from within; from inner peace with who you are. Currently, I am trying to actively shift my mentality to focus on becoming the best version of myself. Instead of cutting all junk food out completely, I eat them in MODERATION. I’ve stopped buying juice, soda, and alcohol, and instead switched to tea and water; but if I’m at a party I may have a sip, because why not? I don’t drink them every day, and as long as I’m not guzzling the entire bottle it’s fine.
Same goes for food; I try to buy more fruits and veggies and nuts to satisfy the chocolate, chips, and candy cravings. But I also have a bag of emergency chocolate in my pantry for those days when apples and oranges can’t satiate my sweet tooth. Also, I’m trying to eat three meals every day with a healthy snack or two in between. This helps me stay energized for the entire day, ready to take on whatever the universe has in store.
Finally, I’m trying to live a more ACTIVE life since class, extracurricular activities, and general existence have me so busy and I can’t hit the gym every day. I walk almost everywhere which allows me to have some alone time, decompress, and enjoy nature while getting in a few steps. I’ve also shifted the way I perceive exercise – instead of working out to have a bigger butt, or abs, or whatever the current body trend is, I’m trying to find workouts that I really enjoy. I love to dance, so I’m super interested in trying dance inspired exercises – like barre, Zumba, and jazzercise! Bottom line is that instead of trying to mold myself to achieve unrealistic goals that are fueled by my own insecurities, I’m embracing who I am and just trying to live my best life [like Oprah!].
Negative People: Something that I realized over the course of 2018 is that I have a tendency to see only the best in a person. I ignore their faults and only see their positive traits – which is not necessarily a bad thing if done in moderation. It’s important to recognize the difference between a person in your life who is having a bad day, and therefore isn’t as empathetic as they could be, from those who constantly minimize or ignore your problems and successes, or who only want to be around you during your good days, and then ghost when you’re falling towards rock bottom. Being around these types of people made me second guess whether or not my feelings were valid, further encouraging me to bottle up my emotions. That is not okay.
The turning point happened when I was talking to a friend while going through an emotional breakdown. Her response wasn’t to minimize my feelings, or to shift the conversation to something about her, like others have done in the past. Instead she listened to me and assured me that my feelings were valid and that things would get better. In that moment I wondered why she was being so kind, then it hit me: this is what a supportive friend does. They may come in different forms: the listener, the tough love pal, etc. but bottom line is that a good friend will not invalidate your worries and emotions. That being said, everyone does have bad days, and no one is perfect; if someone you consider to be a good friend says something insensitive, I encourage you to communicate with them in a calm, non-confrontational manner. If they really do care about you, they will take your comments to heart and work on being the type of support system you need. And if they don’t respond well, it’s okay to let them go; people grow and change towards and away from you and that’s fine. I know it’s scary but if someone is meant to have a positive role in your life, then they will naturally gravitate to you.
I have been inspired by so many people during my ongoing quest for mental wellness, here are a few:
- Anna Akana: she’s funny, she’s sarcastic, she’s a boss, and she has had a lot of experience with mental health. Listening to her journey has helped me figure out how I want to take control of my mental health.
- Pick Up Limes: I just LOVE the aesthetic of this channel. It’s inviting, kind, and well… wholesome! Sadia focuses on living an overall healthy and balanced life ~ check her out!
Lastly, that taking time away from technology does wonders. I’m currently IN LOVE with the self-help book genre and am reading Choosing ME Before WE: Every Woman's Guide to Life and Love by Christine Arylo. If you’ve read a book that’s changed your life let me know by leaving a comment below!
The journey towards achieving mental wellness is continuous; you will find healthy coping skills that suit you. Frankly, I am just an advocate for mental wellness – I do not have a degree in psychology and I’m not a licensed therapist. But I do know what it’s like to feel helpless, and I’m here to let you know that things will get better. It takes time, and it’s a frustrating process with many ups and downs, but I know that together we’ll support each other through this crazy journey we call life. Remember to be kind, to yourself and others, and stay strong ~