Mental Illness: A Cry for Help
As a young child, I repeatedly cowered alone in the inky blackness of midnight. I remember clasping my hands around my knees, my back pressed tightly against the wall next to my twin bed.
I squeezed tighter and tighter, my spine painfully jutting into the rigid sheet-rock as I allowed the sobbing to overtake me.
That small corner became a living beast, birthing a twisted belief that carried me through my childhood and adolescence.
A space for both safety and self-destruction.
While I was free to let go of all the emotions forbidden in daylight, that wall also became a symbol of the dispassionate indifference of the world. A reminder that I didn’t matter because I would always be flawed, imperfect, perpetually marred.
That invisible little girl firmly believed she was unworthy, unseen, and unimportant.
Now, I realize there was a name to those feelings.
Now, I realize that the mental illness that gripped my mother had planted a seed in that lost girl crying alone in the dark.
Depression enfolded me as a soft comfort and a venomous confidant who whispered distorted truths into my ears.
For people who grew up surrounded by mental illness, depression is often an unwanted side effect. Because we are intimately aware of the destruction of mental illness during our childhood, we often protect ourselves in a cocoon of self-denial.
We convince ourselves that our experience is common. Eventually, though, this denial catches up with us in some unhealthy form: addiction, abusive relationships, isolation, shame, suicidal thoughts.
Addressing our mental health becomes a priority when we finally realize we cannot survive with these damaging patterns of behavior any longer.
Mental Health Care: Self-Care Tools For Battling Depression
To find ourselves again (or for the first time), we need to be open to changing our patterns of thinking. The way we were taught to think in childhood was unhealthy. We have to replace our former survival mechanisms with new, healthier ones, such as these:
As children of mentally ill parents, we were taught to cater to others and make people happy in order to assuage them and reduce possible conflict. Conflict in a mentally unstable environment inevitably lead to abuse. Self-preservation was a necessary response.
Now, we must learn to preserve our sanity by noticing when we feel unsafe. We accept the emotions, no matter how uncomfortable, by acknowledging them and letting them be. The more we practice this skill, the easier it is to ride them out. The easier it is to realize feelings are just feelings, not reality.
“Go deeper with the truth and honor it, even if it feels uncomfortable.”– A Woman’s Way
Once you become self-aware, you may start feeling emotions long repressed and prohibited. It is often uncomfortable, and the tendency will be to move away from these fillings and disengage. Validate your experiences!
Go deeper, realizing that your sanity is the most important element in living a healthy life. Notice the person inside and give voice to who you are and what you need. You can honor and validate your experience in many ways: journaling, setting aside time to cry, actually stating how you feel out loud and acknowledging it’s okay to feel that way.
Self-evaluation and Honesty
Understanding the motives behind your actions can lead to immense growth. Ask yourself questions to understand your reactions. This goes hand-in-hand with self-honesty. Without it, you cannot accurately assess your actions and motives.
Self-evaluation and honesty will help you discover who you are and why you behave the way you do. Not only are you honest with yourself, you are honest with others in admitting mistakes and seeking amends.
“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”-Albert Einstein
Grace must accompany honesty and self-evaluation.
Remember, mistakes are human, a part of the human experience that none of us can escape.
You can choose to learn from them and move forward or sit in resentment and bitterness. Finding forgiveness for others also leads to accepting forgiveness for yourself.
Mental Health Day is Every Day . . .
Mental health is a lifestyle.
I am finding that the closer I am to understanding and validating myself, the more I am able to foster better relationships with everyone in my life. When I neglect my mental health, my relationships suffer and healthy decision-making deteriorates.
By focusing on me, I am also able to step away from unhealthy relationships that don’t respect my boundaries.
Making mistakes doesn’t mean we are a mistake. Depression will try to tell you otherwise. Take care of yourself, reach out, and believe me when I say, you are worth the hard work.