October is Mental Health Awareness month. We here at The Her Initiative are passionate about seeing women take care of themselves so they can better take care of others. . .and simply so they can thrive! Lately, my heart has been burdened for the young men and women who struggle with mental illness: those who are too afraid to talk about it, those who seek help but find none, and those who have a label for what they are struggling with but still don’t know how to overcome the feelings they are struggling with. I felt compelled to share and to hopefully help others process through the importance of having open conversations about mental health this month (and every month!!)
Did you know that, according the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four people are affected by mental disorders at some point in their life. That means there are 14.8 million Americans alone walking around every day who are seemingly fine but are battling to wake up in the morning and just do life.
I write this with the knowledge that there are no easy solutions, and I am no expert on mental illness. I also recognize that mental illness is complex and it’s different for every person that suffers from it. However, I think it is incredibly important to begin having conversations about it more and more to help break the negative, shameful stigma that often surrounds mental health.
I have personally struggled with mental illness, specifically in my last two years of high school. They were some of the hardest years of my life. I felt isolated, misunderstood, unseen, and trapped in my head with no way to escape. I would go to bed every night with the weight of this unseen illness weighing so heavily on my heart and mind. I would wake up with the same feelings looming over me, and some days I honestly thought this was my lot in life: I was just going to struggle with this forever. I grew up in a church where seeking professional help for depression and other forms of mental illness was frowned upon. Instead, I was encouraged to pray through my problems. I was assured that would make it better. But it did not.
After fighting for two years, I learned how I personally could cope with my issues in a healthy way. I started being more open with my friends instead of pushing them away when they asked me how I was doing; I started exercising more and exploring my personal style which helped me feel more comfortable in my skin; and, I started being more honest with myself about how I was actually doing through letters and journaling. It sounds simple, but it wasn’t simple. Even the “little things” were a struggle, but I was thankful for every baby step I made. The process was unique to myself, and your process will be unique to you. However, I would like to encourage you in a few things.
Let people in. We are trained to believe that the curated, filtered, edited, high light reel we see of other people’s lives are actually their lives. It’s easy to get stuck in the idea that the people around us couldn’t possibly understand us because their lives are so much better. Or, we don’t want to be the one thing in their life that is holding them back or that isn’t positive. I promise, that is not the case. These curated lives we think people lead are just that: curated. Everyone struggles in different ways. Everyone has a unique, helpful perspective to bring, even if they have not personally gone through what you have. Trust your tribe, let them speak truth over and into you.
Also, filling the empty, lonely space with busyness is not going to help. Trust me, I’ve tried it. You may numb the anxiety or the fear for a little while, but when you are in that space again with nothing to fill it, the feelings haven’t gone away. Get to know yourself: what brings you joy? Listening to podcasts? Reading books? Pouring out you heart into your journal? Or do you recharge by being with people, because that’s cool, too! Don’t be afraid to be alone, to spend time doing things that bring you joy, and to process what you are going through. It is intimidating, but it’s worth it.
Do you need some time to recharge and relax? We have some super fun, free party kits that may be a good outlet for you! Follow the link to find out more!