Whew, chile. I almost forgot what the blog writing portal on my site looked like. It's been fittylem days, umpteen hours....
Y'all know the rest. But, writer's block is real and so is the importance of taking your time with your work and with your words. As I mentioned in my May Mental Health Awareness Month post on Instagram, "the timing of your life is yours and yours alone." My mental health journey has been a roller coaster ride that's finally started to slow into the bend of this truth. Whether it's blogging or building my career or improving myself, I'm hoping that in sharing reminders about the importance of taking your time and relaxing your mind, I'll be preaching to my own choir.
This month, I'd like to focus on three phases of mental health maintenance: surface level, knee-deep, and oceanic. I'd like to start this series with a brief overview of my own definition of the levels I've just described and the ways they come to life for me.
The Shallow End
The word "shallow," when referenced in the context of our emotional connections to ourselves and to others, often bears a negative connotation. I'd argue that it doesn't have to and that every level of depth has a purpose. When I think of daily, monthly, annual, and even sporadic practices I undergo to lift my own spirits, "shallow" or surface-level activities are usually the first things that come to mind.
Pinterest, for example, brings me joy. There's something so mesmerizing and so idyllic about this social media platform. Some social media networks create the type of comparison that steals joy, but for me, Pinterest creates a window into corners of the world that I can piece together to form an enhanced, comparative view of what my life could be like.
How is that different from Twitter and Instagram? Well, the visuals without the weight of the words are refreshing. I love to curate my Instagram timeline, and at one point, I loved to engage with others through my tweets. But in both of these contexts, words can be heavy. From a personal mental health perspective, being told my words and my tweets are concerning put me in a place that made me feel like I couldn't be myself; like my words were misrepresenting what I thought to be simple, honest interactions and filter-free reflections of me. Pinterest strips that guilt away. It brings back the visuals and the dreams and in large part, removes the noise and the judgement from the equation.
Television is another guilty, "shallow" pleasure of mine. Some would argue that spending hours and hours binge-watching shows and becoming personally invested in the trajectory of fictional characters is time lost. But, as I mentioned at the start of this memo: the timing of my life is mine. Owning that time, using it for leisure, for learning, for love, for longing: the agency to do so is a blessing. More importantly, the agency to do so gives me control of my own pleasure. For me, spending my time the way I want to for the amount of time I want to is deeper than the programming.
Once you move past the first phase of maintaining your joy and your peace through control of your time and your enjoyment, you hit the first line of resistance. We are all wired differently with respect to our capacity to connect, with our peers, with our colleagues, and with our loved ones. For me, wading in looks like opening up. It looks like having conversations about the simple things that don't always pop up naturally. It feels like allowing myself to be excited about things that I might inherently think will be snatched away if I cling to them too tightly.
You see, wading in involves vulnerability. When I'm at the shallow end of the pool, I'm more concerned about the quick fixes and the distractions that will keep me from feeling low. The next level down is more involved, and often requires planning, believe it or not. For me, and likely for many of you, control characterizes my hold on my mental. In fact, I've already used that very word multiple times in this post alone. When surface-level distractions and interactions aren't enough, I need to take control of my feelings by channeling them into planning a trip. Or into studying for an exam. Or into developing a schedule of restaurants to try in a pre-specified period of time within a pre-selected region.
Wading in can also involve resetting. And I don't necessarily mean resetting in the traditional sense of starting something completely new (a job, a blog, a relationship). Sometimes, resetting looks like recalling that which was once near and dear and reviving that passion. For me, I think resetting will soon look like taking a dance or a gymnastics class and remembering how much I loved both of those activities and how much I'm grateful that my body is still capable of engaging in them at some level. For you, it might look like finishing a piece you're writing, or taking an online course in an art form you once loved, or picking an instrument back up. This Mental Health Awareness Month, consider allowing your reset to be a return to lost loves, to the extent that they're good for you and who you want to be.
Dive Down Under
I'm trying to keep this piece and this line of thinking as non-eye roll inducing as possible, but I have to say it: therapy. Therapy as an action is one of the deepest ways you can dive into yourself and into your healing. I'll talk more about some of the barriers to therapy and about some of the alternative solutions to resolve those barriers at a later date this month, but, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the fact that some of the deepest breakthroughs I've had have been with my therapists.
I think that in the self-care / mental health age of awareness, therapy can become a trite topic. There are fresh, new ways to think about cleaning the closet of your mind and your experiences, though, and one way I've personally done that is by implementing the course corrections my most recent therapist shared with me. There have been family relationships I've needed to extract myself from, romantic situations I needed to abandon, and self-worth that I needed to develop from the ground up that I would not have delved into or allowed myself to acknowledge without the tough love of a therapist. Having a non-biased party dedicated to clearing the fog and to helping me chart a path to rectify current and past hurt changed the trajectory of my thinking and of my life. At the end of the day, I've entrusted my therapists with more than I have entrusted anyone else in my life with respect to my trauma, my feelings, and my healing process. If that's not deep, I don't know what is.
Building myself at every level of this self-defined scale is the best way for me to truly spend time living my life like it's golden and beaming that light onto others as best I can. Stay tuned for my musings on caring for yourself in May and on every day on Instagram.