When I first started talking to a therapist I asked her something that I was afraid to ask, because I didn’t want to sound ignorant, but it was a valid question. I said to her, “I’ve seen a rise of people in my generation open up publicly about mental health. I NEVER want to make it seem like their feelings and experiences aren’t valid, but has there really been a spike in mental health issues? Has it always been like this and people are just finally opening up about it? Or are there just people who are attention seeking?”.*
I felt bad asking that question, but I wanted to know. I was in that category of people dealing with mental health issues, and I was afraid to speak up because I didn’t want it to seem like I was doing it to be “cool” or because that was the new “trend”. Her response to me made perfect sense. She replied, “That is a valid question Maile. I think your generation has seen an increase in mental health issues because your generation now has so many options in life. It can be overwhelming and create stress, anxiety and other issues that may not have been as prominent for past generations”.
And there it was for me. The light bulb. I never really thought that having TOO many options could be so harmful to our mentality. But isn’t that why I started talking to her in the first place? My life felt out of whack after my break up because I all of a sudden had a blank slate and that freaked me out. I didn’t know where to begin. The thought of rebuilding my future plans was overwhelming and made me feel like I was drowning in all the possibilities. What a world to live in right? I know it is a blessing to have so many possible paths, but it’s also a curse in some ways.
So after that, I was understanding of the struggle that many of us are facing in this new world full of possibilities – and failures. But a few months have passed since that and I found myself at another cross roads with dealing with my mental health.
Now that I knew I was living in a world full of possibilities, I tried to turn those depressive, anxiety/stress feelings into positive feelings. I tried to look at all those possibilities as the blessings they were rather than as the curse they could be. But the mind isn’t that easy to control. I still get that overwhelming feeling creep up on me throughout my weeks and whenever I feel it start to consume me, I try to run from it. I try to tell my mind that it can avoid feelings of anxiety and stress if I just tell it to. But it’s NOT that simple. I would exert so much of my energy into warding off those feelings. I was exhausted at the end of each day, worn out from trying to outrun those demons. I did it for months and I slowly could feel myself start to burn out little by little each day. I grew frustrated with myself because I couldn’t seem to escape those negative feelings. Why hadn’t they gone away yet? I was putting in so much effort to do things for me. Those feelings are supposed to go away when you start to love yourself, when you start to put your happiness first, right?
So my second epiphany is that, no, those feelings don’t just go away. I grew more and more frustrated with myself every time I felt like I was losing a battle to my depression and anxiety. But then I started reading some new books, and I started reading some other blogs from people experiencing some of the same things as me, and I realized, those feelings aren’t really ever going to go away. When you are dealing with mental health issues, it’s not curable, but it’s controllable. I’ve learned that I can’t keep running away from those feelings because in the end it does me more harm than good. I would get down on myself 10x’s harder when the demons finally caught up to me, because I felt like I had failed. By trying so hard not to focus on those negative feelings, I was really focusing on them even more. Giving them more power and momentum. I felt like I was always starting back at square one.
So basically the lesson here is that it’s actually okay to let those feelings of depression and anxiety run through you sometimes. Because if you try running from them like I did, you only push it back until finally it becomes so strong that it tears you apart for a couple days or maybe even weeks. The trick is to let it in when you feel it. To accept that it’s there, but then more importantly to pick yourself right back up once it washes over you. It doesn’t have to start a downward spiral every time. Accept your bad days and bad moments, because every one has them. But we don’t have to let them control us or determine our “success” in our journeys. Every one has bad days. Even the most confident, successful, beautiful people. The only thing that sets us apart is how we handle those bad days.
In the journey of self-love, it’s important to love ALL aspects of you. Even the parts that are the hardest to love and accept. Once you do that, you can finally start to live in harmony with your truest self and open yourself to more positive energies, people, and experiences!
New books to check out:
My (Current) Favorite Blog Posts:
* It’s okay to speak up about your mental health issues (if that’s something that YOU want to do)! It can be cathartic and it can inspire someone else to open up, or come to terms with their feelings.