It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

If you’re looking for a sign, this is it. I’m telling you, right here, right now: it’s okay to not be okay. All too often nowadays, we feel this pressure to always be okay; to never feel down, never let ourselves feel ANYTHING; to always be cheerful and happy and upbeat. We feel pressure to always answer the question “How are you?” with “I’m fine/good/great/whatever” instead of the actual truth.

Starting today, allow yourself to truly feel whatever it is you’re feeling. It’s okay to be sad about losing a loved one, a friend moving away, a job change, finishing a good book, whatever. It’s okay to be hurt. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to be angry (as long as you aren’t physically hurting anyone.) It’s okay to be happy.

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The Love Letter Project

I’ve had this post saved in my drafts for some time, but I finally feel like I can dedicate the time it deserves. This post is a response to The Love Letter Project:

“Consider the greatest challenge you’ve overcome in life and write a love letter to help a perfect stranger overcome that same challenge. I’m asking you to write a love letter because your personal story will make a powerful difference in the lives of others. You could write a love letter to anyone: an entrepreneur who is struggling with her first business, a man who has lost his job, or a child who is being bullied at school. Write a love letter about a challenge you faced, and you will touch hearts, lift spirits, and show the world that no one is alone.”

My letter will be posted on TLLP’s website, but I wanted to post it here, too. It seems like the site hasn’t been updated in some time, but hopefully it will be soon. In the meantime, here’s my first letter – and I hope to write several more. This really seems like such a wonderful project, and reaching out to those who may be struggling with a challenge that you’ve overcome in your life is an absolutely wonderful way to help the world.

Without further ado, here’s my letter.

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The Journey of Recovery

Just over a year ago, I decided to be brave, suck up any bit of courage I had, and share my store of my struggles with all you lovely Internet folk. At the time, that was arguably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – but looking back, I’m glad that I did it. It’s been just over a year since I posted that piece about my struggles with depression, anxiety and counseling… and I thought it was time to check in, and see how this chapter of my life is going.

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19 Links to Celebrate Mental Health Month

(Flickr/Hey Paul Studios)

(Flickr/Hey Paul Studios)

Did you know that May is Mental Health Month? It’s okay if you didn’t… I wasn’t aware of it until yesterday. But I think it’s a great cause and it’s important that we dedicate not just a month to mental health, but keep it in mind (no pun intended) all year round. Mental Health Month has been celebrated in May dating all the way back to 1949! Mental health isn’t something we should only be concerned about when it gets bad. It’s something that we should always focus on. Please note, as always, that these links aren’t meant to take the place of a doctor or mental health provider. If you’re feeling suicidal or need help RIGHT NOW, please call your doctor, go to the hospital, call Crisis Services or 911. To help kick off Mental Health Month, here’s a hoard of links I’ve gathered in regards to resources, reading materials and more.

  • 25 Actions to Boost Self Confidence – although there’s no shortcut to self-esteem, here’s a list of 25 suggested things you can do to help improve your self-confidence.
  • 7 Cups of Tea, an online emotional support service. It’ll connect you with an active listener for free, but please note: this isn’t meant to take the place of a doctor or counselor, and if you are feeling suicidal, please call your local Crisis Services.
  • Alternatives to Self-Harm – all sorts of things you can do rather than self-harm.
  • Bell Let’s Talk, a Canadian initiative which aims to end the stigma surrounding mental health& encourages those who need help to seek it without fear of judgment.
  • Calendar from Mental Health America for May 2014. Print it out – every day has a new tip on how to keep your mental health in tip-top shape! (PDF)
  • Exercise’s other benefits – a piece from the American Psychological Association on the mental health benefits of exercise.
  • Going to Therapy for the First Time? A Huffington Post guide on getting set up for counseling and what to expect at your first appointment.
  • How to Protect Your Mental Health: some handy tips on protecting your emotional and mental health as well as some tips you can use to keep yourself in shape mentally.
  • Meditation Tips for Beginners – one great tool to help relieve stress and keep your mind in check can be meditation. Why not give it a try and check out some of these tips?
  • MentalHealth.gov, a site run by the United States Department of Health & Human Services.
  • Mind Check, a Canadian organization designed to help young adults in British Columbia connect to mental health resources. Even if you’re not Canadian (or in BC), you may still find some of the resources here useful.
  • NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, a grassroots organization dedicated to building better lives for Americans with mental illnesses.
  • NIMH, the National Institute of Mental Health, a government organization designed to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.
  • Screening tools from Mental Health America. Please note that these are not meant to be substitutions for physicians or healthcare providers and are not diagnostic instruments.
  • Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the US’ only federally-supported resource center devoted to advancing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.
  • Ten Things You Can Do for Your Mental Health, a guide from the University of Michigan.
  • The Body Positive, an organization working since 1996 to encourage youth and adults alike to experience self-love.
  • Top Ten Mental Health Apps – from PsychCentral, here’s some apps you can download for your devices to do everything from keeping track of your moods to providing calming tools and relaxation techniques.
  • ULifeLine, an online resource designed largely for college students to aid them in finding mental health resources.

Sharing My Story

With the new year beginning just a few days ago, I’m trying to keep up with reading Demi Lovato’s book, “Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year.” It’s only a few days in, but I’m going to try. Today’s page related to reaching out to others, to help others, as Demi did in publicly discussing her struggles with issues such as self-harm, in the hope that by discussing these struggles, others who are dealing with them may be more likely to seek help or be willing to talk about their own issues. It is in this vein of thought that I decided today to sit down and write about my own experience with mental health, depression, stress, social anxiety and other issues, in the hope that maybe even just one person will read my story and be a little less afraid to seek the help they may need. I know that other people have it worse than I do; I know I have a lot to be thankful for, and my struggles have definitely taught me a lot. I never struggled with self-harm, but depression was something that plagued me for a long time. But depression doesn’t mean you always have a dark cloud over your head; sometimes it gets a little lighter and you think things are going better, until they aren’t anymore – at least, that’s what it was for me.

Whether we like to admit it or not, there is a stigma associated with mental illness. And quite frankly, having a mental illness can be embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to be unable to complete a seemingly simple task and to have to tell someone “I’m sorry, my mind was in a very bad place today and I just couldn’t handle it without breaking down.” It’s embarrassing to leave a job because of your mental or emotional state, perhaps unrelated to the job completely. So we come up with excuses, other things to tell people, lies to cover our issues and ways to get around the things that we may be struggling with. There’s also the issues that these words are thrown around so carelessly nowadays; people have one bad day and immediately say things like “Ugh, I’m depressed.” But depression is a serious issue, recurring over time and it’s not something to be taken lightly.

But none of this helps; it doesn’t address the issues, it doesn’t bring them out into the open and it further envelopes things in this stigma where many people associate mental illness with being weak, sickly, childish, etc. or allowing people to think of mental illness as something that can just be swept under the rug to be dealt with when it’s convenient. Mental illness is never convenient, but it’s something we as individuals, as communities, as a society, must deal with. Now.

This is my story, and I hope you’ll join me along the way. Though my struggles are not over – and perhaps depression and anxiety are things that I may deal with in some way every day for the rest of my life – I feel more positive, more able to cope and ready to share my story in the hope that it may help even one person somewhere in the world.

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