Things are stressful right now. If you have a mental illness, for me it’s anxiety, then the added stressors can cause flare-ups in your condition. It’s really no different than running on a twisted ankle. If you apply extra pressure, you’re going to feel it.
I think that the world is opening up more and more about mental illness, its effects on us, its consequences. So many people who are famous have shared their battles, in hopes perhaps of showing us that we are not alone. It helps to remember that. And it helps to be gentle on yourself.
Mental illness is tricky. It’s no different from a physical illness, but you can’t see it, and because of that it can often be overlooked. But the consequences of dealing with the Novel Coronavirus have put a spotlight on mental illness once again, especially depression. We’ve seen stories of people who have tragically committed suicide. Perhaps the solitude was too much, the burden too great, the loss too heavy. It’s hard to know. But I think that it’s important that we remember that not one of us is perfect, and that we actually don’t have to hold ourselves up to perfection.
The world is stressful enough without the added pressures we put on ourselves, so I’m asking you to stop doing that. If you are overwhelmed, say no. Say no to additional obligations that you really don’t want to have to deal with. Say no to dealing with people in your life who only make things worse. Say no to comparing yourself to others and hurting yourself because you don’t think you measure up. You aren’t them. And you aren’t required to be anything more than what you are.
Some days you will feel productive and some days you won’t. Sometimes you might feel on top of the world, and other days you might feel the weight of it resting on your shoulders. Some days you could find that you can hardly stop smiling, and others you may find that you can hardly stop crying. And inside all of these ups and downs I urge you to be gentle. Don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t feel as though you are less than. Don’t think that you are worthless or broken. You’re not.
You aren’t alone, and you aren’t bad. You are a complicated, beautiful soul. You are loved. You are precious. You are the way God made you, and if you aren’t religious, then you are the way the Universe made you. None of us are perfect, and our imperfections make us human. They make us unique and beautiful. And sometimes they make things hard. And knowing that, it’s more important than anything else that we know how to take care of ourselves. What matters is that we are capable of handling ourselves with patience and forgiveness. Without judgment or negativity. Because we are all going to have bad days. But when you struggle with mental illness, it can make those bad days really, really hard.
Each day when you wake up, leave your negativity out of your thoughts. If it creeps in, push it away. I can’t speak for everything, but for me it’s sentences that begin with, “What if…” – this is what is called an “anxious thought” and it’s not a real thing. It’s a fear. So when my brain starts a sentence with those words, I have learned to label it and dismiss it. I have to work harder some days than others when it comes to anxiety. Sometimes it’s barely a whisper, other days it brings me to my knees. I’ve found that the best thing I can do for myself is to be gentle. To be kind with my thoughts and my words. To say the things to myself that I would say to someone I love, and that I will say to you now.
You did great today. Everything will be alright. Tomorrow will be better. I’m proud of you. You can do this. You can beat this. You are strong. I love you.