The Balanced Life: The Importance of Mental Health

 

My Story

Mom, what the heck am I doing?! I sobbed into my phone at the Denver International Airport. I was sitting on the scratchy blue carpet near my gate. The feeling of impending doom had never manifested itself so strongly inside gut. My lungs gasped for air like I was drowning during a raging ocean storm. Each wave of terror pulled me deeper into despair. My mom cried on the other end as she reassured me that I was going to be ok.

The gravity of my decision to move to London wasn’t made clear until I was sitting on that scratchy carpet outside of gate D3 to the London Heathrow airport. After we hung up, I knew I had to pull myself together and problem solve. How was I going to cope during such conflicting emotions and drastic moves? I was terrified yet overjoyed with the idea of moving to London. I was in mourning for what I would miss while away from home, yet hopeful that I was about to embark on a special journey. I knew that I would miss major holidays and that there was a chance I wouldn’t be home for an extended period of time. I decided right then and there that I would be my biggest ally.

After boarding the plane and settling into my seat, I pulled out my journal and all the tokens I brought with me to stimulate relaxation – essential oils, coloring books, fuzzy socks, my Book of Mormon, and a small bag of toiletries that contained a face mask – and I decided to help myself. I journaled my feelings and then in fervent prayer, asked God to keep me safe and keep me whole.

That was the day I started healing.

The moment I decided to take care of me because I needed me, was the day I cultivated change. I wasn’t sitting in a therapist’s office with a raging eating disorder and in total denial. I wasn’t going through the motions. I was finally being present, accepting where I was in my story, and then deciding to be my greatest ally while I was completely alone in a new place.

I would go onto read the works of Brené Brown and participate in her online course for cultivating whole-hearted living. I went on to read the work of Kristin Neff and welcomed mindfulness and self-compassion into my daily routine. I became deeply spiritual, went for long runs in the park, and dedicated myself to my literature classes. During this time of self-discovery, I noticed something amazing happening beneath the surface of my skin. A warm, burning sensation radiated from my chest and manifested itself in the form of extreme gratitude and love for myself and others.

I was different. I was becoming whole again.

Still deeply flawed, I would go on to make more mistakes but those mistakes now served a purpose. I couldn’t grow without each obstacle and setback I encountered. I couldn’t become empathetic and compassionate without experiencing suffering of my own. I thought I had truly hit insanity when, with tears streaming down my face and kneeling beside my bed in fervent prayer, I thanked God for sending me the trial I was facing because I knew when I had overcome the initial hurt, I would be better.

What Mental Health is and is not

I was taught that mental illness was something we whispered and only effected the few reclusive women who lived in my neighborhood growing up. I associated mental health with severe mental illnesses, psych wards at hospitals, and drugs to keep people sane. What I didn’t understand and what many people don’t understand is that each of us has a state of mental health.

Just as our bodies can be sick, so can our minds for a variety of reasons. Our bodies can inherit diseases through DNA, they can come down with viruses, they can be riddled with devastating cancer. Our minds are the same. We can inherit mental illnesses and experience depression or anxiety either chronically or sporadically in our lives. You know when people talk about heartache or “the blues”? Well those are states of mental health, they aren’t just ideas in sappy love songs.

Why Talk About It?

Shame was the culprit in my story and still is today. I carry a heavy load of shame with me, it is my natural response to most situations. Confronting shame with love and compassion was and still is pertinent in my recovery and lifestyle.

One of the best ways to remove shame from our lives is to talk about things that “shame” us. For me, that was the idea that I wasn’t perfect. So let me own my imperfections by introducing myself: I am Darcy. I am a storyteller, writer, painter, artist, daughter, sister, friend, and aunty. I have made peace with my past struggle with an eating disorder – something that may require mindful consideration and action on my part to prevent a relapse throughout my lifetime. I’m currently experiencing daily anxiety and have found therapeutic outlets that help me accept it and live fully despite it. Because of my story, I am able to better empathize and show compassion to those who suffer and I am happy that I have this gift.

I believe it’s important to find balance in all areas of our lives, including one of the hardest to confront, our mental health.

How can you break shame? You don’t have to tell me. Just think about it 🙂

 

All the best,

Darcy

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