Connection, Community, and Friends: Mental Health Awareness Day

Hello, friends! Sorry I’m a bit late to the party today. After talking yesterday about how great and easy it was waking up early in the morning … I totally overslept this morning! Of course I did. By, like, two hours. So instead of reading my post with your trusty cup of coffee by your side, we’ll swap it out with a glass of wine (or cup of herbal tea) and have a little evening chat!

So I heard that today is Mental Health Awareness day, and what a perfect day to discuss what was on my mind today:

Connection. Community. Friends.

How does this relate to Mental Health Awareness, you may wonder? For me and my own mental health journey, this was the secret sauce. This was the one thing that was missing from my life for so long, and I had no idea what was missing. Finding people to connect with – and not just through social media, but, like, face-to-face, share-your-fries, right-here-so-we-can-high-five-each-other type interactions – is one of the most important and yet one of the most underrated ways we can improve our health and well being. Because for some of us, other people are, you know, other people.

And I get it. Friends are hard to find when you’re pretending to be a grown-up. Most of your time is filled with work, commuting, maybe caring for kids or other family members and you don’t have much free time to spend with someone else. Or you moved to a new place and just don’t know anyone yet, even years later (guilty!). But wherever and however you can find and make new friends, just know that they are a huge contributor to health and longevity. And from personal experience, can really change your mental health game as well.

Now, I’m an introvert, and I know I need a sufficient amount of alone time to maintain sanity. If I’m interacting with too many people for too long, I get this crawly-out-of-my-skin feeling and I know I just need to go … away, like, now right now. I need to be alone. So I make sure to schedule at least one day a month where I have exactly zero appointments, obligations, or plans. I stay at home all day and just do whatever I want, and don’t have to talk to anyone. I read, I organize closets, or I just binge watch Netflix. I might get outside and go for a hike or something, but only if I’m feeling it. And it’s glorious. I love it so hard. And I go to bed so refreshed and happy. To me, this is a form of self-care.

One evening or one day without human interaction is just fine with me. It’s not for everyone, but it’s what I need. But if one is good, more is better, right? But here’s the thing about managing depression – it’s a disease of isolation. It wants me to be alone for too long so it can get its claws back in me. It wants me to feel alone and disconnected, turning down invitations to be included and make excuses on why I need to stay in and be alone. And so quickly I can cross that line from innocently charging my introvert buckets to tanking back down under the cloudy mental sky, which is opposite of self care.

So how do I keep from crossing that line? How do I make sure that being alone is something I need to do and not something that’s harming me? It’s taken a lot of trial and error to figure out the difference for me. But I know that if I’m hanging around at home, and the idea of calling a friend or going out sounds kind of like an okay thing to do but I’ll just do it later … I’m recharging my buckets and it’s fine. But if I actively reject the idea of reaching out to someone and I just want to crawl into a hole … then I need to call a trusted friend and make some plans to break my isolation ASAP. And I absolutely won’t want to do it. That’s how I know, when the idea of being social feels like the last thing in the world I want to do. Because it’s not me, it’s the disease at that point. So I make the call.

Just like I never regret a workout, I never regret calling or hanging out with a friend. I recognize it now as so vital to my mental health.

Big high-fives and hugs to all my friends out there that answer my calls and take me up on my invites to get out of the house. It may not seem much, but you are quite literally saving my life, friends.

If you’re struggling with mental health, there’s help. Here is a link to a list of mental health resources that can point you in the right direction. Also, if you need therapy but cannot afford it (most insurances cover it, but sometimes it’s only partial coverage or a copay), many schools and psychology student programs offer free counseling services to the community. Finally, if doing the research to find help is too overwhelming (I’ve been there and I feel ya!), find a friend or family member that can help do the legwork for you to get your foot in the door. Sometimes that first call is the hardest call to make.

Go make it a great day!

 

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