Kehlani said it best on RPG, “we didn’t go through all of this to stay the same” – and that resonated with me so much. A few months ago, I published my post, ‘Face to Face With Mental Health‘, where I told you guys about my experience with suicidal thoughts and mental health. Mental health is a quiet conversation, often reserved for the back room, but the more we talk about it, the more we can normalize mental health awareness. I told you guys the first half of my story in ‘Face to Face With Mental Health‘, but now I’m following up to share what happened next. For the sake of my mental health, I made some major adjustments in my life. And they were well worth it after all I had been dealing with. Here are the 10 major changes I made in support of my mental health.
1. Let Go Of My Job
According to stress.org, work and money are the leading causes of stress among Americans. I believe we can all accept that without much rebuttal. So, it may not seem like a big deal that I quit my job. However, my job wasn’t stressful to me, I actually loved my job. Being in the office around my colleagues held me together for quite some time.
Work was a healthy place in my life. I felt accountable to my team and my work and that gave me motivation. Unfortunately, the more my mental health deteriorated, the more it showed in my work ethic. I began making minor errors on paperwork; I’d complete my entire shift in la la land. My mind was preoccupied with my personal life and my persistent discontent with life overall.
After a while, the routine of my day to day life felt suffocating. I felt like I woke up every morning to a repetitive cycle and it was driving me crazy. As a result, work started adding on to my depression – so I quit and I don’t regret the decision. I’ve spent the past year getting familiar with working hours outside of work. It has been a year long vacation I never knew I needed.
Whenever I return to the world of employment, I know I will return fully rejuvenated. If I return at all. For now, I do a lot of working from home. I blog, I braid hair, babysit, etc. The flexibility and diversity of my days has been refreshing. My entrepreneurial confidence has increased too!
2. Moved Back Home
There is no place like home. I left Atlanta to go back home for a while. Sometimes, we have to return to our roots for comfort and restoration.
In my case, I had been living away from home for some years. I visited frequently throughout the year, but I wasn’t accustomed to having my family or life long friends around regularly. It took a toll on me. The hardest part was having a daughter to attend to, working full time without enough hours in the day and no real support system in the same city as us.
Once I had made the decision to let go of my job, there was nothing really holding me in Atlanta. I thought it would do some good to be surrounded by those who supported and loved me. Feeling that warmth helps us to get familiar with who we are at the core again. Besides, small town living has been a breath of fresh air compared to the busy city life I’d been living.
I ‘ve every intention of returning to the fast paced life, but I’m soaking up all of this home loving, first. It is perfectly fine to take a break and reboot yourself. Be around people who make you smile and bring out the best of you. It’s like chicken soup for the soul.
3. Ended My Relationship
This was one of those easier said than done moments. It was most difficult to do. Let’s be honest, if I don’t have me together, I’m not going to be able to invest in another person. Not in a healthy way, at least. I’ve spent enough time alone and single to know the importance of my independence.
Over time, I learned enough about myself to know how to reel myself in when I’m headed off the deep end. The first step to catching myself is to refocus and put my energy where it needs to be. Afterall, my life isn’t just mine to toy with. I have a little girl I have to be centered for. If I’m battling depression and struggling with my own inner issues then relationship stresses only burden the situation. Then where am I being of sound mind and health for my daughter? Simple logic.
On the flip side, letting go of someone I loved hurt like hell. The thought of it still pains my heart to this day. Relationships take a lot of work and commitment – I had none of that to offer anymore, so before I allowed us to hit a point of no return, I let it go. I rather be at peace with someone from a distance than have negative energy together. It isn’t fair to either party.
4. Stopped Settling
It seems to be in our nature to settle for things in life. Sometimes, we settle and don’t even look at it as settling, but it is. We take the good with the bad, not realizing we could really just have the good.
If you need a better idea of what settling looks like, I got you. It’s the toxic relationship you keep justifying, its all the vacations you never take for whatever reason, its returning to the job you complain about everyday or the job you love but have no real opportunities for growth; its not speaking your truth when you need to, its continuing to tolerate toxic people because they’re family, it’s not following your passions because you fear you won’t make enough money from it. Settling is often disguised as the safe route.
I’m not interested in doing what makes me happy in life, I’m interested in doing what sets my soul on fire. I am interested in doing it now, not in the future, but in the present day since that’s the only thing guaranteed.
Life could be planned out accordingly or it could be lived spontaneously. There’s a chance I may only get one life, so the latter sounds better. Settling made me not want to live and that’s no longer an option.
5. Mastered The Art Of “NO”
I don’t do shit I don’t want to do, anymore. If I’m invited to go somewhere and I don’t want to, I say no thanks. If they want a reason, I tell them exactly why, “I just rather sit at home and be lazy, in peace, maybe another time.” They may get upset, but I rather them than me, honestly.
The alternative is me being in an environment I really don’t want to be in, tolerating people I probably don’t want to be around. Screw that! If I want to watch paint dry instead, then that’s absolutely what I am going to do.
The process of saying no will eliminate so many people and things from your life. Learn how to say it today! A lot of the misery we deal with come from problems we don’t really need to deal with. Just say no to it. It frees up a lot of energy for you to focus on things that actually matter to you.
6. Got Help
Professional help. I started going to therapy and learning about my mental health. Trying to handle my problems on my own clearly wasn’t working, so I began seeing a therapist once a week.
Part of the help that I got was prescription medication, but I’ll talk about that later. Anger management was another portion of my therapy. I’d also been diagnosed with IED (intermittent explosive disorder) because my anger was escalating to rage more and more frequently.
There is nothing wrong with admitting you are struggling and asking for help. Deep down, we are all struggling at some point or another, the problem is we all choose to suffer in silence. I knew I needed to get me under control. That meant I had to admit I needed help and TAKE the help. available to me. It was a better option than consuming any more pills.
Since then, I have been more aware of my triggers and better at coping with my emotions and mind.
7. Prioritized Educating Myself On The Spirit
In my blog post, ‘I Admit I Was Depressed When I First Left Christ’, I talk about what it was like for me to lose my faith, and particularly, my ability to pray.
People need something to hold on to during their darkest hours. Faith and hope keep people going when everything in them begs them to quit.
Religious faith didn’t sit right with me, so I began educating myself more until I found something that did. It was vital for me to find a way to center myself and connect with my spirit again. But for starters, it needed to make sense to me.
8. Added Yoga and Meditation To My Mental Health Care
A part of therapy is learning how to do healthy activities instead of unhealthy actions. Basically, find a healthy distraction. I wanted to take up kick boxing to blow off steam. But, upon asking my sister to join me, she suggested we try yoga instead, lol. So, we signed up for some yoga sessions at a local studio. It was life changing!
Not only did we learn about breathing and stretches, but we also learned about meditation and centeredness. I began incorporating yoga and meditation into my daily routine, getting some mats and blocks for my home sessions. Both practices have become staples of my mental health care.
Yoga is so calming and a great way to feel in tune with your body. I had no idea how much tension I had built up in my muscles until I was breathing them out in extended stretches. Meditation has sort of become an alternative to prayer for me. As I mentioned before, I struggled with prayer after letting go of my faith in Christ. Meditation is a bridge to the spirit for me and it has helped me to understand the power of stillness and calmness.
9. Smoked Weed. A Lot.
So, full disclosure – I support cannabis and all the health benefits that come with it. I’m a military vet, so I went a long time never smoking weed, but once I discharged and became a college student, I gave it a try or two. I’d been opposed to marijuana because of the narcotic stigma it has and well, for most of my life, it was illegal everywhere. I was never a frequent user of it, I just puffed it every blue moon at a party or with friends.
As I mentioned before, part of the “help”, I got was prescription medication. The medications my doctor prescribed made me feel emotionally numb. I felt drained and drowsy in the mornings. The medication also wasn’t recommended for anyone who had intentions on having more children. I’m sorry, but that isn’t treatment to me, it’s additional problems.
There were all sorts of dangerous side effects that came with those pills and I wanted nothing to do with any of them. I didn’t want to risk my critical health nor my fertility over a calming remedy. Not when there is cannabis – a healthy, natural alternative that does the same exact thing minus all the negative side effects. Cannabis works for me and my mental health. I prefer weed any day over pharmaceuticals and it honestly has helped me maintain a better level of calmness.
10. Started Using My Words More
A lot of us will often bite our tongue for the sake of peace and cooperation. I don’t do that anymore. I tell people exactly how I feel when I am feeling it. If it comes out rude, I apologize to them for the tone, but I let them know that my feelings stand. It’s true what they say – closed mouths don’t get fed. If you don’t make your expectations known, then people have no way of really knowing if they are disappointing you or not meeting your needs.
Lack of communication is the root of suffering in relationships, both intimate and platonic. Do not be afraid to let people know what you do and don’t like. Do not feel scared to tell someone when they are hurting you and definitely SAY SOMETHING when you are drowning inside.
Ask for help when you need help. There is no shame in that because we all need help sometimes. You would be surprised at how many people actually care when you have convinced yourself no one does.
Whatever you feel you need to do for your peace of mind and mental health, do it. Nothing else matters if you aren’t here. Do not be afraid to put yourself first.