Mental health

Next week is mental health week. It makes me smile to realize that I am turning 43 years old, at the beginning of mental health week, in the middle of hopefully the only pandemic I ever get to live, calm and serene amidst a see of angst. Who would have guessed?

Looking back it seems to me that everything I have lived so far has prepared me for today. Anxiety, depression, fear and catastrophic thinking have been things I have trained myself to live with and manage for over 30 years. Things I read about today as new lessons to an anxious humankind, strategies, encouragements, ideas, they all seem to me like home. Like old friends, remedies I have tried again and again, old adages that have almost become a second home.

Give or take a few days (ok, the whole first week of quarantine) I was really amazed that I feel so much calmer than I anticipated. Then I realised that the reason it all felt like home is because anxiety has been home to me for such a long time and, there is nothing new in what I am hearing around me. Oh, wait, yes, there is.

For the longest time I remember myself wishing there was an anxiety pox or a depression rash. I wish there was a way that people around me were seeing signs that my insides were turned upside down by the anticipation of dangers never witnessed, hardly imagined but so lurking in the near. I remember myself, in my worst moments wishing I had a severe illness, regardless of what, but one that could be seen. Because it seems people only understand and support what they can see.

Glennon Doyle talks about canaries in the golden mine. She likens the sensitive people, the mentally different to canaries warning about things in the world that are dangers – like disconnection, falsehood, play pretend. More canaries have joined the singing these days and it is for sure the moment to get out of the mine. It is the moment to get out of the world of happy happy, of picture perfect, of death by working overtime and of people pleasing. It is time to move out into the fresh air and breathe it in, with a loud sigh. It is time to realise that the days of “well, this is how it’s done” are over. That true, human connection is the religion, that “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.”

I am not sure how my 44th birthday will reach me. I only know that I wish for myself to be wiser in the ways of connection, mentally balanced and able to breathe the fresh air.

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