In this post, I refer to “hashtag self care” as something superficial and for show, not for growth. Self care is literally what it sounds like, taking care of yourself. But the “hashtag self care” is referred to as a simple mani-pedi and facial that solves all misery and sadness. That Hashtag self care, is not the inner work that I am speaking on here, rather the real, gritty, non-mainstream work that must be done to gain and maintain mental health and wellness.
Recently, people have been asking me how I “fixed” my mind and how I “heal” or “cure” my mental instabilities.
I think that too often, mental health and wellness is looked at as something that can be fixed or cured; It is seen as something that can be mitigated with hashtag self care. But, what I have realized along the way, with constantly wanting to be magically fixed and happy one day, is that mental health and wellness is a forever journey. It is something, like most things actually, that requires work and dedication.
I first realized that I was on a mental wellness/health journey well after I tried to commit suicide the first time, well past the hashtag self care phase of my teens and early 20s. For a very long time, I thought I was broken, a waste of space, and really wanted to take myself out. I didn’t see a point in anything really, despite all that I was accomplishing. Sadly, this has been the case for not only a lot of athletes that I have come across, but also a lot of black women and girls. I will not say that all of them have gone the length of trying to kill themselves, but suicidal thoughts, feelings of unworthiness and pointlessness, those were common trends. There is a commonality of learned hatred, some sort of trauma or abuse at a young age, or just unsettled and unclear chaos or confusion. For me, it was the learned self hatred, and sexual abuse in my young teens.
When I have asked people what they have done to help themselves, the answer is usually “therapy, but it doesn’t (or didn’t) work”. Others mention that they tried various things that also don’t (or didn’t work). Which brings me to the point of the blog: Mental health and wellness is A JOURNEY not a thing that can really be completed, fixed, nor cured. It’s an on going process that requires work and care and patience. You have to figure out what to do, where to look, and when to look there. Anything done for the sake of hashtag self care or just to do it on a surface level, will not reap long term benefits when it comes to mental health and wellness.
I too, had been in and out of therapy before I realized what the issue was. It was not until my 4th go around, at 25, post break up, that I realized what I WASN’T doing in therapy, or in my life for that matter. I was not doing the internal work. My therapy sessions were more like bitch fests, as were my conversations with my friends. There was plenty of blame to go around to everyone else but me, there were endless things in my life that I wanted to complain about, and when things came directly back to me, I shut up like an irritated clam in the sea. However, the last time, my therapist checked the hell out of me and told me that the only way I was going to MOVE FORWARD in my journey was if I were vulnerable and looked inward a situations and the way I was thinking instead of outward. She never said I would be cured or fixed, only that I would move forward and learn how to navigate more and more situations that I didn’t have the mind or the tools to navigate before.
And that’s what happened. I looked inward, figured out a lot of what was really bothering me, the deep shit, and I started to work on it. I had hard conversations, I let some people go. I let parts of myself go, matter of fact. And I work at this every day. Counteracting negative thoughts with 2 positive ones, spreading messages to myself and others of love and light, continuing those hard conversations. I try not to be hard on myself and I try to understand others. Yes, I have many setbacks. Sometimes for weeks at a time, but I always come out better than I started because I know where to look and when to look there. I wasn’t doing things for hashtag self care, but for internal self care and growth.
Nothing is perfect, and your mental health journey sure as shit will not be either. It might be the hardest journey you have every been on, because it comes up in everything that you do: relationships, your job, your sleep schedule, friendships, your down time, your vacations. Everything you do think, say, and do is a manifestation of your mental health and wellness journey. You cannot be a rockstar a work and then be miserable and unmotivated at home. You cannot be a physically healthy, but have a rottenly negative mindset. Something is going to bleed into the other, especially if something is overly negative and toxic. Negativity festers, and with so much going on in the world, there’s a lot to evaluate, sit with, and work at. While there is no “cure” or quick fix, here are some things that help me do the inner work:
Meditation: sometimes I do walking meditations when I cannot sit still but want to calm my anxiety. I also use the app Smiling Mind, to do my still meditations. I have fallen off, but am back now!
Working out: If you have read ANY of my blogs or seen my instagram, you know I workout daily, if not twice a day. It really helps me blow off steam but also release endorphins and dopamine.
Drink Water!: If you are a coffee or caffeinated tea person, you may not realize that the caffeine case increase anxiety and cause you to feel more jittery, anxious, or even sadder than usual. Drinking water can literally calm you down and obviously it is good for you.
Talk!: Of course, you do not wan to feel like you are complaining, or maybe you just do not want to be vulnerable. But it is important for your mental health and wellness that you find someone you trust to speak to, or you pray, or you find a way to release those feelings through writing. This has been something to really help me feel better about things going on internally and also clarify things with my friends or people around me that I either do not like or do not understand. This, in turn, strengthens my relationships, but also makes me feel better.
Address the issue!: Some people want to address the issue in the moment. I personally wait until I am calmer to address certain things. Regardless of when it happens, you must address what is bothering you. Whether it is internally, or if it pertains to another person. I like to calm down, look inward, and then address a person if needed. Sometimes, though, I find that after I calm down and look inward, I don’t usually have to address a person because I have address what was bothering me at its root instead of attaching an internal feeling to an external person. Now, if something reckless is said or something physical happens then clearly skip steps 1 and 2 and go right to the source, hunny.
Take notices, that there are 5 things listed, the first 3 having to do with YOU and the internal, the last 2 then being expelled outward.
Do the work. Look in those dark and dreary spots of your mind and life that you have been trying to suppress or avoid. Be vulnerable, at the very least with yourself. Figure out how to be more positive, love yourself, and nurture that inner child within you that still might be hurting. Life is too short to be miserable. Plus, you are on your mental health and wellness journey right now, whether you knew it or not. It is something that you cannot run away from, but something you can embrace and grow with. It’ll only help you, I promise.
Positivity, Growth, and all the things,