How to Honor Your Mental Health

How to Honor Your Mental Health

With World Mental Health Day being this week, I’d like to share a story.

Exactly 4 years ago, on October 10th, I missed a cousin’s beautiful wedding to protect my mental health. Let me explain.

Four years ago, I was battling through my very painful divorce. During this specific time, in the 5 months between filing for divorce and our final court date, we had just tried to reconcile and it failed miserably. I was in a world of hurt – brokenhearted, angry, and just sad.

My little cousin was getting married and it was going to be a beautiful day of family, friends, and nuptials. I was looking forward to it and dreading it all at the same time. After talking to my mom, sisters, and best friend, we all came to the conclusion that I probably should not go to this wedding. As sad as I was to miss the wedding, it was also a huge relief.

Had I gone, I probably would have gotten drunk and made some poor life choices. I was pretty good at that during this time. Not like fall-onto-the-stage-and-give-a-slurred-and-sappy-speech-drunk. More like overshare-personal-details-of-my-life-and-maybe-makeout-with-a-random-family-friend-drunk. Either way, not pretty.

During that time, my mental health was fragile. My heart was broken and I made plenty of bad decisions. But thankfully I had a tribe who was looking out for me and gave me permission to sit this one out. In fact, Facebook reminded me of what I did end up doing that weekend. I went up north with my best friend to her cottage to get away, drink a little wine, and break bread with my person and her family.

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The view from my best friend’s cottage.

But that’s not the end of this story. Fast forward 4 years and I am happily divorced, in a loving relationship, my career is thriving, I own 2 businesses, and I’m pursuing things I love. My mental health is in a much better place. I no longer have nagging thoughts of self-harm, which is something I have a history with. I don’t immediately reach for alcohol to numb my feelings. And I truly have respect for myself and my body.

It also hasn’t all been unicorns and rainbows. I’ve had struggles just like anyone else. I made sure to take time after my divorce to heal. Healing has to be intentional – not rushed. Intentional. I chose to heal. I chose to face my pain, bad choices, and insecurities. There’s still healing that needs to occur, but I’m always working on that. If you choose to heal as you go, then it is so much less overwhelming.

Healing looks like therapy, reading, journaling, crying, laughing, self-care, exercise, self-awareness, prayer, acceptance, connection, forgiveness, and love. All of these lend to your healing. Healing takes work, but it is so worth it. You are so worth it. And your mental health will thank you.

Now I look back and my cousin has beautiful memories of her special day. No one even remembers that I wasn’t there or why. And no one especially remembers how I made a fool of myself after getting too drunk, because it didn’t happen.

Life goes on and gets better – mine did. Yours will too.

4 Truths About Creativity

If you’re a breathing human and on the internet, then you have probably heard about this thing called creativity. It seems like highly successful people have a lot of creativity. If you aren’t highly successful, maybe you don’t think you are very creative. You probably believe musicians, artists, writers, and the like are creative. But what if you don’t fall into one of those categories? Does that mean that you aren’t creative? I don’t think so.

In my experience, I’ve learned a lot about creativity. I’ve always identified as a creative person, but I haven’t always used it. In not using my creativity, I’ve caused myself a lot of internal anguish. Here are a few things I’ve learned that might help you on your creative journey.

Everyone is Creative

First and foremost, we are all creative. Every single human is creative. Creativity is innately in us. We’ve been sold this big lie that only certain people are creative or have the “creative gene”. That is a lie straight from the pit of hell.

We’ve been convinced that creativity equals art. There’s nothing wrong with this idea, as long as we are willing to broaden our understanding of what art is. If art means thoughts, ideas, and processes in addition to paintings, drawings, sculptures, music, and writing, then yes. Creativity means art.

I’m actually not opposed to this broadened view of art if it means that we believe we are all artists.

Creating Brings Inspiration

Creativity is not something we need to be inspired to do. Inspiration is not what we wait on to be creative. It’s actually quite the opposite. Choosing to create should be a practice, not something you do only when you feel inspired to do it. What if your inspiration never comes? When choose to create, then we are also creating inspiration. At first, what we create probably won’t even be that good, but the more we try, experiment, and learn, the more we will desire to create. Stay the course.

Creativity is an Unlimited Resource

And this leads right into this myth that creativity is a limited resource. As if when we use our creative energy on this thing over here, then we won’t have enough creativity to use on this other thing over there. Or we are one-hit wonders in the creative department. This is simply not true. Again, the opposite is true. The more we create, the more we will want to create. Creativity is an unlimited resource! When you use your creative energy, you breed more creative energy.

Creating for Attention Will Kill Your Creativity

The last point I need to make is one of the most important things about creativity. It’s something I never even considered until I watched this Ted Talk by Joseph Gordan-Levitt. It’s so good and I highly recommend it. It hit me hard, right in the gut. It’s something I realized I struggled with in a big way after watching the Ted Talk. It’s so important, that if we don’t caution ourselves against it, we will negate everything else mentioned above.

If you are creating for attention (accolades, awards, likes, shares), then your creativity will dry up. If your “why” is attention, it won’t get you very far. It’s a slippery slope that will get you wrapped up in other people’s opinions, which will eventually kill your creativity. The recognition you seek may never come.  The truth is, whatever you create may deeply impact someone, and you may never know it. You have to be ok with that reality. Your job is to create the thing. But you might never be recognized on the grand scale – or at all. You need to create it anyway. Someone needs what you have – even if it’s just you.

As a recovering people pleaser and perfectionist, I have fallen in love with the attention my work has gotten me. It has stunted my creativity and caused so much frustration with myself. I am learning to shift my perspective.

These aren’t new ideas and there are tons of resources that dive more into this subject. A few of my favorites are:

*Note – these are not affiliate links and I receive no compensation for sharing these resources.

Thank you for attention. I would have created this piece either way, but I appreciate you.

Stay creative, friends!

Philippians 4:8

“… Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise…” Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up in the morning, you are still with me.” Psalm 139:17-18 (NLT)

If we are told to fix our thoughts on things that are good, honorable, and true and God Himself has thoughts about us that are “innumerable”, then what does that say about us? God doesn’t instruct us to act outside of who He is. So if He meditates on us, then we must be good, honorable, and true (pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise) at our core.

Maybe we’re better than we think we are. Maybe we’re better than we’ve been told we are. What lies are you believing about yourself? What if, when we stop believing those lies about who we are, we will start to act in accordance with how God thinks of us?

Divorce: The Best Decision I Made … In the Last 10 Years

Divorce: The Best Decision I Made … In the Last 10 Years

This post will probably rub many people the wrong way – especially my fellow Christians. Good. I hope it does. There’s a very important point to this, so keep reading.

First, let me make this very clear. Divorce is hard and painful. If I would have known my first marriage was going to end in divorce, I never would have gotten married. I’m sure that goes without saying, but I’m saying it. But I also believe that no time is ever wasted and God redeems everything, including time.

My first marriage was never what I would call “good”. Some people who know me might be surprised by this fact. Others, conversely, are not surprised at all. Perspective is a funny thing. There are several factors that play into this but I truly believe that even if we each would have made better choices, we would have eventually ended up in the same place.

Why do I believe that? Suffice it to say that I’m a problem solver and a fighter. I believe no situation is hopeless. That passion and perseverance were not reciprocated. A relationship like that will never last. And typically, after that pattern goes on long enough, there is a lot of resentment that eventually turns into an emotionally abusive relationship, at best.

In my first marriage, I became a person I didn’t know. Words that come to mind are weak, powerless, co-dependent, pessimistic, underachiever. Now, these words are far from the truth. They are lies from the depths of hell, but that is how I was living.

Here is the trick, though. I believed that if I tried hard enough or “gave it to God” enough, that it would get better and my marriage would be saved. I believed that if I pushed through and persevered that it would get better. And I honestly thought divorce would be the worst possible thing to happen. I wasn’t a quitter. And God is always faithful.

That said, God is always faithful – it just might not be in the way we want Him to be at that time. He works everything out for our good. We just may not be able to see it right now.

During the struggles in my first marriage, I had several well-meaning Christians give me advice.

“God honors marriage.”

“Give it up to Him.”

“God hates divorce.”

“God can redeem any situation.”

These are all TRUE statements. But I’m here to tell you something:

God does hate divorce, but not more than He loves you.

Let me repeat that for those in the back:

God does not hate divorce more than He loves you.

Our God is a personal, loving Father who loves you more than anything. He wants the absolute best for you. It breaks His heart to see His children suffer.

I will never tell someone that if their marriage is struggling, then go get divorced. Every couple and situation is uniquely different. But if the only reason you are still in your marriage is that you think divorce is a sin and you think you’re honoring God by staying, then I want to encourage you in knowing that God loves you more than that. I recommend you shift your heart posture from being sin focused to being focused on our loving, graceful Father.

But if you have a partner who is willing to really work from a place of love, then partner with God and He will honor that.

Remember, God loves you more than He hates divorce. I promise. God will choose you every time.

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My life is so much better since choosing divorce. I’ve let go of so much guilt and shame. I’m closer to God than I’ve ever been or thought possible. I am becoming myself again. Positive, loving, driven. And slowly but surely my big dreams are becoming a reality.

I know there will be people who vehemently disagree with this post. I’m good with that. I’m confident in God’s promises for me and that’s all I need. I’ve learned to let the opinions of others not affect me.

But I encourage you to really lean into whatever may be causing offense in your heart about this post. When something causes us to have an offended heart, it is usually God stirring up a wound that needs healing. So lean into that and ask God where you need healing.

Or you can call me a heretic. I’m fine with that too. While I truly hope you find healing, I won’t be offended if you disagree with me.

And for those of you in the tough situation of trying to figure out if divorce is your best option, I’m sorry. It sucks. But I hope you find it encouraging to know that God loves you and blesses you whether or not you make all the right choices. That’s why His grace is so beautiful. The decision is never simple or easy, but He will be by your side through it all.

Finally, for my fellow divorcées; I’ve been there. My prayer for you is wholeness. Full restoration and healing in your family are possible, even though that may seem impossible right now. There is hope and beauty and healing on the other side of divorce. I promise.

Mental Illness Doesn’t Always Look Like Suicide

Mental Illness Doesn’t Always Look Like Suicide

*Trigger warning: This post discusses difficult topics like drugs, alcohol, suicide, and self-harm.*

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Everyone has mental health. Just like we have physical health, like bone health and cardiovascular health, we have mental health.

Poor mental health runs in my family just like cancer, diabetes, or heart disease can run in one’s family. From the outside, that may not seem apparent. No one in my family has ever lost their battle with mental illness by suicide – at least none that we know of in recent generations. But plenty of people in my family have battled mental illness with food, drugs, alcohol, and work. As a result, many have died prematurely from heart attacks, complications from obesity, type 2 diabetes, stress, cancer, and what we like to call “hard living”.

We don’t talk about these things like mental health issues. We don’t say, “Oh, she really really struggled with mental illness, which ultimately took her life.” No, we don’t say that. We say, “Oh, she struggled with obesity her whole life, which led to a life-ending heart attack at age 60.” But what really happened is, she lived a hard life because she was raised feeling unworthy, which caused her mental health to break down. And because we don’t talk about the hard things in our life – the mistakes, broken dreams, the painful things done to us, and our lack of love for ourselves – it grows like a cancer inside of us. And because there’s a stigma around getting real help from therapy or just saying, “I’m not okay”, we medicate.

Food makes us feel better. Alcohol and drugs dull everything around us – the bad stuff and the good stuff. Work helps us ignore it. These medications aren’t initially seen as an issue because they are the things we would do in a healthy life too. No stigma.

We have to eat and work. These are essentials in our lives, so they can’t be that bad. Alcohol is something we use to socialize or unwind on occasion, but it’s not used every day or all day for the average person. They are socially acceptable.

But, the truth is, I come from a long line of people who use these things to feel better when our mental health is suffering. If left unchecked, we use them to the point of addiction – to the point of abuse. And I’m not alone.

Remember, mental illness doesn’t always mean suicide or self-harm. It’s not always that final or that obvious. In fact, it almost never starts there. It starts somewhere much smaller and less defined – in the gray areas.

This is why self-love is so important. You cannot pour from an empty cup. You must love yourself and take care of yourself. Take time for you. Take a walk, a bubble bath, a nap, a yoga class. Meditate, read, write. Visit a friend, take yourself out for coffee. Take a mental health day or a whole weekend! Tell people no.

And – encourage this behavior in others. Give people permission to tell you no, or to take a day off. Give them permission to have bad days and love them anyway.

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Let’s be advocates for self-love: for ourselves and for others.

How are you going to practice self-care this week? Let me know in the comments!

 

Wine: The Best Grapes Grow in the Rockiest Soil

Wine: The Best Grapes Grow in the Rockiest Soil

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A friend and I were recently talking and he asked me if I liked wine and I just looked at him. Yeah. Hi, my name is Morgan and I love wine. He laughed and asked if I knew that the best grapes for wine are grown in the rockiest soil. No, I did not know that.

He went on to tell me that Riesling grapes grow the best in the rockiest soil. Their roots have to grow very deep to find the nutrients needed to withstand the elements. So the roots of these vines grow deep and strong, and the result is producing the sweetest grape – perfect for wine.

What a beautiful metaphor for life. The sweetest moments in life are often born from the most barren situations or seasons. Those barren areas of our lives cause us to really dig deep for the good stuff – for the sustenance to keep going. We really have to be intentional about finding the good things during those times.

Often times, when we look back at the rocky times in our lives, we are able to see the difficulties in it all but the good parts shine brighter and taste a bit sweeter. Those good moments, like a refreshing sip of water, highlight our journey and give us the strength to keep moving forward.

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Sometimes our best fruit comes out of those rocky seasons. Whether it’s in losing a job so you can pursue what you truly love. Or losing a relationship so you find your true partner in life. Or receiving a blessing you can’t explain or didn’t earn – having a debt paid unexpectedly, or someone buying your dinner, or something beautiful being gifted to you.

Most importantly, though, the rocky soil in our life becomes a breeding ground for growth, truth, and life. We become the best versions of ourselves if we stay resilient and dig deep.

If you’re going through a rocky time in life, or maybe it’s just been a rocky life, and everything seems dead and barren, dig deep and find the good stuff. Dig deep and find gratitude for what is coming. Dig deep and be excited to know that the best grapes grow out of the rockiest soil.

‘Tis the Season … to Plan for Next Year!

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays and the new year just around the corner, now is the perfect time to gear up for 2018.

Okay, maybe now seems like a terrible time to be planning for 2018 because of all the hustle and bustle. But if you haven’t started planning 2018 yet, you’re running out of time. It’ll be here before you know it!

I am one to re-evaluate my goals often – roughly every quarter. So this falls right within with my timeline. I learned a long time ago that nothing happens by accident and what gets tracked gets done. This was not an easy lesson to learn and by no means comes to me easily, either.

The act of looking at my goals, readjusting, and replanning is quite relaxing and, simultaneously, invigorating for me. When I get things on paper, it empties my anxious thoughts out of my crowded brain. I start to really be honest about the things I want to accomplish over the next 3, 6, 9 months, and I start to get really excited. Excited at the thought of trying out new things – or retrying old things with new strategies. It gives me a fresh slate and shows me that I’m no quitter.

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At this particular time of year, I also don’t like waiting until after the New Year to get started on my new objectives. I actually start to form a few new habits right away so I’m not trying to make so many adjustments all at once. It’s also a little mind trick I play on myself so I feel like I have a head start in some imaginary race.

So in the spirit of accountability and giving you all some things to look forward to, here are a few things I am committing to in 2018:

  1. Weekly blog posts – Yay!!
  2. Eating clean and achieving a healthier body fat percentage – there are obvious health and cosmetic benefits that comes with eating healthier but also a potential health issue has come to light. As more information becomes available, I will be sure to share more.
  3. Becoming more organized – I will begin utilizing a weekly/monthly cleaning routine and sharing more about that journey.
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    Add me!
  4. Becoming more financially fit – including getting out of debt.
  5. Spending more time on Snapchat – I know. This seems a little indulgent, and maybe it is. I’ve really been able to cultivate some long-lasting relationships on Snapchat and I miss doing that on a more regular basis. So I’m giving myself permission to do it more and love it. Add me – @morganharrell85

While these are just a few, these are some lofty goals and I look forward to sharing my journey with you in the coming weeks and months.

Now it’s time for you to share – What are some of your objectives for 2018? Do you have a plan of action? Please share in the comments!