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!

 

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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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  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!

 

 

Tonight I Told Myself To Blog

Several months ago when I was being disciplined in something.

Tonight I told myself to blog, yet I don’t feel like I have anything profound to say. This is odd for a couple reasons. First, if you asked my mother (or my boyfriend, for that matter), they would tell you that I have something to say about everything. Second, they are right.

While I have plenty to say about most anything, I’m really bad at blogging. If I’m being honest, and I am, I’m not that good at consistently doing anything — besides eating. I never forget to eat. I like to tell myself that everyone has this problem. Everyone struggles with consistency and being on top of things, which may be true to some extent. But I know there are people out there with so much more discipline than I have.

If I were to ask someone with incredible discipline, I’m 99% sure they would say they learned discipline by being relentless and driven and doing (fill in the blank) even when they didn’t feel like it. Don’t get me wrong. There is a small percentage of the population where discipline was started young and comes much more naturally. For most of us, though, it takes work. It takes day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month work. You have to schedule it. Reschedule it. Break it down into small chunks. Reschedule it again. And give yourself a lot of grace– but not too much grace. We don’t want to get complacent.

So here’s what I know – discipline takes time and repetition. It takes action, big or small. It takes guts. I also know when you do something you’ve committed to, your self-confidence increases and you’re more likely to do it again the next time. And tonight I told myself to blog, and I did.

Hurt People

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I am overwhelmed with emotion in this moment. On my way home tonight from church I felt the pull to write up a blog entry on how we deal with hurt. I haven’t posted a blog in a year – exactly one year. On September 17, 2014, I wrote the blog titled Everyone Needs a Cheerleader. The post is a short entry on being a cheerleader for others because we are all hurt and when we are hurting, we hurt others. I was in a season where I needed a cheerleader. It is no coincidence that one year later I am drawn to writing on almost the exact same topic. It’s been a rough year – full of growth, stumbling, confusion, heartache, falling flat on my face, and understanding. In fact, I’ve gone through all of those motions in a single day.

I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s latest book Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. In the book, she discusses her research on what it takes to rise strong after falling flat on your face. Her research focuses on vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Without going into too much detail (because you should seriously read the book – yes, you), she discusses the ideas around human-ness and how we respond to feeling hurt – founded or not. Recently in my life, I’ve made some poor choices that are completely out of character for me. I hit what I like to describe as a rock-bottom. There was a moment when I looked back on my choices and thought, “What the hell are you doing? And who is this person?”

After listening to most of Brene’s book I came to realize my choices were a result of me being hurt. But wait, I didn’t feel hurt. I was fine. Life was great. Well… not exactly. The closer I looked, the more I realized that I was really hurting. I had been burying my pain in travel, nights out with friends, food, and alcohol. Those actions were not the regrettable ones, but they helped me not feel all the feels I was having. Burying that pain and heartache in fun times and social activities led to making other choices that were regrettable.  I didn’t even know myself – and my heart was broken.

When everything came to a screeching halt, I realized I had hurt so many people unintentionally – all because I was hurting. And when I looked back at why I was hurting, I realized the person who had hurt me was also hurting. What did I draw from this? A couple things:

  1. Hurt people, hurt people. This is not a new concept to me. I know this. I think this is where my capacity for massive amounts of compassion and understanding comes from. I thank my mother for this. She’s always been a benefit-of-the-doubt kind of person.
  2. Understanding how I deal with hurt. Having compassion and knowing that hurt people also hurt others is not, in and of itself, enough for growth. You must see your own patterns and understand how you hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally. What is your go-to comfort? Some examples are food, alcohol, TV, gaming, sex, shopping, drugs or any combination of these. And maybe you’re like me where your go-to comfort depends on the type of hurt you have experienced. Once you understand your patterns, you can then begin healing and choosing healthier patterns for yourself. Those could be writing, reading, exercise, or, what I would first recommend, talking with the person who hurt you.

I will not claim to be an expert on this topic, but I do know what I’ve learned so far in my own life and observed in others’. I would consider myself an expert on falling flat on my face. However, it can take some time for me to truly understand how I got where I am (think: ten years!). If you want more tips on what to do next, I truly recommend Rising Strong. In fact, I also recommend Brown’s two previous books, The Gifts of Imperfections and Daring Greatly.

I am sorry to those I may have hurt in this process. While I have a ton of personal growth to experience, I take comfort in knowing that I am living wholeheartedly and I am in the arena.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

Xoxo