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.*

black-and-white-black-and-white-depressed-568025

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.

fashion-footwear-grass-631986

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!

 

Advertisements

‘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.

nick-morrison-325805

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.
    snapcode
    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!

 

 

The Beautiful Winds of Change

On the slick drive from the chiropractor tonight, I decided to take the back way home because the roads are usually not as slick in bad weather on these roads. Another reason I love this way home is because of this spot on the highway that passes right along the shore of Lake Winnebago. There’s about a quarter of a mile that hugs right up alongside the shore and one particular place where the trees open up enough to see a clear view of the lake.

This view is always gorgeous and always different. Every single day the view is different. The sun is shining, or it’s not. The water is a blue color, or green, or gray. There are whitecaps on the water or it’s completely frozen over, like today. As I was driving along, a truck was coming from the other direction and behind it followed a cloud of snow. This reminded of something that happens on the lake every year, twice a year – the hatching of lake flies. At the peak of the hatching, the flies swarm just like that cloud snow behind the truck. So thick, you almost can’t see through them. It brought me back to summer for a moment…

Anyway, I digress…. change…

This ride home always reminds me that everything is in a constant state of change and that change is beautiful. It may not seem beautiful at first. It may seem scary or uncertain, but a slight change in lighting or a twist in the breeze and it’s something utterly breathtaking. It’s all about your reaction and perception. The sun still exists on the other side of the clouds.

wp-1485923948545.jpg
A photo I took during one of the hardest times of change in my life. One of the most beautiful times, as well. (c.2015)

Fighting change will never go well, because everything must change. Tomorrow can never be exactly like today. Learn and grow from today so tomorrow is better than today. When I look back at my hardest times – the times that really challenged me and pushed me to my edge – those were the times I grew the most. Those are the times where I learned the most about myself, learned more about God and His mercies, and learned the art of not just surviving, but of thriving.

Today, if you are struggling through a change, know that you are not alone. Take the time to reflect, meditate, write, read, pray, observe. Do whatever you can to let this time grow you, mold you, and teach you. It will be worth it. It will get better. And hopefully one day you can look back and see the beauty of it all.