"Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, poor mental health and mental illness are not the same things. A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of physical, mental, and social well-being." Taken from the website, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information please visit, https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm.
Photo by Aniket Bhattacharya - @aniket940518
The sun started to make its appearance known even though the cold was attempting to do everything it could to stay. It was April so technically the beginning of spring and I think most of us Canadians that live in the province of Ontario were just happy to see glimpses of sunshine after what is always a long winter here. We were in another lockdown (3rd or 4th of our province). It's all fuzzy to me now. The weariness was evident in every conversation you had with Ontarians.
I'm a positive person, a glass half full kind of girl. I see beauty easily. Finding joy is not hard for me. I can see God in the big things but also in the small things. Confession time, I was that person at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 who welcomed the enforced rest, got secretly excited to stay home and was relieved for my commitments to lessen. The one thing I was sad about was not going to El Salvador as planned. Everything else I was fine with. I didn't get scared or stress like many people did. I trusted God with Covid. I'm not like this in all areas of life, but this particular topic didn't affect me the way it did countless others. I felt guilty for feeling this way so I did my best to keep my peace and joy to myself. People were hurting and I am empathic so I definitely wasn't wishing for people to experience suffering or loss. It just seemed so far away to me. But, I'm also an honest person so I struggled with the delicate dance of being real and yet sensitive towards others. People who don't know me well can think I'm extroverted because they see me as being very social and outgoing. It's true that it's not difficult for me to make friends, initiate conversations with strangers and carry myself well in social settings. But here is my reality, I'm introverted. I'm 100% okay to be by myself. In fact, these past 7 years of living alone have been like honey to my lips. They have been so sweet to me. I'm also not a person that because I live alone needs to have the TV on all the time. This spring, waking up to quiet with the only sound being birds chirping has been my favourite time of the day.
I hope you understand the picture I'm painting for you of who I am. I'm doing my best to set up the context for you so you can fully appreciate what this past April was like for me.
Something happened to me at the beginning of April 2021. I was done (now come to think of it I think this happened to me last summer too...haha). The sadness of the state of the world hit me like a tidal wave. I lost motivation. I felt blah and went into a funk. Sociologist Corey Keyes calls it languishing. There's an amazing article that The New York Times put out last month, which my friend Jenna, (from Article club not to be confused with my friend Jenna from university) shared on her Instagram. It discusses what so many of us are feeling right now. It's not depression and it's not thriving but it's this middle meh feeling. I would highly recommend that you read the article at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html.
How did languishing look like in my life? Like more isolation. Remember, being by alone isn't something I run away from. I like my own company so I went to the other extreme. I stopped responding to messages and I wasn't reaching out to others. I watched too much Netflix. Cooking required more energy than I could muster so I did what was easy when it came to feeding myself. Everyone was posting about their wonderful walks in the gorgeous new weather but I could barely leave my four walls to get groceries. I couldn't even fathom waiting in lines so I did all my grocery shopping at Shoppers and Farm Boy. I didn't wash my hair for a week. Life just seemed hard. This lasted for most of the month of April.
Photo by Arno Smit - @_entreprenerd
I'm not sure what got me out of the funk. God's grace. Friends praying for me. The knowledge that I needed to start taking care of myself or it would get worse. Probably a combination of all three. Slowly, I began to respond to people and be honest when friends asked how I was doing. I made myself get groceries. I washed my hair and it felt good. Haha. God was kind to me in helping me have enough willpower to take one step forward each day. So, here is what I want to say to you with all the love in the world. Take care of your mental health. How are you doing? Be honest. Don't push people away. I get not having the energy to respond to all people, but can you just communicate with one friend and let them know how you're really doing? Do one small thing each day for your wellbeing. I've made a commitment to go for a walk every day even if it's just around the block.
You matter. You're mental health matters. You're loved and you are worthy of love. Take care of yourself friend. We are in this together.
Sending you the biggest hug. Raquel