Anxiety · Depression · mental health

Mental Health May 2023

💚💚💚

Green is for Springtime. Hope, growing pains, shared joy. And Mental Health Awareness. Even though every person is unique, can we unite for mental health?

Robyn, a 35-year-old woman with brown hair streaked with silver smiles, posing with a small potted Peacock Plant.

Mental Health Is…

  • Listening to loved ones.
  • Not saying “Everyone feels that way.”
  • Watching for red flags.
  • Checking in: “I noticed you’re going through a lot, want to talk?”
  • Educating oneself on common signs of mental illness.
  • Not misusing terms: “I’m so depressed about canceling my weekend!”
  • Adults creating a safe space for kids to share emotions.
  • Not saying “You’ll grow out of it.”
  • Normalizing therapy as a tool.
  • Checking: “Do you know where to seek support in a crisis?”
  • Having someone you can call on a very bad day.
  • Asking “I need this done but I’m struggling. Will you please help?”
  • Sometimes medication is a part of the health equation.
  • Calling out misinformation: “Oh-see-dee is not an appropriate term for obsessively neat.”
  • Most people will struggle with mental illness during their life, so health care matters to everyone.
  • Calling out ageism and sexism: “Everyone can struggle with mental health, feminine, masculine, aged or youthful.”
  • Watch for: Losing enjoyment in things you love.
  • Watch for: Unsustainable coping techniques.
  • Journaling your thought patterns.
  • Self talk: “I’m doing a great job meal planning!”
  • Noticing when media is causing anxiety.
  • Knowing when we care for the body we care for the mind. And when we treat the mind we treat the body.
  • Showing the same compassion to yourself as you would show to others.

That’s a sweet list, if I do say do myself! I love a good bullet point journal before and after a video chat with my therapist.

White text on a green background reads, The way you are is okay.

My therapist uses the word “curiosity” a lot! She helps me with curious examination of my beliefs and motives: “Why do I feel nervous? What can I do differently? Who would be happy to help me? How can I meet my immediate needs? If I try, what are the best and worst possible outcomes?

Sometimes, Mental Health feels like a familar, oft-trod meadow whose knolls I have memorized. To me, mental illness often feels like dual realities. The soothing simplicity of fact overlays the imbalanced crackle, like a dying star, at my core. Both realities exist together. On a bad day, I suddenly sieze, fist clenched, caught in a wave of fear. Desperately clinging to my task list, I fight for calm. Anxiety is there. I’m safe, though. It’s there, I’m safe.

Photo: A rippling pond with lily pads, surrounded by green grass and shrubs and stones.

You know what? Sometimes people distance themselves from mental illness. It’s not necessarily intentional. It could be your choice or theirs. Needs change based on where we are in our lives. Close friends or family might not be who we need. It’s okay.

In the future, we’ll become capable of new things. Friendships will morph. Some people will be surprisingly supportive in a crisis! Depending on the people involved, difficult times can reinforce a relationship.

My parents, for example, have made every effort to listen to me while I battle my own monsters. Would I feel I could trust them if they had not consistently shown up for me? Definitely not.

If you don’t know how to help a friend, just be available for the quickest coffee break, notice their strength, compliment their work, and know your support matters.

Yesterday, I discovered a podcast from 2020 about Young Adult books. ALSO, they gush about one of my favorites, Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier. Two podcasters (with impeccable taste) praise this underrated coming-of-age tale of self-love.

I felt excitement. I felt whole. My present self connected with my teenage self. This is the beauty of a story that bleeds truth and poetry. I am not an ABCD (American Born Confused Desi), but, as a neurodivergent teen, I strongly related to Dimple Lala’s lonesome angst. 📚

‘And it now occurred to me that maybe the whole point was, in fact, to lose yourself. But not in the sense of confusion–in the sense of connection to something bigger than yourself…Getting lost to be found.’

Tanuja Desai Hidier, Born Confused

What do you need? How can you be more curious? More prepared, educated, supportive? How can you be more YOU as you struggle to move forward? Green means go! Every single step is monumental in the mental health battle.

Thank you for reading. ☀️

I would love to recommend another bookish podcast I’ve been enjoying! Sisters Arya and Belle produce fun, nerdy content. Also, their Mental Health Awareness episode inspired me to create today’s post! 💚

Spotify thumbnail: White text reads, Blind Girls' Book Talk. Two pairs of wire rim glasses sit on a stack of books In the background.
Spotify episode description reads, Our Mental Health Experience - Blind Girls' Book Talk Episode 69
Find Belle and Arya at Blind Girls’ Book Talk on Youtube and Spotify or @BlindGirlsBooks on Instagram
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Anxiety · Hope · Poetry

The Lost Reason To Write

It’s weird to look back on the trepidation with which I wrote my first few ‘Voice Of Reason’ blog posts. Anxious thoughts resisted sharing ideas which could be too personal, too indulgent, too controversial.

“Resisted” may be too soft a word. What is the word for feeling burning regret and shame the moment we are seen or heard?

Oh, yes. It’s Social Anxiety.

Social anxiety disorder is marked by an anxiety about situations where a person feels that they may be humiliated or scrutinized by others.

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health camh.ca

Anxiety has less power these days to prevent me from sharing my voice. Slowly, word by word, I have boosted my faith in myself. I have built up strength by being authentic, thoughtful, and compassionate. I hear Anxiety telling me I’m wrong, but I have structured this blog carefully to support my goal.

Thumbnail photo of me in front of the Mickey Mouse feeris wheel at Disney's California Adventure.
Caption: My First Blog Post! June 6, 2017 The First, A Reason To Write

And yet, sharing my voice was not my only goal. I also strive to be brave enough and open enough to build human connections. I still want this, but…Anxiety still has power there, tearing me down for my loneliness. Kicking me off balance. I often believe I’m unworthy of connection.

This Again 

Are we back to this again
Am I sorry for being weak
For useless, clumsy words
For walking down your street?

Trying to see the good
Is like trying to stop a leak
I struggle within to choose
Whether help is worth defeat

The world is problematic
These worries aren't mine alone
So why can't I imagine
Picking up the phone?

I'm sorry I lost the words
I'm sorry for staying home
Be back when I'm okay
(And I apologize for this poem)


By Robyn - 2018

This again. No matter how far I’ve come, Anxiety can kick me back down to this state: desperate, isolated, despising myself, fearful of rejection. This poem I wrote in 2018 will always describe my life.

What you may not understand about my voice is that reason, compassion, and authenticity aren’t always enough. Maybe there’s someone listening to my voice who will lend a helping hand. At the very least, there is the hope of a helping hand. Hope is always a valid reason to write.

Thank you for reading! 💜

Anxiety · mental health · Neurodivergent

The Privilege Of Robyn the Weird

In my opinion, I am a strong and determined person. I see what looks to be true and right to me, and I go for it.

Is this nature or nurture or both? It’s impossible to know. But I can look back at my feelings. I can explore past reactions to my environment. For example, I cannot remember ever trying to dress for other people. As a child, I didn’t think I should have to blend in or to pretend to be like other people.

Autonomy has been an advantage of my upbringing. My parents had very flexible expectations. Clothing just had to be functional. Food was food. We were allowed to eat outside of mealtimes, in fact the kitchen was stocked with snacks we could choose for ourselves. As for entertainment, we were provided with instruments if we wanted to learn. I felt free to develop an interest in any music genre.

We were not pressured to attend church once we were old enough to stay home alone, nor to be baptized. One could argue that this was not guidance enough for children, but I do aknowledge the privilege of being raised by accepting parents.

Another privilege relates to both family and society. I had the privilege of choosing a lifestyle that was generally understood and accepted. I did not want more directionless schooling. I wanted to work. My boyfriend and I decided to marry and work and travel. We viewed the future as wide open! My parents offered to give us a wedding and made the whole experience very special for us.

I have been negatively impacted by society’s expectations of women at times. But thankfully, wonderfully, my family has never limited me by pressuring me to do the chronologically “normal” things. Although we got married at 20, nobody openly assumed that we would follow the common relationship path (destination parenthood, etc.). Now we’re in our 30s, my husband and I are just as happy and even more excited about our life together!

Fail

What I’m trying to say is that I feel grateful. And my gratitude conflicts with the despair I feel as I fail to fit in with a community. Fail. It’s a heavy word, full of trying and wanting and hoping and loss. With each job came a supervisor who looked bemused at my need for clarification. Were my questions so unusual? With each new acquaintance came the rollercoaster: make a plan, open up, answer with too much, answer with too little, go home to collapse from stress, wonder why everything was so hard.

Then, Neurodivergence. (Not the title of a sci-fi film, but the experience of being wired differently from the majority of people.) This was a type, a description, a way of being that fit me. Different forever, from birth to death. And I was not alone! There were adults worldwide living their neurodivergent lives, some with a label and others without. Perpetually anxious, perpetually explaining, often othered, often lonely.

What do you think I did with this realization? I asked myself, what is right and true to me?

No amount of joy in my true self could erase the grief over what could have been had I understood myself sooner. It was unfair! My unintentional mask had sapped my energies, only to barely succeed at appearing normal. And, now what? I had to re-learn what was real and what was forced? I know that many other neurodivergent folks have experienced more pressure and oppression and have much more to grieve than I do. But I am Robyn the Weird so I have to say she deserved much better!

Expectations

Learning is key to this whole “being alive” experience. The longer we’re alive, the more we relax our expectations. Compare a grandparent’s perspective to how that same person viewed the world as a young parent – time made a big difference! The truth is, we could fasttrack the lessons of time by cultivating acceptance. We would need to unite our families and communities with a shared vision that there is no normal. The goal: to foster communication between people who think differently.

Think what would change if employers were prepared to ask what the new hire needed to succeed. Think of the friendships that could grow from asking each other to be authentic, to share their uniqueness, up front.

When I learned to value my neurodivergent brain, my love for myself extended to others. I wanted to understand how others experience life. It is not enough to hit the local coffee chain wearing a plastic smile and exchange the usual social banter. That shouldn’t be enough for anyone.

Open My Eyes

Every time a neurodivergent voice rings out authentically, our world becomes a brighter place. That is, if the world is listening at all. As with any privilege, the neurotypical experience blinds most people to the dangers of social norms. But a disability points out how the world neglects those who are different. In communicating what they need, the neurodivergent population shines a light on what is wrong with society. However, solutions are not simple by any means.

For example, why are so many jobs dehumanizing? Why are so many laws made to benefit the non-disabled and the two-parent family structure? Whose fault is it that there aren’t flexible living arrangements and careers that accommodate health and wellness? Is poverty the default outcome for those who aren’t attaining full-time work with a spouse, children, and a community that understands them?

A person disadvantaged by society needs creative solutions, yet society makes it even more difficult to put those solutions into practice. (Ranty truth, here we go!)

Don’t you agree that flexible jobs and living arrangements that support mental health and wellness would benefit every human being? How could successful employment and improved health not benefit the entire community, the country, everyone?

(Cue the bemused neurotypical wondering what we just did to their perception of normal!)

A Beautiful Trainwreck

So I’m living in the now, unmasking, and processing old experiences anew to understand my truth. There’s pain and clarity. Privilege and disadvantage. It’s a beautiful trainwreck!

I’m looking with fresh eyes at the messages the world sends reeling through the atmosphere: labels are nothing, labels are everything. Change is crucial, change is dangerous. Corporations care and Capitalism keeps the world afloat. Different is wonderful, but not hirable. I could go on, but the overall message is one you all know intimately.

In my privilege, I write a blog for fun and I write emails full-time for one company or another. I have a loving, happy marriage partnership. I have fought for myself to get where I am now.

In my differences, I find strength, joy, humanity, creativity and a hunger for truth. You can find this, too. 1) Understand your disadvantages and your privilege. 2) Grow an interest in the uniqueness of each human’s experience. See, we all have pain in common. Pain leads to action which leads to bettering the world.

Is the world good enough now? If you answer yes, I might suggest you examine your privilege, too.

Thank you for reading! 💜

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Chronic illness · Hope · mental health

Pause For Mental Health

I’m thinking about mental health today. (I’m almost always thinking about mental health.) Anyway, I am almost certain that I have two separate identities: the one that adapts to fight illness, and the innate one.

The Fighter.

The Fighter lacks humor when anxious. Gets jumpy and clings to routine with ferocity. This identity worships efficiency. Stability.

The Fighter connects to specific music, listening on repeat, soothing and ruminating. When depressed, somehow the humor switch flicks and everything can be made funny!

Me.

I can be pretty goofy (understatement). I will always prefer deep, insightful discussions to small talk. (A curious question-asker!)

I care deeply, which is especially difficult when others don’t see that I care. Sensitive people can be strong. I tend to subvert expectations because society’s rules don’t make sense to me.

What does make sense? Being authentic. I never want to hide myself away. That’s why I talk about mental health. I’m a very hopeful person. Always, always trying for better.

Time.

Another entity in my life is Time. When illness flares, time is there too, amplifying loneliness, warping perspectives, until thoughts last decades and hope falls off the edge of the earth. (Wow. That’s dramatic!)

Where did I go?

I’m likely at home, on my couch. I’ve managed to wake, shower, dress, eat and drink. I’ll boot up the PC and take care of work emails. Breathe in, hold, breathe out.

I’m there but not there. It’s The Fighter, taking charge of routine. We’ve got this down to a science. Priorities lined up in a pretty row. Fun podcasts lined up to distract me from those thoughts while I shuffle through mundane tasks.

In the bathroom mirror, I still exist. But personality is a nonissue. We focus on immediate needs, water-drinking, email answering. I am here. (But not really.)

[Pause]

I have attained many strengths because of The Fighter. The stoic face I wear to the doctor’s office, for example. I like to think my innate strengths transfer, too, blending identities. Open and stoic. Strong and vulnerable.

I am introverted, but I hate when mental health takes relationships fully offline. Robyn is out of office, please direct all inquiries elsewhere. The Fighter has never been much into socializing. And I despair. Will friends wait for me?

I constantly apologize for The Fighter. How could anyone be expected to understand? I don’t even understand myself! But I am here, under it all. The anxiety. The stress. The discouragement. The coping mechanisms. The exhaustion.

Robyn The Fighter

Hi. I am here. I battle and I laugh, I nerd out over books and tv shows. And I love my routine!

I love traveling and trying new foods. Making lists and making the same meals. Coffee and Cheerios. Green tea and dark chocolate. Listening to rock music for hours.

I’m the friend who cares about your stresses and emotions, hopes and passions! I never gossip. Give me a break because I’m processing a lot. But I have so much to give.

Please remember me when I am silent. I haven’t forgotten anyone. My life is just on survival mode. Soon, we’ll unpause. We’ll go for a walk, drink coffee, play a board game! When we do, you might see two identities – both survivors, both hilarious, both kind and caring.

That’s where I hope to be. 🖤

Anxiety · Hope · Poetry

Aftershock

If we compare the global pandemic

To an earthquake

A seismic event

The winter of ’22-’23 is an aftershock

~

It’s important to prepare

For aftershocks too

Even if they aren’t as violent

As the original threat itself

~

Help those who need help

Educate, take precautions

Immune systems are structures

Being re-fortified

~

Avoid unsafe areas

Keep first-aid and necessities stocked

Keep encouraging and bolstering too

Share provisions with those in need

~

We live on a faultline

Everyone faces fear differently

As we shakily move forward

Keeping together is more important than ever

❄️

Winter 2023

I’m shaken. I think everyone is and that’s the natural response to a global shift. It’s disheartening, discouraging as fear stretches beyond the pandemic. There’s no “new normal” that I can see, just billions of individuals struggling to carry on. Is “normal” even necessary for a good life?

Going forward, we seem to be much more self-aware and adaptable. Are these good things? For survival, we need both hope and strategy. Get hope from helping one another. Be prepared, well-educated, and responsible. Remember, invisible things mold our collective future – threats, but also fears and broken hearts.

Thank you for reading! 💙

Depression · mental health · Poetry

A Poem Called Sometimes

It’s okay to be not okay. You know? It’s okay if all I can blog now is this old poem.

You know what? I am brave to have told the important people in my life that I am struggling. I know life gets better – past experience has proven that. Sitting with my pain, I remind myself: this is valid. I am valid. I feel this way. I am surviving this.

Sometimes



Sometimes muscles are stone
Clothes binding limbs
Denim chafing skin

Sometimes joints inflame
Knuckles and knees
Craving release

Sometimes the mind numbs
Inert yet aware
Burning to care

A deadened doll form
Lifelike eyes pretend sleep
Pain is more than skin-deep.



Robyn
voiceofreasonbyrobyn.wordpress.com

I call this an “old poem” because it is about my experience as a teenager, not knowing what’s wrong with me. Sensory overload and anxiety and constant pain being my normal.

Do you feel like mental health is impossible to talk about? Me too, sometimes. Even if there are awareness days, even if the media is normalizing therapy. . . health is always a struggle. And mental health is usually the first sacrifice when times get tough.

One more time, it’s okay to be not okay.

Take care! ❤️

Please do not use my poem without permission.

• Music for mental health:

Music For Uncertain Times

• More mental health poetry:

A Poem Called The Fight

• Hope:

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (A Review)

• Getting help:

5 Crucial Truths About Medical Care

Note: If you need emergency support, reach out to a helpline immediately.

Anxiety · mental health · Poetry

The Fight

For a long time it seemed life had only one path forward. The Fight.

What I did not realize was that there were other people on earth who would understand. Trusting other people with my fight unleashed more hope. With hope, opportunities. There were innumerable ways we could fight together.

Anyway, this is a poem I wrote in 2018 and revised. I decided to share it for Mental Health Awareness Week in Canada. If you can relate, I hope you feel less alone.

Do not share my poem without permission. Thank you. 💚

The Fight

They tell me, 'Breathe'
'Calm down', 'Be bold'
They see a world
Without threat
'Where is the beast?'

Without The Fight
Where is hope?
Without hope
To defeat the beast
What is my life?

I fight without friends
Without needing care
And yet, you do care
Without even knowing
Where my fight ends

You know what I've done
Without giving up
Where have I ended up?
With my hope in closed doors
Hidden from the sun

Is anyone out there alive?
We could break out, unite
While this prison is my right
Walls won't deter me-
We need light to survive.

The theme: Accept help.

Because human connection is a type of hope, I am willing to team up, to fight differently. Walling off isn’t giving up. Accepting help isn’t giving up. 🖤

Stay strong. Thank you for reading! #MentalHealthAwareness #MentalHealthIsHealth #SickNotWeak

If you’re in a crisis and considering un-aliving yourself, remember there is treatment-reach out to a crisis line in your country: https://blog.opencounseling.co/suicide-hotlines/