Anxiety · Depression · mental health

Mental Health May 2023

πŸ’šπŸ’šπŸ’š

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. πŸ“š

‘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. β˜€οΈ

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! πŸ’š

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! πŸ’œ

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. πŸ–€

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! πŸ’™

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.

β€’ Music for mental health:

Music For Uncertain Times

β€’ More mental health poetry:

A Poem Called The Fight

β€’ Hope:

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (A Review)

β€’ Getting help:

5 Crucial Truths About Medical Care

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

Chronic illness · Isolation · mental health · Neurodivergent · Poetry

A Poem Called See Me

I’m a passive poet. I feel the feelings, form a few words. Some of them camp out in my notes for weeks – months – before I complete the verses. The longest time I’ve taken to finish a poem is, to date, 21 months.

It’s completed today! My journey has reached a milestone to be marked by sharing a poem. This poem is the culmination of pain and progress. It is called See Me.

See Me


Not asking the world to change
How it's going to see me
Not asking the earth to move
Just hoping that you'll reach me

Glad of being alone
Uncertain where I belong
Aching for kindred voices
Harmony without a song

Not asking the world to change
How it thinks I should be
Not making too much noise
Just hoping for room to breathe

Training my ears to listen
For notes never before heard
Song fills the space between us
Compassion behind your words

I'm asking the world to hear
The value in what I think
Not asking you to care
Just claiming the right to sing

Breathe in deep and shout
Saved up enough hope to try
Tearing through my world removed
There's pain in living a lie

I am asking the world to change
How it's trying to see me
The earth doesn't need to move
For voices to ring out freely.


Robyn S.
June 3, 2022
Please do not use this poem without express permission from myself.

Different brains. Different bodies. Our oppressed. Our marginalized. Our people.

Take your time to get there. Then use your unique voice for truth.

About this poem

Sometimes I don’t even know who I am reaching out to – I just hope someone will hear and understand. I pray into the night that I won’t give up on speaking. A weakened voice is still a voice. ‘See me.’

I always have enough strength to try my voice again. Maybe the person doesn’t speak my language. Maybe they expect me to speak theirs. Maybe they silence me, refusing to hear. A perspective is like a musical style. An acquired taste. Let’s not miss out on greatness! πŸ˜‰

Thank you for reading. Stay strong. πŸ–€

My other shared poems: The Fight, The Neurodivergent, Tethered