Pan thinks I should see someone for my worrying. I keep thinking that I don’t have a serious enough problem to need a professional to examine my head. Actually, I was offended the first time he suggested it because it’s one thing to joke about being crazy, but another thing for someone else suggest that you’re damaged enough to need professional help. I always assumed that if I manage to get myself married I’ll need couples therapy or a shaman or whatever they go to to fix marriages, but not now – not for something as seemingly insignificant as worrying a little too much.
People (myself included, until recently) don’t realize that mental health is like physical health. If you have a fever, a friend can nurse you back to health for a week, but if you have cancer, you’ll need a doctor to put you back together, and in the same way, if you have a serious mental health problem, professional help is your best bet.
I first wanted to try and make some changes myself. I started to create little systems to manage my life and its stress, and here’s how I did it. Please note that I do not claim to be a health professional, and this is not medical advice, I do encourage you to seek professional help if needed.
Inspiring Role Models
When Terry Crews was cut from a football team, he would offer to paint star athletes’ portraits to earn a few thousand dollars. He was not a superstar football athlete but it opened a thriving career in entertainment, so while it might not be great for your pride, sometimes you have to set aside your pride if you’re looking for those successes.
Not being good at the first career you choose can easily send a person into a downward spiral, and in fact, a lot of people are not good at their career at first. Terry Crews turned it around and by his own admission, he is an unlikely statistic from Flint, Michigan.
If we peek at the bright side of each situation a bit more often, we might feel more grateful for what we do have.
Each time I almost get annoyed that I can’t play some of my favourite piano music at the same level as I used to play, I also remind myself that I am fortunate to have the muscle memory to play piano at all, given that I hadn’t practiced in many years.
So, each time I catch myself thinking a negative thought or complaint, I will tack on something I am grateful for in my life.
Work ≠ Fun Time
I made sure work time doesn’t bleed into fun time. I’m a strong advocator for giving something all you have, but unfortunately that also makes me ill.
So I have turned off notifications for work/side project messages on my personal phone and I only check them during work hours. I have a few months “off” from work, so I have hidden my work notifications and I only let a few close friends invade my personal time. Unfortunately, I still get overwhelmed with social media, so I’ve taken steps to reduce my exposure: I don’t have a facebook/instagram/twitter app on my phone, my only social app is reddit, which lives on the third page of my phone.
Treat distractions like a cookie jar: out of sight, slowly out of mind.
Finding Comfort in My Piano
A lot of things have made me cry recently. I will also admit that I have contemplated killing myself, last month, but I don’t have access to anything… that won’t cause pain. I really thought it through. Nothing happened, but Pan was concerned that I had those thoughts at all.
So I decided to play piano. It cleared my mind.
I play all my favourites that I can’t quite play perfectly anymore, but they make me happy.
I play the pieces that remind me of my dad when he would peek his head around the door.
I play the pieces that let me pound on the piano and also the pieces that let my fingers cry for me.
Where To Go Now…
It’s now probably a week and a half since… I had depressing thoughts. Pan and I compromised: I don’t have to see anyone if I promise to speak up if I ever have those thoughts again, and I will also talk to my good friend about it who is in counselling. I do not want to be on medication, ever. I have been doing all my favourite summer activities: mountain biking, hiking, swimming, and I am ashamed that I ever wanted to give this up. I look at my legs and they are already tastefully sprinkled with scars and bruises from this year’s summer activities and I haven’t even been surfing yet.
Today, I tell a friend about how I thought about killing myself, and I feel a bit lighter. She tells me it is okay to have those thoughts and to not feel ridiculous because those thoughts were real and actionable at one point in time and many people get lucky and nothing irreversible happens, but also many people are not so lucky and succeed in committing suicide or inflict irreversible damage upon themselves and they regret it afterwards.
I am telling you this because I am one of the lucky ones, and I hope with the bottom of my heart that you are one of the lucky ones as well. We all go through tough times, and I believe that we can get through them.
There are a lot of reasons a person may have thoughts about committing suicide or harming themselves and these reasons are very real in the moment, but the dark thoughts pass. If you are going through a tough time, this too shall pass. If you have thoughts about harming yourself, please talk to someone about it. Please seek help. Your life is worth living for, I swear.