Journey Towards Mental Wholeness

Journey Towards Mental Wholeness Using PianoPan 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 remind me of the hours I put into training my fingers when the sun would stream through the windows and I would wish so badly I were outside playing with my sister.

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.


if you need help, please access the following resources: Suicide Prevention Canada & Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA/Intl.) 1-800-273-8255


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  • Reply Joey July 17, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    Hey Grace. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been down. I’ve had many points in my life where I’d find myself depressed or searching for meaning and I think you’re on the right track with gratitude and reflecting on all that you have to be grateful for (or even how certain things that happened could’ve always gone much worse). I sincerely feel I’m at my happiest in life after bouts of meditation where I reflect on the things – irreplaceable and otherwise – I have to be grateful for and what it would be like to either lose them and/or what it was like for me in the past before I had the good fortune of obtaining them at all and at the end of the day, this is all just gratitude.

    And I don’t mean to pry or presume to know more than I do, but I also think you’re being extremely hard on yourself with respect to how you think you should be – or how people in general should be – versus realistically how we all actually are. “Most of us think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, but we are actually feeling creatures that think.” -Jill Bolte Taylor. We’re not always strong, reliable, smart, or any and all other things we want to be to the degree that we want to be. If history has proven us all anything, then it’s fallible. It also teaches us, however, that we operate at our best when we act boldly and without any trace of worry or anxiety, concerning ourselves only with the present and the things that are fully in our control (knowing full well that things may happen down the road to set us off-course, but we’ll handle them if and when they do just as we best handle the present – with our heads up without any trace of worry or anxiety). At the beginning of each day, the only things you should ever worry about (intentionally or otherwise) are those select few things completely under your control. This is the one and only means of achieving tranquility; “tranquility…comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do” -Marcus Aurelius.

    “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 think you’re looking at this the wrong way, Grace. Psychotherapy (different from psychiatry where medicine can be, but isn’t always, prescribed) in which you build a relationship with a medical professional (which board-certified psychotherapists are) in a non-judgmental one-on-one or group setting isn’t so much about waiting until you have a problem that’s so severe it requires the assistance of a medical professional (those who wait until this point are often so much in denial that they’re often unassistable) as it is seeking to become a better version of you. Think of psychotherapy no differently than you would learning to play the piano or learning to strength train at the gym; assuming your goal is seeking proficiency in being able to acquire and maintain a healthy mental state, you could study and learn to do everything on your own (although this is an ambitious maybe – how many people become great pianists or weightlifters studying entirely on their own?) with great time and effort or you can seek out an experienced professional that will exponentially hasten the pace at which you’re capable of achieving success.

    I think you’re really lucky to have a friend as close as Pan that you can confide in and be yourself around. The neuroses that spawn from feeling unable to just be truly be honest and yourself with people are, I feel, a driving force in the depression that plagues the human condition.

    • Reply Grace Lam July 20, 2018 at 9:09 am

      Hi Joey, thanks so much for this comment. I think you’re right that I was approaching it the wrong way and I really liked the quotes, especially the Jill Bolte Taylor one, because we often forget that we’re emotional creatures in the very end. I’m curious to get into meditation, actually, because I’d done yoga for years as an exercise. There’s a lot of pressure to be better in today’s society, so thanks, I needed to read this.

  • Reply Joceyln ( Lady J) July 18, 2018 at 4:01 am

    Morning Grace, I’ve been there. But you are right this too will pass. You must learn to take time for yourself and do some things that make you feel better, Happy. Because sometimes you get overwhelmed with daily duties. I too find peace in some songs that I use to play. Life is worth living , I promise. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning!!!

    • Reply Grace Lam July 20, 2018 at 9:11 am

      Thank you, Jocelyn. Piano has helped a lot, and you’re right about the dark times passing. They’re gone!

  • Reply carol July 18, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    yea — I’ve been there too. I feel the most happy when I get to sit down at the piano and just ‘belt out’ my fave pieces. it feels really good to get my fingers to pound on the keys when no one is at home. just me the piano and my kiity stitch. he hops onto the bench next to me and cuddles and puts his paw on my lap as i play. sometimes i feel like my dad is also watching me play. his forehead and eyes peeking over the newspaper as he sits in the dining room sipping his morning coffee. but it’s the little things that make me happy. like finding the hidden ice cream bar in the back of the freezer when you thought that there was none left. i love those things. they make me forget the daily grind of the office. :P

    • Reply Grace Lam July 20, 2018 at 9:13 am

      Thank you for sharing that, Carol. Often we forget the little things in life that should bring us joy. Finding ice cream is my favourite as well!

  • Reply Elise August 7, 2018 at 10:03 am

    I couldn’t understand you more as I’ve been going through the same thoughts lately. Honestly speaking, I still struggle with finding joy in life. But it’s in the depth of my pit that I realized that I wasn’t stuck in the conditions I was in. So since then, I started trading some work for relaxation, some bad friendships for some valuable time alone… No, I won’t be able to be perfect and tick off all of my resolutions for this year… but it’s fine too. I guess, so.

    • Reply Grace Lam August 8, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      Elise, thank you for sharing. I think we’re all on the right track and there’s no one-size-fits-all way to go about this. I’m really happy you were here writing this. Oh yea, I started doing yoga again, and I think it has helped me a lot.

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