Are mental health and emotional health the same thing? I’m starting to feel like there’s a distinction in my head, and sometimes I don’t manage to pay attention to both.
I tend to think, well, if I am doing some reflection and getting enough sleep, and doing things that keep the endorphins high, then I’m doing some pretty decent self care. And yet… sometimes I can tell there’s a deeper layer that’s increasing in activity under the surface that I’m just not quite getting down to uncovering and discovering yet. Like the surface of the earth’s crust, there’s a rumbling going on in the depths of my mind that should probably be addressed before some shit goes down. I think my brain had an earthquake this week.
Wow, I really am the queen of metaphors, huh?
I can always tell I’m losing it a bit when the weeks behind me live in my brain as a chaotic blur instead of a linear chain of events.
When I first moved to Nashville, I was having the same problem. The days slipped by and felt entirely out of my control. Mom had just passed away. Not only did everything feel new and uncomfortable, but I was also simply, desperately sad.
I developed a tactic to keep my head on straight. In fact, I even wrote about it for one of my earliest pieces on here! But I stopped using that tool once I felt it was no longer necessary. Damn, maybe I should go back and read that post…
And that’s exactly my point. Sometimes you gotta fall back on your old GOOD habits. There’s no shame in needing to revisit something you thought you no longer needed. Life doesn’t work like that- no matter how much we arm ourselves with information about ourselves or neurology or psychology, resilience is a lifelong practice. Practice is the key word here. You will never get enough.
So. I pulled out my planner. And like a total loser, I went through each day of the last two months and made an entry of all the good things. Because that’s what I used to do, I listed the events and most importantly my wins every single day. No matter how big.
I know it sounds Type A and analytical but you know what? It totally is, and it works. Remember how we used to read a book for high school English class, and then write a paper? But first you had to know that story really well, take note of all the little details, re-read portions, flip through the pages. I have always written my way out of my own head, so I guess that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m re-reading the story of my past few months, and suddenly it makes a whole lot more sense. I’m noting patterns, seeing themes, and getting clarity on all of our roles in the recent events. Heck, maybe I’ll be crazy and do all of 2020 (just the highlights).
And ya know what? This exercise didn’t fix everything because of course nothing will.
Life is still really, REALLY hard right now.
But damn, it sure did help a ton. I have clarity I haven’t had in months.
I know this isn’t for everyone- I guess I’m mostly just saying that sometimes you have to do your homework and study your own life. It’s geeky. It’s work. And like all that work we did in school, it was worth it.
If you didn’t go back and read that 2018 post like I did, here’s a tip from my old self… gosh, she was wiser than she let herself believe.
“I actually think this, what I am about to tell you, is a great lesson to learn for anyone in their twenties. No matter the situation, it’s important to celebrate our little victories, to delight in our productivity, and to reflect on our day-to-day patterns. I’m not all that great at what they call mindfulness, so I try to buy back my mental health “cred” with reflection. Not sure it’s working, but at least it’s something, right?
I’m happy to say I don’t need the planner as desperately as I used to. Yes, I still use it as a tool because I know that it just plain ol’ makes it easier for me to have faith in myself. That’s the whole point. Give yourself compassion, and do it frequently. I hope you find a way to recognize all of the amazing work you do to move forward with your life. Being A Grieving Twenty Something IS NOT easy. It IS a full-time job. You should be proud of yourself for getting this far.”