The Little Things Are Where Recovery Begins

“im team ‘cool karen ive got depression and that means i’m going to try this because i’ve got to try something’ i’m team ‘romanticize recovery’ i’m team ‘it isn’t working now but it might in the future and it’s worth staying to find out’.”

inkskinned

For as long as I can remember depression, anxiety, and god knows what other undiagnosed mental illnesses have been a part of my life. Some of it is nature, I believe. Some of it is nurture, I’m sure. But some of it is just being alive, being a person, being scared, and being hurt and disappointed by life.

Healing is a long journey I am still walking, and one I may walk forever, but I am always getting closer. Through trial and error, research and professional help, and, mostly, fumbling around in the dark, I am learning more and more about what works and what doesn’t.

The first time I sought help a therapist told me—after hearing about the bad things that happened to me, the stupid things I cried about, and all the ways I was hurting myself and others—that everything I felt and did was a perfectly normal response, considering what I had been through.

That is, anxiety, self-loathing, self-destruction, unstable relationships, and depression, were not at all indications that I was broken, or flawed, or unworthy of love. Mental illness is a perfectly human way of existing in this world.

The second time was someone I loved very much pointing out that depression and anxiety are not just illness. They are lies told to you by your own mind. The voices telling you that you are stupid, that you are ugly, that you don’t deserve happiness, that you don’t deserve life, that nothing will ever get better for you, it’s all a fucking lie. Every time that lie is spoken to you, you can speak right back. You can call out the lie. Like any liar who has been caught, your illness will double down when you confront it, but you just let it know that no matter how loud it gets, or what evidence it twists, you will never believe it.

It took me a long time to internalize these lessons, and some days I still struggle to stay on the track, but lately, It’s like I’ve hit a roadblock. My progress is slowing, and now, on my bad days, it feels more and more like I’m taking steps backward.

But my instincts tell me that when roadblocks are met, there are more lessons to be learned.

 

“There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold- with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.”

― Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees

Earlier this year I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis—a chronic, incurable autoimmune disease that primarily affects the colon. Learning to live with a chronic physical illness, with the impact on my life as well as my emotions and the bunk advice from people who just don’t get it has really opened my eyes.

I’m learning to accept that life isn’t fair, but it’s still good. I’m learning to accept that even when your body fails and betrays you, it’s still a good body. I am learning that even when you are in a bad situation, there is still room for gratitude.

But the biggest lesson of all, the one I really need to internalize right now, is that just because there is no cure, that doesn’t mean treatment is useless, and that treatment is in every little thing that you do.

After my diagnosis, my doctor explained that treatment meant more than just visits to her office and medication. It included taking care of my stress levels, getting in tune with my body, asking for help when I need it, exercising and learning to eat well, drinking water, and making self-care a top priority.

She literally told me to meditate, do yoga, think positive thoughts, and do whatever it takes to get to my “Zen place” because the immune system is directly influenced by stress, anxiety, and emotions.

She added that, of course, none of that will stop my immune system from attacking the lining of my large intestines. There is no cure for ulcerative colitis, but taking care of myself in these little ways will help me achieve remission, and stay in remission, longer. She told me that even when I am too tired, and even when it hurts, even on my worst days, I have to try.

Depression, anxiety, and many other types of mental illness function the same way. You start with the little things, and all these little things are part of your treatment. They keep you healthy enough and strong enough to fight.

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of frustration and anger in the comments and replies of posts and tweets regarding simple self-care reminders and tips as part of treatment. The new thing is to shout about how no one understands depression and nothing can help, that reminding people to shower, eat well, take a walk, drink more water, text their friends, or say something positive to themselves when they can, is bad advice. Those, in my opinion, are the lies I was talking about before and now, with social media taking up so much more of our time and attention, and with our online relationships becoming more and more significant, these lies are finding a new way to spread and take hold.

It’s understandable that after years of being dismissed or misdiagnosed a person might be sensitive to the ways mental illness is discussed by “neurotypicals,” but a lot of what I’ve seen online is too far to the other end of the spectrum. Mental illness may or may not be curable, depending on the cause, but it is under all circumstances treatable. Saying that out loud doesn’t have anything to do with how serious a person’s condition is, and it isn’t dismissive of the struggle and hardships sufferers endure on a day-to-day basis.

And, yes, some of the pushback is warranted. Some people do believe that mental illness is a choice, a weakness of character or failure to control one’s thought, or to properly care for the body and that a diet change and a little sunshine will cure you. Yes, those people fail to understand what depression is, but you have to learn to separate their misunderstanding from what it means to properly care for yourself. You have to take a step back look at how you might be perpetuating bad practices and beliefs about mental illness when you dismiss advice that might help someone else.

We have to be careful how we say things, and we have to be open to letting people heal in the way that makes sense for them. We have to be careful about confusing what doesn’t work at all and what doesn’t work for me.

There are some who may be losing a battle right now, they may be looking for help and what you say can sway their resolve either way, especially when they are young, or newly diagnosed, or undiagnosed but in need of help. To tell them there is no getting better is to perpetuate the same lie their illness is telling them. We have to change the narrative. You may not be cured, but you most certainly can get better!

Every treatment option doesn’t work for everyone, and certainly, none of them work for the same person all of the time either, but any doctor will tell you that to fight a disease you have to do all these little things if you want to be strong enough to fight.

Let others start with just being able to get out of bed and eat something so they can take their medication. Let others start by getting outside, taking a walk, and enjoying a damn sunset, so they can get out of their own heads for a minute. Let others have their face masks, bath bombs, and glittery nail polish so they can love themselves for a moment today. Let other people have silly conversations, and laugh a little, so they don’t feel so alone. Let other people try things!

Some days wallowing might be the best you can do, but it is no long-term strategy. Remission is the primary goal. You might not know what “no evidence of disease” will mean for you yet, but you don’t have to. All you have to do is keep working toward the best and healthiest life that you can have.

So I guess that’s what I am trying to do here. I am saying to you and to myself that, yeah, it sucks to wake up every morning feeling the way we do, and I know that people don’t get it and everyone thinks they know what’s best for us but please, don’t give up. Please, don’t shut yourself off from things that might help.

Be honest with yourself about what healthy means and what you know you struggle with. Be honest about what you haven’t even been trying to do, and try to do it. Try eating something today. Try taking a shower. Try drinking more water. Try a face mask. Try getting out into the sun. Try texting a friend. Try looking in the mirror and saying one nice thing. Try breathing. Try helping someone else try.

It might not cure you, but it might make you strong enough to find a cure someday.

***

Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Featured photo by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplash

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If We Were Having Coffee // Halloween Isn’t Over Yet

Hello dear readers! Thank you so much for stopping by today for a bit of cold brew and conversation. I’m up and moving about with the blinds thrown open and the sun streaming in but I feel far from awake. The stupid time change is enough to throw your circadian rhythm off, but I also stupidly decided to stay up late last night for no reason at all besides I hate giving up so much of my life to sleep.

I’m no good after late nights anymore. No matter how late I let myself sleep in the next morning, I still feel groggy through to the next evening. I’m less myself and certainly less productive. The early bird gets the worm, sure, but only if she’s had enough rest to keep her eyes open and her thoughts coherent, right? Coffee helps, but I’ll still need you to be patient with me today too.

“There are two kinds of people. Coffee people and sad people.”

@deathwishcoffee

***

If we were having coffee, I would need a minute to recall what all has happened since we last sat done. It’s been a little while, hasn’t it? I don’t think we’ve chatted since at least before Halloween. I don’t usually take such long breaks from these dates, and I don’t have a good reason for it this time except I’ve been feeling down. Not sad exactly, but like I’m empty. I have no ideas, no energy, no interest. I feel thin, transparent, fragile? None of these words describe it quite right.

My girlfriend calls it depressed, but it’s hard for me to use that word. I think I’ve only been lazy, and selfish, and weak, but I’m trying not to feel that way, and I’m trying not to apologize for resting or removing myself as I need to. I only wish I was better at expressing how I feel instead of just sort of fading out of people’s lives with no explanation.

The good news is that I had a sort of revelation recently and I’ve come to accept that while it’s not my fault I am feeling this way, it is up to me to start doing something about it. I haven’t been out of the house much, except for work. I haven’t been exercising. My eating habits have gotten bad again. I’m focusing on other people’s successes and my contrasting failure. I’m struggling to want to do things I love, like writing, drawing, and reading, and falling too easily into doing things I know don’t make me feel good, like playing games on my phone, wasting time on social media, and sleeping.

No wonder I am depressed. But I’m going to make more of an effort to get out and feel the sun and go to places where there are other people. I’m going to eat more fruit, drink more water, and say a few nice things to myself and to the people around me. I’m going to go for walks in the evening and try to get in a quick 15-minutes work out in the morning when I wake up. Those are my goals anyway, it won’t happen overnight. I need to get help too, but that’s a bigger ball of anxiety than I can get over at the moment.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that Halloween wasn’t all I had hoped it would be. We dressed up as Coraline and Wybie from the 2009 film Coraline. I wish we’d had more time to prepare because I didn’t get to make his mask and no one really knew what I was supposed to be. We did have fun at our friend’s party, but a very inconveniently timed migraine meant we had to call it a night earlier than we’d hoped.

Still, the rest of Halloween was great, and I’m even planning to have one last night of spooky celebration this Tuesday when my favorite movie theater, Alamo Drafthouse, is showing my favorite horror film, The Shining. Around here Halloween isn’t over until we’ve watched it and getting a chance to see it on the big screen (and get an awesome t-shirt too) is beyond exciting.

Once we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’ll be time for the customary watching of the transitional holiday film The Nightmare Before Christmas. Then and only then will I be able to fully accept that Halloween is over, and the god-awful holiday season of stress has begun.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that even though it has been hard some days, I have been doing my best to read more. I tell myself that if my brain is so out of it that I can’t write, and if my self-doubt is so intense that I can’t draw, then I need to be reading.

I got through The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, a beautiful and effortless read and Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, a strenuous yet rewarding read. I thought it was time for a little nonfiction again and picked up A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, an interesting and rather incendiary read so far. I have Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman to read next, but after that, I’m not so sure.

A few days ago I did come across a list of 135 Free Philosophy Books and another list of 800 Free eBooks that would be plenty to keep me busy for a while. I’ve never been very good at reading from a screen, but if there are free books to be had, I’m willing to put in the effort and learn.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that on the writing side of things, it really hasn’t been so bad. I’m writing, I’m just not posting, and to be honest with you, I don’t have much of a problem with that.

I have a few things written for the upcoming week, and I feel a little freer to work on things that are important, not just urgent. I never wanted to only be a blogger. The goal has always been to be an author, but it’s hard when you feel like people now expect things of you, and you now expect things of yourself, and you can’t switch gears as easily as you’d like.

I love this space, but I need space in my life for other kinds of work too. I need to stop worrying about content, posting times, follower counts, and engagement, and about how I’m failing at all of those things.

I need to write with pen and paper and spend a lot more time getting bored so I can think. What I’m trying to tell you is that things might get a little inconsistent around here but don’t worry, I won’t abandon you without saying something. I won’t drop off the face of the internet the way I have seen so many other bloggers do. I haven’t posted in a while be patient, I’m coming back, I promise.

***

If we were having coffee, I would say that it was about that time that I get going on this housework. The time change still has my mind and body feeling all out of whack. It feels later than it is and I’m panicking even though I shouldn’t so I’d better get going anyway. No harm it getting it all done early I suppose.

I hope you’ve been well these last few weeks since we’ve talked, and I hope we can all get through the coming months with a little more cheer and grace than we’ve been expressing toward one another as of late. Let me know what you’ve been up to lately in the comments, I’ll be around today, and I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time.

***

Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written for the #WeekendCoffeeShare link-up, now hosted over at Eclectic Alli!

Featured photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

 

We are Not Okay, and That’s Okay

“I do not believe anyone can be perfectly well, who has a brain and a heart”

― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I’ve struggled my whole life with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and a general sense of guilt for just about every wrong ever committed. I’ve believed I didn’t deserve love, or happiness, or even my life. The weight of who I am and who I was is heavy on my heart while the weight of who I will be and when I will die weighs heavily on my mind.

I think about how time is running out, and I’ve made so many mistakes, and I’m not sure if this life I’ve is better than another life I could have had.

I don’t know whether to step this way or that, quite my job or stay, move to a new state or learn to love the one I am in. I don’t know if people like me or why I should care. I don’t know if this political party is right or the other and I don’t know how to fix myself or the world. So I am frozen, and I have no way to work through it or even know if I am alone.

I am not okay.

I feel so much, every moment of every day that in order to focus and move forward in life I’ve had to learn to shut it off, to zone out, to numb myself. We all do it. When we work, when we are with family and friends, when we are posting selfies, when we are posting witty comments on the timeline, and especially when we are alone. We shut off all that emotion, we do it our whole lives, and we forget how to cope with what it means to be alive.

I am a thinking, feeling, wanting human being, and it hurts. It’s confusing and scary and damn hard. It’s humiliating and terribly unfair, and I’m tired of trying to pretend it isn’t.

I can get through my day with a smile. I have to because to bring all the baggage of the human condition to work, or home to my girlfriend, or dump it on my friends, seems cruel. But if I am shutting off my “humanness”” just to get through my day, my life, then who or what am I? And why am I here at all?

I am not okay, at all, and but I don’t think very many of us are.

Billions and billions of us of us are going to and fro working our little jobs and connecting. We talk, meet for coffee, hold meetings, network, and update our statuses, but none of it seems to get to all that anxiety and fear we carry. We never admit that just inside ourselves below the facade, we show the world is an ocean of panic.

And it only seems to be getting worse. All this technology, bringing us together, they say, but I only ever feel pulled further and further away from who I really am. I mean, if the selves we are bringing together are only shells, pretending to be happy, pretending everything is fine, then we are only going to get lonelier and lonelier, and we will never learn to cope with what it means to be human. In the end, pushing it all down is only going to make the ocean of anxiety below the surface bubble and rise, wholly out of your control.

So, this week, take a few furtive glances inside yourself and ask, are you dealing with your fear, your pain, your uncertainty? Are you letting yourself feel human? Get below the surface, deep down, in the parts of ourselves we never visit, where all the deep questions are asked and never answered.

Get uncomfortable with what is down there and with who you are, and admit you are not okay.

We are not okay, but that’s okay. If you aren’t okay, it means you are alive, and aware, and feeling. It means you are human and functioning just the way you should. Don’t ever be ashamed of that. Don’t ever hide it and don’t ask others to either. Instead, talk to someone about it, and let them talk too. Maybe if we say it out loud, that life is hard, and we have no idea what we are doing, and that we are afraid, we’ll feel a little less not okay, or at least a little less alone.

Life will still hurt. You will still suffer and be afraid, but at least we won’t be pretending.

At least we won’t be afraid of who we are.

***

Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + some of my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Featured image via Unsplash

If We Were Having Coffee // Post-Election Depression

Hello, dear readers. Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Things have been hard this past week, for obvious reasons, and also I haven’t been sleeping well or reaching very many of my goals. I am depressed, I think. Nothing seems good, interesting, exciting, or possible at the moment.

Some coffee date I am, huh?

***

If we were having coffee, I would do my best to avoid bringing up the election but if you so much as mention either candidate or ask me who I voted for I may just lose it. I am flipping between feelings of anger, disappointment, and fear, plus I feel stupid and weak for feeling the way I do. So many people on social media are telling people like me to stop being such whiny babies and to suck it up and move on. It’s hard not to wonder if they might be right.

It’s not so much that I am worried about President-elect Trump, it’s more like I’m worried about rest of the government plus Trump. The Republican party has a long history of hating people like me—black, female, gay—and I hate to think what may be coming now that the US has written them a blank check and elected very few who will check them. For some Americans, this may be a very long and painful four years.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you my anger has been directed in nearly every direction. I’m doing my best not to let individuals get caught up in the crossfire but instead focus on demographics and the obvious sentiments and secret thoughts of entire swaths of the American public.

Saw a lot of people telling others how they should feel today. People saying we should get over it, move on, and unite! Um, how about hell no! I am angry, and I will be for a very long time. If you aren’t then congrats! You don’t fall into one of the groups that Republicans have been shitting on for as long as you can remember. I’ll get you a cookie. Unfortunately, a lot of people do. Unfortunately, I do. Politicians have been telling me my whole life I am going to hell, that I don’t matter, and that I am in need of “correction.” They told me my love would tear the country apart and that I didn’t deserve a family. Those politicians just took control of every branch of this government. For some of us, this hurts. For some of us, this is scary. So yeah, I’ll be losing friends over this. Yeah, I’m going to be angry. Yeah, I am going to bitch. If you can’t understand that, support that, or give me space to do that, then we were probably never friends anyway.

— One of my recent Facebook posts.

Unfortunately, that isn’t working out so well. There have been a few friends unfriended and blocked on Facebook and some who received a lecture and the silent treatment in real life. It’s hard to accept that so many people put other lives and freedoms in danger merely because they wanted to watch the world burn in the hopes that our government might be born anew. I hope those people understand the gravity of their decision in the coming years, but I doubt it.

Privilege is one hell of a drug.

***

If we were having coffee, I would try my best to move on. No one likes to talk politics for very long, do they? I would probably mention the thrilling and surprisingly funny but also a bit uncomfortably erotic movie The Handmaiden, an “erotic psychological thriller” about a pickpocket and a con man plotting to seduce a wealthy woman out of her inheritance.

It’s based on a book titled Fingersmith—which is also very good—by Sarah Waters but the setting has been moved from  Victorian era Britain to “Korea under Japanese colonial rule.”

I think I’ll write one of my proper reviews of this movie, but it’ll be awhile before I can wrap my head around it. It was a lot, a little too much maybe. I have an issue with movies that over sexualize lesbian and gay relationships, especially when I’m not sure it adds to the story. Then again, who am I to judge someone else’s art, right?

I’ll leave you with the intriguing trailer and the assurance that it is, in fact, an excellent film.

 

***

If we were having coffee, I would briefly mention my NaNoWriMo word counts. They are sad. I’m sitting at 11,685 words, which is so much better than zero words but so much worse than the 21,666 words I should have by now. I could still do this, if I just got my shit together, sat my ass in the seat, and wrote the damn thing!

I have two problems, though.

Number one, I don’t know what happens next. I’ve written a few scenes, and I have given my characters some exciting conflicts to get through. I have explosions and car chases. I have love interests, heart breaks, and deaths. I have a message and a moral, but I am missing something. I am missing a route to the big climax and a clear idea of who the ultimate villain is and what they want. I don’t know how my character saves the world and I am not even sure why she wants to. I am missing the hook.

My second issue is one of motivation. I am one of those people who gives up when I’ve fallen too far behind or when the odds of my success begin to dwindle. I can’t make myself see that I can do this with just a little extra work. Deep down I feel like the battle is already lost, so I can’t get my mind to focus. Sigh.

For now, I am going to work on expanding what I have and adding dialog.

***

If we were having coffee, I would thank you for lending my your ear and letting me know there are people out there who care enough to listen. It means a lot. I have been nearly absent from everywhere on the internet except for Twitter. My Twitter feed is filled with people who understand how I am feeling and I have been drawn there more than uncertain places like WordPress or Facebook. I will be back. I just need to get out of this funk, but I am afraid it may take a while.

In the meantime feel free to drop a note in the comments. I’d like to hear how you are doing—especially if you are also participating in NaNoWriMo—and how you physically and emotionally reacting to hearing President-elect Trump over and over again. Just typing makes my skin crawl and my stomach turn. Ugh.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your weekend and that your work week will be a little better than the last.

Until next time :)

***

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Featured image via Unsplash

Short and Sweet Reviews // Small Ghost by Trista Mateer

because she’s nothing
because she’s nothing
because she’s nothing

but it takes an awful lot of work to be nothing sometimes

Trista Mateer, Small Ghost

I’ve been following Trista Mateer on Tumblr for a while now, and when she announced that her newest chapbook Small Ghost was free on Amazon for a limited time, I dropped everything I was doing to download it. I was not disappointed. This little book is packed with a ton of raw and real emotion. It left me in tears, both the sad and the happy kind.

Small Ghost is a collection of poems that tell the story of a girl, Small Ghost, who is coping with depression and anxiety. Smal Ghost has an apartment she can’t keep clean. She has shopping she can’t get done. She has emotions she can’t process. Small Ghost struggles to feel real. She wants to get better, but she isn’t sure how. She isn’t even sure exactly what is wrong. She is sad, but she is also kind of funny, kind of cute, and deep down, maybe a little hopeful.

she does something close to pacing in the fruit juice aisle
starts crying next to the cranberry concentrate
doesn’t remember why

Trista Mateer, Small Ghost

Throughout the story, you will recognize a lot of Small Ghost’s feelings and predicaments as your own. You’ll remember all the times you felt lost and alone, and you will cheer for Small Ghost. You will want to hug her and tell her it will be okay and by the end, you will realize you want to do that for yourself too. You won’t feel so lost or alone because Mateer will have you feeling hope for yourself too.

for anybody who feels like they’d rather
pull the sheet over their head and play dead
than get out of bed in the morning

Trista Mateer, Small Ghost

***

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Ask For Help, and Keep on Asking Until You Get It

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s imagine that Mondays are the days when we get to start all over again. Let’s imagine all the bad things that happened last week don’t matter anymore and that we’ve been given a second chance to do it all again, and this time, we might even get it right.

From now on Monday’s are for making the changes we want to see in ourselves, and for thinking about the changes we want to see in the world. Monday’s are our new favorite days!

As for me, this Monday is a bit stressful, but I am proud of myself for keeping a cool head. My driver showed up half an hour late, which means not only were we late picking up our kids, and the parent was mad, but everything else I had to do today has been pushed back too. I am doing my best to catch up, but I fear it may be a lost cause. I’ll be late to everything until lunch.

“It’s never overreacting to ask for what you want and need.”

— Amy Poehler

My childhood wasn’t a particularly good one, and I have grown into an adult who struggles with depression and anxiety, and more specifically issues with boundaries, trust, and relationships of all kinds.

I do not like to be close to people, emotionally or physically. I fear there is always an ulterior motive, even with friends and family. I have a perpetually feeling of embarrassment and confusion around social norms and etiquette. I feel ashamed and afraid most of the time, and I am sad nearly all of the time. I suffer from panic attacks and bouts of depression, flashing rage, and uncontrollable crying. In my own mind, I am worthless, weak, ugly, dirty, and pathetic. I am a failure and a waste of space.

Some days I feel like I am swimming upstream and close to drowning. Some days just getting out of bed, and putting one foot in front of the other is the very best I can do.

There have been days where I wondered whether it might be better for everyone if I were to never wake up again.

I’ve had some therapy, but for most of my life I couldn’t afford it, so I’ve taken the unsure and unstable route of “self-help.” I have improved a lot through self-awareness, honesty, and forgiveness. I still think all the things I always have, but now I recognize them for what they are, symptoms of my past.

 

Getting there has been a lot of hard work, but it all started with one very small, but very big, step. Simply telling myself, and everyone around me, exactly what I needed.

I may need to be heard, be hugged, or be left alone. I may need to hear that I am understood, forgiven, and loved. Maybe need to be told what I am feeling is okay and I may need to be given the space to feel it. Maybe I need someone to hold my hand. I might need to gather my thoughts, to get away, to figure out how I feel. I might need to feel needed. I might just need food, medication, or water.

I might need help, and that is okay.

We live in a society that tells us to be strong we must hold our own. We are told that needed help is weakness and asking for help is something to feel shame for. It is so deeply a part of who we are now, especially as Americans, that I still have trouble asking for help and I still have thought that those who asked were weak. It’s a lesson I have to keep learning, and I wish more of us were learning it too.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength. You have found it in yourself to reach out toward another human being and trust them to hear you and help you. It’s scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Each of us would love to help a friend who needed us and each of us would love to be helped too. To feel needed, understood, and cared for are all feelings we are looking for, no matter what our mental health status. We crave that closeness, and long to be that vulnerable.

Being open about my needs, and asking for help, helped me build relationships and learn to trust. It helped me recognize the ways I was hurting myself by not getting what I needed and allowed others to feel close to me and show their love. It gave me a chance to feel in control of my mental state. It gave me the chance to learn to cope and to heal. Asking for help opened to door for me to be able to do everything else I needed to do to get to where I am: happier, healthier, and functioning. I could never have made it this far with the help of others. None of us can.

This week, tell yourself, and a few people you trust, what you need.

There is a lot more to healing and coping with mental illness, but it all starts with the act of openness and asking. Ask for help, ask for what you need, and keep on asking until you get it, and then ask again whenever the need arises. Offer help when you can and let everyone you know hear that it is okay to do the same.

The world needs so much more of that.

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