The Stigma of Mental Health, Ups and Downs, & Emotions
It feels good to write again. And I have a big topic I want to tackle today. This last week, I have had a series of conversations with my friends about emotions and mental health. We talked about all the different emotions we feel at college and in life and our mental health struggles. God, where do I start?
Well, I’ll start with me. I encourage you to listen to my latest podcast about the ebbs and flows of life before you dig into this blog. Hit the podcast link above to listen (or search the Deep Talk on spotify/apple podcasts).
The week before this one was an amazing week. My days were filled with laughter and joy, I was eating really well and making it to the gym, my passion and motivation were off the charts, and I felt loved and content. My grades looked great and I got my hair done. I was feeling good. This week on the other hand… was a shit show. A terrible cough, minimum sleep, depressive and anxious thoughts and mindset, and low motivation. Where did my happy week go?
I just got off the phone with a friend and we were talking about the ups and downs of college. We asked questions like, “Why do I feel every emotion at college constantly?” “Why are there so many ups and downs?” Yesterday I had a talk with my friends about how hard our first year of college was and how we felt so extremely sad, lonely, etc, and now how we have amazing weeks and super difficult weeks and that the full range of emotions is seriously upon us. I chat with my best friends constantly about how rapid our emotions are to change and how strange and confusing it is. How difficult it is to feel emotions with such depth. And not always the “good emotions.”
I brought these questions to my therapist today. She reminded me that while I had 2 days this week where I felt pretty depressed and anxious, I walked with each day and pulled out my coping strategies. I did yoga, I ate well, I dressed up, and I exercised my mantras beyond belief. I woke up the first day feeling like crap, and the next day a little better. By the third day, I was back at it again. Feeling fully like me. And extremely happy and full again. She reminded me that happiness always comes around again. And that life is a god damn circle, swinging me through each emotion, always bringing me full circle.
What was the difference?
I asked myself what I was doing differently. Well yes, I used a lot of coping skills, but, why was I feeling so awful the first days and so great the next when nothing in particular happened? I spiraled into questions like, “Oh god, am I bipolar?” Yes, I frantically went on WebMD. No, I don’t have herpes or diabetes. After many articles of reading, I came to the conclusion that I am just freakin’ human.
Oh, and I am a college kid with a lot going on. I left my comfortable, easy life to live in an environment of constant learning (which comes with stress). I am also expected to eat well, exercise, have friends, go out and have a social life, have good grades, and figure out what the hell I am doing with my life. Don’t forget the boy drama, the shitty friends that can pop into your life, mental health struggles, and trying to figure out timing with everything. Oh, I gotta grow up too. And that comes with growing pains. There’s a lot going on. And honestly, you have to remember your circumstances and be proud of your ability to keep on keepin’ on.
Life is a range of every emotion. I can’t tell you why you’re sad for no reason one day and happy the next. I can’t explain to you why you might feel every single emotion in one day.
But what I can tell you is that you’re allowed to have a bad day. You’ve heard this before, but have you lived it? Have you allowed yourself to wake up feeling like crap and go through your day not worrying too much about it?. And if you’re feeling bad, cope the best you can, and then let it be. Listen to some music, go to yoga, and don’t try too hard to “fix” yourself.
My therapist told me that I go through my days being afraid to feel sadness. Let me give you an analogy. When you back your car out of the parking spot and try not to hit the pole, you’re still focusing on the pole. You’ll hit it anyways because you’re thinking about it. I used to go through my days so scared of depression that when it came (and it came more often due to this mindset), it confirmed my beliefs that I’d always feel that way. If you go through your day, awakening with a positive mindset and not being afraid of an emotion, you’re less likely to “hit” that sadness. And when you do (I say when because it will inevitably come), you’ll be more equipped. You knew it would come and you’ll get through it because you lack the fear. You’ll roll your eyes like you do to your grandpa when he makes a bad joke. You knew it would come, it definitely made you feel weird, but it came and it went.
Next time you feel sad or honestly, anything but happy, try timing your emotions and realize how little they come in the grand scheme of things. A couple hours? A day or two? Even a week is only the smallest section of life. Happiness is beautiful. It’s made beautiful by comparing it to other emotions. It’s a gift that comes from the growth of struggles and pain.
I’m not saying that depression, anxiety, sadness, anger, loneliness, and frustration aren’t bad feelings. I’m telling you that they are normal and they aren’t singularly attacking you. We all have bad days. But many of us feel these things with resentment or wish upon them to leave. How much easier would your life be if you felt an emotion, said hello to it, and kept going? It’s going to come. Are you ready? Or are you afraid?
Walk through your day and be. Look at you, you growing and spiritual being, feeling those emotions, being fearless.
Yes, you. It’s you! You got it.