Mental Health: hope & light vs. darkness

I’ve watched the movie “Soul” so many times, and these words always break my heart:

You can’t crush a soul here, that’s what life is for.”

(22 to Joe Gardner in “Heaven”, Soul)

Life is hard, it can (literally) be soul-crushing. It can be painfully cruel, and it is definitely not always “fair”. I try to remember that there are more “good” people in the world than bad, and most people mean well, but we live in a world where half of Americans can’t agree on basic truths. There is so much division and inequality that it is difficult to stay positive and not be pulled into a dark and negative space. At the end of the day, when we are left with our own thoughts and little distraction, we can feel alone and vulnerable, and feelings of loneliness, sadness, or regret can crush one’s soul.

But what if those dark thoughts are not yours; they are the thoughts of someone you love, and worry about every single day… what if every time the phone rings, you worry that you will hear the panic, or rage, or sadness in their voice… you stop breathing and your heart sinks, and mentally you go back to “that” day last year when you discovered that your child didn’t want to live anymore; she was depressed and in such a dark place that she could not see that things could get better. It hurts so much to see your child in pain. When you are a mother, it doesn’t matter how old your child is… 8 years old or 28… the worrying never stops. So you pray, and you hope that today is a good day.

2020: the year of loss

2020: the year of loss

2020 was an unforgettable year that changed all of our lives, one way or another. As a nurse, my role was to show up and do my job, no matter what. We serve and care for others during a crisis… be it a pandemic, a destructive storm, or any other emergency that involves “essential workers” being placed in potentially dangerous conditions. Many healthcare workers have been traumatized by what they witnessed every single day during Covid. They were very brave; they felt the fear of the unknown, and they showed up anyway, in spite of it. They cared for the ill, and provided compassion and a hand to hold for those who passed. Covid changed all of us, for better or worse. Those images do not leave your head and can haunt you if you can’t separate work from your “real” life. For me, (just) being able to go into work and focus on others, gives me an opportunity to put my own “stuff” into perspective. After all, we get to go home at the end of our shift, our patients do not.

Mental Health Awareness

Please remember, as we say good-bye to May, which is Mental Health Awareness month, we need to continue to shine a light on the darkness and stigma of mental health, regardless of the month. The day-to-day struggles live on in so many of us. We all have things that we carry with us, and we all go through personal struggles; however, not everyone has the tools in their virtual mental health tool box to manage the rough waters that can pull us under, without a life preserver to keep our head above the water, and save us from drowning.

When one has mental health issues, they have to be brave (enough) to ask for help. But many cannot find the words to say it out loud for someone to hear (and help). This invisible illness is usually hidden and not talked about… often, until it’s too late. If only they held onto hope a little bit longer.

“Hope” is such a big word to me. It means so much more than the words that define it. It is everything. It is the past, present, and future. It is all of what you want things to be, and all that can be… it is the feeling that can keep someone holding on, and not giving up, despite being afraid.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. There is always at least one person who cares about you. There is always hope.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling, please remember that there are places to go to for help, and people who can support you:

Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center, text MHA to 741741, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.

Being brave

I reconnected with an old friend recently, and as we were catching-up on this crazy thing called life, he gently reminded me that we all have stories. While some stories are harder to tell than others, most of us are fortunate enough to have a surplus of great memories that we carry as a reminder of who we are, and where we’ve been.

Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” (Brené Brown)

Being brave can mean different things to each of us… it all depends on your ability to face your fears. Overcoming such an intense emotion isn’t easy; in fact, it can make us extremely uncomfortable, and is often the result of an act of love or necessity. My challenges with trying to be brave have changed as I have gotten older. As a child, being brave meant getting a “shot” from the doctor; as a teenager, it meant trying to overcome self-esteem issues; as an adult, it has been more about being honest when the truth was hard to hear; it was letting go after losing trust; it was starting over as a single mom. Being brave is stepping-up to a new challenge and trying again (and again) after failure. It is saying “yes” when every fiber of your being is feeling afraid and anxious and wants to (safely and comfortably) say “no”. Being brave is facing your fears and fighting a battle that you know you may not win, but will never give up trying.