"The human spirit, while resilient, is fragile. Not only are our bodies susceptible to harm, but our minds, the very instrument that produces creativity, ideas, and connection, is also at the mercy of danger. As a culture, have we explored the multifaceted dimensions of mental health? Scientists have their research, but can we talk about it without feeling ashamed or uneasy? The common cold, a broken bone, and even cancer have all found a place in 'normal' conversations. But, what about the health of the mind? Why have we been so afraid to discuss, share or recognize that sickness and brokenness do not stop at the mechanics of the brain? Is it too much to acknowledge that stress and anxiety are as damaging as a disease, or even a gateway to illness? What about the realization that suffering and pain can just as well be rooted in trauma and crisis as it is in physical health? How about that our heads are only separated from our hearts by inches? It is all connected."
- Letters from the Founders: Elena Baxter and Rachel Baxter
"Mental health is a prevalent issue that is somehow still a silent topic within our communities. Globally, 350 million people suffer from depression, and within the United States, 61.5 million (1 in 4) people experience a mental illness within a given year. Studies show that one-half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14, and despite effective treatment, there is a huge chasm between diagnoses, first appearance of symptoms, and when a person actually gets help. We need to bridge this gap and gain a better understanding of what is deterring people from getting help. Is it shame? Is it a lack of resources within communities, or is it a lack of awareness and education around issues? Whatever it is, it is important we find out, or we will continue to lose lives and see an increase in behavioral and mental health disorders."
- Minaa B.
"In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others."
- Brennan Manning
one of many quotes featured in the issue
Conscious Magazine is a social good publication I subscribed to about a year ago. It is beautiful and a reminder of why I fell in love with magazines. When executed well they're such havens for excellent writing and art. Every issue of Conscious has a theme and its most recent (06) is mental health.
Spring is here, and I'm happy to report a renewed sense of optimism has arrived with the season. This winter I've made a conscious effort to be more mindful of how I take care of myself when it comes to eating, exercise, my morning routines, and the energy in my budding home. But I've struggled with the best ways to approach my mental health. Modifying the afore-mentioned things has definitely helped but I still have so easily resorted to negative and fearful thinking, depression, and anxiety.
These feelings were no doubt exacerbated by the long, cold winter. The end of a relationship and friendship I didn't want to let go of; the realization I felt a profound love for a person who would never return it. (And could that even happen in six months? I guess it can.)
But, by digging deeper, I realized I needed to again face multiple fears I've developed in childhood that resurface when triggered by certain situations. In my case, my father's estrangement and silence. The ensuing complicated feelings of anger, rejection, sadness, and nightmare-inducing worry. I am often good at masking (or straight up forgetting) these fears when things are good, but they are heightened when things are not.
Solely making the decision to go to a therapy appointment—despite how long I choose to continue—feels like a major act of compassion and self-love. I say this because I truly feel this. And also because my therapist said it's so, ha.
I've been forced to reconcile with this fact: "It's good you've worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again." I'll be honest, it was really validating to hear that I have been strong and resilient and courageous and caring and forgiving and selfless. Sometimes I don't believe these things at all, though deep down I know them to be true. Hearing it from someone so unfamiliar with my being, and so disconnected from my family's history and drama was so important. Memories can perpetually haunt and shape expectations and ways of thinking. "You've always waited for the other shoe to drop," my therapist said. I feel like I'm waiting every day. The result of having taken on the role of mediator, protector, and chief worrier took a toll and I was naive to think the past could stay there.
I no longer want my fears to overpower me. I also don't want past pains to manifest in debilitating ways and affect my ability to work, live, and love.
Shout out to Conscious for continuing the conversation about the importance of mental health. I am also the most thankful to my friends. They don't know how much they've helped me. Stigmas are pervasive and I'll admit I never saw therapy as something I needed. So many people I love and respect and admire have revealed they go to therapy, and it made it easier for me to feel I can do it too without shame.
Healing is hard! Healing is ever constant. We're all trying to navigate our issues on this pale blue dot in this vast, infinite universe. I want to keep talking and writing and reading about this so we can all heal.
Organizations featured in this issue:
Crisis Text Line
Bring Change to Mind
National Alliance on Mental Illness
To Write Love on Her Arms
Young Minds Advocacy
I'll Go First
I also recommend:
Everyone is Going Through Something by Kevin Love
Professional basketball player Kevin Love discusses his decision to seek help after suffering from a panic attack. So worth the read. No lie, I read this article and then immediately—after months of indecisiveness and inaction—looked up therapists in my area covered by my insurance and made an appointment.