“Practice what you preach.”
That quote is something I have always told others, but have never been able to actually…practice. During my deepest and darkest times, I’ve sought out relief in toxic forms. Things that I am not proud of. But these behaviors have led me to a grandiose realization. I want to share with you the “rules” I continue to abide by when I feel myself slipping into that black hole; the place where we believe we can never escape. But there is hope, and here is my reminder to you.
Be gentle with yourself.
As the saying goes, “It’s okay not to be okay.” Your body hurts and your mind is exhausted. Rest. You need it. Don’t be afraid to tell your employer you need a day off. Don’t feel an obligation to go out for drinks when all you want is to be wrapped up in your favorite blanket. Don’t yell at yourself for not doing the dishes for the past few days. They’ll get done one way or another, silly. Leave your bed unmade. Cancel on plans when you would prefer isolation. Do what you need to do. Stop apologizing. Be kinder to yourself
Stop faking it!
There is a time and place for us to “fake it until we make it.” For example, how often do we force smiles at work when our hangovers feel fatal? One more time for the people in the back! But…in all honesty, it makes it exponentially easier to stick it out. Slapping on a smile, and chugging along, we learn to make it through the day. But when it comes to your mental health, especially if the severity of it is becoming unbearable, do NOT think for one minute that your fake smile is going to get you through the day…let alone the hour. Faking it becomes exhausting…and guess what? EVEN MORE CONFUSING. You’re attempting to heal yourself in the most authentic manner possible, and your facade is only going to cause you more pain.
If someone asks you how you are, let them know how you are! Prime example-today, my dear friend sent me a message saying, “I noticed that you haven’t said how you are yet and sometimes forget to answer when I ask…just as long as you know that when I ask, it’s not in passing or without sincerity.” She couldn’t have been more correct. When someone asks me how I am, my initial reaction is to DEFLECT. I’ve mastered the art of avoidance. Still. Despite me being in a significantly better place, I would rather ask YOU how YOU are, then respond to you asking me how I AM. If someone is genuinely curious as to how you are, you better be honest. You better tell them that things have been better but you are working on yourself and there WILL be an improvement. You better ask them for help if you need it. Above all else, you need to remind yourself that there are so many people who want to see your genuine smile again. Let them help you.
Don’t expect things to get better rapidly.
This is all a process. All of it. I know you’ve heard the phrase, “Life is a journey, not a destination!” but there is validity to it. We live in this fast-paced society where we all seek instant gratification: rapid weight loss pills, fast food, finding love online (ha). Despite the outcomes, we just want it all. We want it FAST. But the quality of your mental health isn’t supposed to happen quickly and effortlessly. There will be so many ups and downs…and there are days where you will want to give up. I still have those days. But don’t let yourself quit. If you’re reading this article right now, you either: 1. Have been forced by me or 2. You have found yourself at some crossroad, seeking a sign. ANY sign. Here it is. Here is your encouragement. Here is your reminder to KEEP FIGHTING. It won’t be easy. Stop letting people tell you things will be okay. Things will be BETTER than okay. Strive for that, my love. You deserve it.
Remind yourself, it’s temporary.
I find this to be one of the most important steps along the way. Do you know how many times I told my family, “this pain is never going to end.” I truly believed that…it scared the shit out of me. Was I really destined to spend the rest of my life…avoiding…life?! I forgot how to live all while I was busy simply surviving. And I was so cruel to myself. I allowed myself to think that I was a failure and I began to accept that this was the person I had become. I needed someone to tell me that this wouldn’t last forever. I stumbled upon the quote, “my current situation is not my permanent destination.” It clicked. This wasn’t going to last forever. I wasn’t going to ALLOW it to last forever. I was going to create a beautiful life for myself. I was going to be proud one day. And guess what? I am. I’m so fucking proud. I will always have my deficits. There will always be days where I want to quit. It doesn’t go away. But now I know…it’s all temporary.
My wish for you is that if you have forgotten how to smile, you relearn. And I hope that this time, that smile is genuine.