Updated: May 22
In the past month's challenges, I've been using this 3rd post of the month to do a look book showcasing clothing I think my character would wear from my closet. This month, I'm switching things up because, well, Caitlyn isn't really into fashion and her transformation in the book doesn't include a makeover.
Caitlyn's story arc is more about her mental health journey.
Which is only fitting with this being Mental Health Awareness month.
So instead of showing you a bunch of outfits, I'm listing below three suggested resources I believe are supportive of building one's mental health. This list is in no way exhaustive but made up of activities and resources similar to what Caitlyn relies on, as well as those I've used myself and found to be helpful.
Therapy / Counseling
I was trying to think of some poetic way to talk about the state of the world these past six years and how time spent in this hand-basket, coupled with the increasing heat, has affected human mental health in profound ways but nothing poignant was coming to mind so instead I'll just write this.
Go Talk to a PROFESSIONAL, LICENSED therapist, or counselor. Now. Granted, counseling can be costly, and it may take you a couple of visits to a few different providers to find someone you're comfortable with and who offers the type of counseling you need. But for real, I believe to my core that we all need help processing what these past six years have done to our psyche. If you work for a large company, check with your benefits coordinator or HR person to find out what mental health services are available at no to low cost.
If you purchased medical benefits through the Health Insurance Marketplace via the Affordable Care Act, get in touch with your provider to find out what mental health resources are covered in your plan. There are some, I'm sure.
Lastly, there are free resources to be found in just about every major city. There will be red tape a-plenty to go through but it is WORTH IT to get the help you need.
Better Help - "BetterHelp is the largest therapy platform worldwide. We change the way people get help with facing life's challenges by providing convenient, discreet, and affordable access to a licensed therapist. BetterHelp makes professional therapy available anytime, anywhere, through a computer, tablet, or smartphone."
Mental Health Crisis Hotlines - article and resource list by MentalHealth.Gov. "If you do not have a health professional who is able to assist you, use these resources to find help for yourself, your friends, your family, or your students."
The Great Outdoors
As someone who has an increased aversion to being in public (and it has nothing to do with being an introverted writer), I get how getting outside can be a difficult task on the best of days. Toss in social anxiety, depression, and other mental and or physical factors; having someone tell you to 'go outside' comes across as trite and insensitive. But hear me out.
I'm not advocating trips to the beach, long hikes in the wilderness, or even a quick trip around the block. Nope, I'm talking about getting some fresh air and sunshine as often as possible by just going outside of the enclosure you happen to find yourself in. Go into the outside, breath as deeply as is safe. Let the light of day surround you. Don't think, don't analyze, and don't beat yourself up for not doing the aforementioned hikes, walks, and such. Just be there for a beat or two, then go back inside.
At the height of one of my depressive episodes, I had an epiphany: the hopelessness wasn't stopping me from going to the bathroom when my bladder or bowels needed voiding, it wasn't stopping me from going to work. It hadn't stopped me from getting something to drink or eat, so why was it stopping me from getting some of the other things I needed? I didn't have an answer to that so I made it a point to take my depression outside at least once a day. When that began to feel doable, I increased my goal to doing a five-minute walk once I got outside (when weather and other conditions were conducive to such). I didn't tell myself to fight the depression or the fatigue, or the overwhelming desire to crawl under my bed. Instead, I focused on getting that hit of fresh air and a walk.
There was no miracle lifting of my mood, I still felt depressed but I was also getting fresh air and occasional exercise - both items most medical professionals will tell you are supportive of good mental health. This is a practice I struggled mightily with recently for obvious reasons, but I've brought it back and believe it's been key to helping me come to grips with my increased social anxiety.
This can be whatever activity you choose, the point is to schedule time to do something that serves no other purpose than to be fun for you to do.
If money is a concern, find a way to do that activity at no to low cost - my mom used to clip articles from the local newspaper (this was in the way back times when I was a kid) about free things to do in the city that day/week/month. Nowadays, it's a simple Google search.
The trick with this one is to schedule it and treat your playtime as sacred. It is not to be postponed, rescheduled, or missed unless there is a major something you have to tend to. Got other humans who insist on coming between you and your playtime? Find a way to incorporate them into the activity or a way to sequester yourself from them for the time you have set.
I'm not suggesting you do this daily, or for hours at a time. Playtime can be:
a crossword puzzle done every evening after dinner
a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle you and the family work on Sunday afternoons for 30 minutes
a two-hour session of online game-play (preferably without drama)
a slow stroll through the local art museum
The list goes on. The point is you find and DO something on a regular basis that doesn't involve stressing over the world's problems. It's about giving your brain and body a break from survival mode.
I've kept my list like this because it's been my experience that humans have a knack for over-complicating things as a way to manufacture excuses not to do what needs to be done. Caitlyn does this on the regular as she deals with the traumas in her life and so have I. By simplifying things as much as possible, I get rid of excuses and am left to just do the thing.
I hope this post serves as a positive resource for you to simplify your mental health practice. Drop a comment below if you're able to utilize anything on this list or to suggest a resource of your own.
That's going to do it for this week. As always, sending love and inspiration. Until next time...