A common expression in Louisiana is “We don’t hide our crazy, we flaunt it down the street!” Boy, how I would laugh, seeing that phrase in the local Sunday morning cartoons. But I knew it wasn’t true. As much as we let loose and enjoyed our silliness during carnival, we kept our real struggles in the dark.
I also decided it was important to sit down with others and ask about their mental health and coping strategies. I’ve included thoughts from a few other humans (*real names changed) scattered throughout this piece in hopes that you, my reader, will recognize a feeling and reach out to others.
Mental health was (and still is) a topic that most of us keep in the background. It’s taboo, secretive, something to be kept private and not shared. “Don’t air the family’s dirty laundry.”
Well, fair warning, I’m putting my socks on the washing line and I’m inviting you to join me.
Anxiety is a big one for me. Excessive worrying can bring me to such extremes. I can overreact to a minor inconvenience (picture me crying at the gas station because the gas tank is on the other side of the car from the pump) or go into complete mental shutdown over normal stressors (my pen is out of ink! How can I work today?)
Sometimes it feels like I’m just trying to hold it all together, rather just living and breathing. Can anyone else relate to this meme?
As a society, we have learned so much more about good mental health, how it can be achieved and what HAPPY looks like, but more importantly, what it doesn’t look like. So many people who suffer from depression and other mental health issues have perfected the art of hiding their true feelings.
I’ve been a self-proclaimed master of pushing my emotions down and plastering a fake smile on my face…but I’m done with that now!
I’ve decided to stop hiding and instead reveal my real emotions. This is how I was feeling last year in the heart of the pandemic quarantine, trying to handle working from home while homeschooling my young daughter. I am learning better ways to deal with the trials and tribulations of life.
My coping skills include
Breathing techniques. Taking time for a few deep breaths can calm me down and help me collect my thoughts.
Driving ‘n crying! Not just an 80s rock band, but a very useful trick to bring control back into my life. The power of music, how it can recall memories from long ago, combined with the solitude of a short trip around town, eases tension and restores my feeling of balance.
Therapy sessions. Having another person to sound off to, whether individually with a licensed counselor or in a peer group setting, is extremely helpful. It puts stress, anxiety and even depression into perspective.
Mental health prescriptions. I may not have found the magic “happy pill” to solve all the worries in the world, but I continue to work with professionals in this area to find a calm without turning to alcohol or recreational drugs. Please don’t see that as a judgement, just my take on what’s healthy for me.
The more we open up to each other, the healthier our views on mental health will be. What would you like to share? In Exceptional Lives’ Facebook groups, Louisiana or Massachusetts, you can make a comment as an anonymous poster. The other group members will not see your name, only the Admins will have access to your information. We hope this will allow you to feel at ease with sharing your thoughts.
Other useful resources:
Quick and helpful Parenting mantras
Ways to Take care of yourself while caring for a child with special needs.