This is a regular series of blogs focusing on creating balance through mindful activities. Please read my first blog: Bringing Depression to the Table, to provide more context, before continuing.
If you are currently navigating your way through mental health difficulties, there is a whole world of advice and assistance out there, but only if you’re willing to accept it! This can be the hardest step.
It is my opinion that you have to hit rock bottom to really begin to make the changes you need. This rock bottom is different for everyone. For some, it’s embarrassing themselves once at a wedding, for others it’s after a lifetime of seemingly irredeemable catastrophes.
I’ve thought at great length about what the main turning point for me has been. There’s a few specific incidents I could highlight, but I always come back to the one undeniable truth: how I identify shapes my reality.
I used to identify as: ‘Stuart’s doing alright considering…’
The conversation may go something like this:
“What do you mean ‘considering?’”
“Well, considering he’s always bouncing off the walls, I mean.
How he’s often swinging from totally uncontactable for weeks at a time, to ringing you five times a day and being offended when you haven’t called back at least three. Given he spends money like he’s going to die tomorrow, or that he’s seemingly perpetually sexually confused. He’s doing alright considering he burns himself and talks about suicide in all his songs. You know, he’s doing alright ‘considering…’”
“What do you mean, ‘he’s doing alright’ though? It doesn’t sound like he is. He sounds like a total nut job!”
“Well, he’s got a good job, he’s got a mortgage, he’s got ambition, he’s quite creative, he’s got lots of friends, I mean, he’s doing alright… considering all his issues!”
You can give yourself a whole lot of leeway when you identify like this. Whenever something would go wrong, it’s okay because, “I’m Bipolar,” “I’m depressed,” “I’m a little bit crazy,” “I’m supposed to be fucking all this up!”
Once I’d hit my rock bottom, and after I made my first real step into helping myself, I’d began to fall in love with the concept that you could ‘improve your mental health’. (You can do what? You mean I don’t have to hate myself? Why didn’t you tell me this 15 years ago?)
I went from being too anxious to talk about it, hell, too anxious to even read about it, to not being able to shut up about it.
I became obsessed with learning from others and their experiences, and I found that all the pain I’ve been through (and largely put myself through), all the suffering, could be used to help other people from going through the same agony; people I cared about.
This gave me a purpose and over time, my identity began to shift. I began to see myself as someone who could be a positive force in the lives of the people I love. Someone who could connect likeminded people together and encourage others to ‘think deep, to laugh loud and to celebrate!’
When this is truly how you identify, your reactions to extreme situations change dramatically.
If you identify as weak, when you come across adversity, of course, you’re liable to break. If you identify as a warrior, you don’t run off when the battle begins, you come to life. This is your reason for being!
When applying this to myself, I couldn’t mentor people through depression and then lie on the floor for three days whenever it all got too much, besides, that’s just not who I was anymore. I had to find a way to be that shining light.
I constantly asked myself: Is this, what I’m doing right now, going to inspire people?
It’s a simple but powerful question that resonated with me, even in my darkest moments. The questions itself inspires me.
Of course there’s still times when it all gets too much, particularly in this Post-Pandemic world. But my reaction to those moments come from a place of love and understanding, as opposed to chaos, and apathy.
How you identify shapes your reality.
And the real magic about all this?
You get to choose who you are!