Today is World Mental Health Day. If you have been around me, listened to me, or read anything I have written, you know Mental Health is not just part of my everyday life but also something I am passionate about talking about. About two weeks ago, I was really struggling and had to take a step from most things in my life, including work, friends, and family. I shared with a few people what was happening, but I kept it quiet for the most part. I wasn’t sure why I didn’t want people to know, but I think I understand it a little more now.
I speak about how much I have healed and am proud of that. I share how to work and support, and all of those things make recovery possible. Then here I was, struggling a lot with my mental health when it felt like everything in my world was just the way I wanted it. My business is growing, I have a fantastic group of friends and colleagues supporting me, I have children that are thriving, I’m in a healthy, loving relationship, and I’ve been making some other big, scary changes. I felt like, “look at how awesome my life is now,” and then my mental illness showed up again and said, “Hey, hold my beer.”
I didn’t realize exactly what was happening; at first, I thought I was working too much and not getting enough rest. And that was probably true; I was working hard and not getting the rest my brain and body needed. I was neglecting to take care of all the “things” that are part of life. What I forgot is that my mental well-being is one of the most important “things” I need to take care of.
Mental health is not something that we can place on the back burner. It is not limited to one day marked on the calendar. Mental health is something that we need to stay focused on daily. Mental health and wellness look different for different people. Caring for my mental health starts with getting enough rest, taking my medication, and eating food that nourishes my body and soul. My mental health improves when I spend time with people important to me. What works for me may not work for others, and I hope that all of you know what will help you stay mentally well.
One of the things that changed this time my bipolar symptoms started to show up again was that I talked about it with people close to me. I honestly didn’t see what was going on, but I talked about how “off” I felt and was given a space to talk it out. This is where my circle of people comes into play for me. They show up when I need them. They don’t judge when I cry. They ask how they can help when I tell them I am not well enough to spend the evening with a group of people at their house. Not one person judged me, told me I wasn’t good enough, thought there was something wrong with me or that I wasn’t doing enough to protect myself from or prevent a relapse. They just sat with me and loved me when I felt lower than I had in years. I didn’t feel alone. They gave me permission to take time off; they encouraged it. I felt a sense of love and support that my mental illness likes to tell me I am not worthy of.
I took the time I needed. I rested. I nourished my body. I talked to people. I loved myself enough to say I was not okay, even when I felt I was supposed to be. I hear and say to others, “it’s okay not to be okay,” but I am not sure I believed that for myself. I am the one that has talked over and over again about how important mental health is and shared how I overcame it, so how could I show up not ok?
I remember looking at the calendar and seeing that October 10th was World Mental Health Day. I started thinking about what I was going to say about mental health. I thought I would share the same things I always do, my story, some statistics, and a reminder that mental health is not just mental illness. I started writing over and over, and nothing felt authentic. This giant piece of my mental illness had shown up, and all I wanted to do was sweep it under the rug and not talk about how big a hit my mental health took. I wanted to appear perfect like I had it all figured out, and life was all good for me. The reality is the opposite. I would tell anyone else that it’s normal, acceptable, and expected to have these symptoms show up, yet it wasn’t for me.
This morning I was on a call with some friends and colleagues. I talked about how I wanted to write something to put up today and had been putting it off for a week. As we were talking, I realized there were several things at play. I wanted what I wrote to be perfect and eloquent. I didn’t want to show that I was not ideal. I wanted my message to be so perfectly crafted that everyone who read it would get something from it. As I was talking, it became clear that my desire to have everything be “perfect” was getting in my way.
Then my friend Stacie said, “perfection stands in the way of impact.” She, in that one statement, showed me that my desire to be perfect, craft the perfect message, and hide my imperfections was likely standing in the way of the impact I wanted to have. Perhaps my imperfections are what makes an impact. I don’t really know, and maybe I never will. So I am writing this primarily for myself. I am putting my fears of judgment by others, embarrassment that I don’t have it all together, and potentially poor grammar out there. I gave myself one hour to write, which means I must let go of perfection.
I hope that Stacie is right. I hope that letting go of perfection means I create an impact. So, here is my imperfect post about my imperfections. I hope it impacts you in some way, and if not, you know what, that’s ok because it impacted me, and sometimes doing something for yourself is all the impact you need to have.