I was not ok. | Mental Health Awareness
I was 17 years old the first time I experienced signs of depression. I found myself in a funk that I just could not pull myself out of. Unmotivated, not much of an appetite and no desire to live. I literally just wanted to sleep.
In the thick of it, I remember praying that I would just go to sleep and not wake up.
My mother knew me best and questioned what was going on which led to a scheduled appointment with my doctor who prescribed an anti-depressant.
I confided in my boyfriend at the time totally blind that the root of my depression was due to the mentally abusive relationship I was in. Little did I know he would then open his mouth and tell basically everyone Lord knows what about my situation. It somehow got back to me that people were calling me “crazy”. Great. Just what I needed.
Back in 2006 mental health wasn’t discussed much. Definitely not in the African American community. So carrying the weight of everything I was dealing with while everyone else didn’t understand the severity of it was tough. I lied and said I was fine. I was not ok.
Later that school year my younger sister would give birth to a baby girl who gave me a reason to continue living. I’m grateful for that angel. She saved my life. I don’t think I’ve ever shared that with anyone.
I’m grateful for my mom for being there for me. I’m grateful for the strength to walk away from an abusive relationship. I’m grateful for my restored faith and love for God.
As the years went on I would then see signs of depression reappear along with anxiety. I’ve shared some of these stories before.
Now it’s different. I know the signs. I have resources. I know how to battle it. It never gets easier but I know that I am strong to get through it. And today, I’ve never been better!
In honor of Mental Health Awareness month I wanted to share a few mindfulness practices that have and continue to help me in finding balance in my mental state:
1. Fluid movement through yoga.
I’ve shared how depression and anxiety is what brought me to yoga. After enduring an unexpected layoff due a lab shutdown I struggled with my self worth when I had difficulty in finding a job. I discovered yoga and noticed how the physical movement of my body made way for lifted spirits, a good sweat, and release.
2. Igniting mindfulness through meditation.
Meditation is hard. For years I thought I was “doing it wrong” because I couldn’t force the chatter out of my head. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard but I release the urge of perfection and just notice what shows up. Once I learned that it’s impossible to turn off your thoughts I was able to be present and find mindfulness just by noticing.
Now I meditation 10 minutes a day and notice the overall sense of calm it brings me.
3. Finding calm through breathwork.
Breathwork is a tool of ease. If only I knew then what I know now about how the breath can facilitate release and expansion! Taking time to notice where my breath is moving allows me to establish mindfulness. Making the shift by incorporating pranayama (breath control) to get what I needed in that moment made room for calm.
4. Clearing blockages through journaling.
I have been journaling consistently for 6 years! My fiancé low-key judges me for the number of notebooks I have. I find writing the best form of cathartic expression. It’s something about letting everything out on the page that allows for release. I no longer ignore what triggers or bothers me. I dissect it by asking the tough questions and release what no longer serves me. It is definitely a form of personal therapy.
5. Finding connection through standing in the sun.
Getting out and spending time in nature is definitely high on my list. I now make more of an effort to get out, take walks, and stand in the sun. I’m always left in a better mood after finding connection with the Earth.
There are countless ways to ensure that your mental state is in good shape. No way is better than the other, it’s just important that you find what works for you. Don’t ignore the signs or push your feelings under the rug.
If you’re looking to explore any of the ways listed above consider joining ELEVATE as I offer weekly yoga and meditation and monthly workshops on various topics.
Have you ever struggled with your mental health?
xo Vanessa Michele