It’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
(Though every week is MHAW, let’s be honest. Or at least, it should be.)
This year’s theme is ‘Surviving or Thriving?’, which I think is a really interesting idea and actually probably the best theme yet. It’s not tangible, and means different things to different people. It provokes an actual discussion, asks a question and gets you thinking and learning.
What is thriving?
To flourish, develop, bloom, blossom and succeed.
Making it through every day is a huge achievement for people with mental health problems, big or small, long or short-term. Surviving a blip, episode, day, or decade is a milestone. Whether it’s in the most difficult and awfully literal sense…or figuratively (making it through a night out when you suffer from social anxiety, for example).
But THRIVING is really about making the survival a long-term and enjoyable experience. It’s embracing change; understanding your mental state and appreciating a good hour/day/week/year/decade. It’s taking a step back and saying ‘Yes. This is good.’ It’s acknowledging your progress, basking in a good feeling, and being mindful of where your mind is right then and there. It’s allowing these golden moments to help you grow and bloom.
I don’t believe we’re ever in a fixed mental state. Everyone can find themselves, at some stage in their lives, dealing with a little more than they expected inside their own head. Sometimes it takes you by surprise, out of nowhere, and sometimes it’s a long-term issue you’re learning to live with. Mental health is a thing as fluid and as personal as they come.
The thing I believe most of all is that every problem is totally unique. No one depressive episode, panic attack or breakdown is the same. They are as one-of-a-kind as our fingerprints and souls are. No one person’s mental health can, or should, be compared to another.
(For the record, what I talk about in this post may not work for everyone; this is my personal experience. I’m very keen to stress I am not generalising, or simplifying, and everyone’s situation is different)
What I’ve learned personally is that I have to really embrace the things that work for me in that exact moment; listen to what my body wants and needs mentally in the same way that it tells me whether it’s dehydrated or tired.
I give my mind space to thrive, in the moments when things are good. If I am having a good day I will sit back and notice it, appreciate it, and try to learn from it. I’ll attempt to hold onto it for as long as I can, storing it up to look back on when times are tough. Allowing my mind to thrive on a good day is how I get through more difficult times. I learn what works best for me, what makes me feel good, and how to cope better when things aren’t great. I can take a step back and try to understand my mind that little bit more.
So today I want to tell you what helps me to thrive between the dark or difficult days I have.
What helps me to really feel GOOD when the clouds clear and the world stops quaking for long enough for me to feel calm and peaceful and golden and fresh. What enables me to learn to feel better, to lean into the peace, and to cope when things are back on their head again.
This is what I hold on to, what helps me thrive and embrace my good mental state, for as long as it sticks around for – whether it’s a few hours, a day, or a week.
Here’s to the golden moments.
Here’s to baths with a good book; to freshly shaved legs on clean bedding; to lying in bed and staring at the sun-speckled ceiling on a Sunday morning with no screen to distract me from that moment of peace.
Here’s to the music which always feels like a blow to my heart with every listen and makes me feel alive and full and loved and missed.
Here’s to meeting friends for a drink and just feeling peaceful and happy, cackling at funny stories and making plans. Here’s to feeling loved.
Here’s to a sunny day immediately putting me in a good mood; to wearing sunglasses at 8am; to eating Nutella crumpets and dripping chocolate down my chin; to the ability to miss and love my family so much.
Here’s to time to myself. Peace and quiet, and space to think and create.
Here’s to growing up and realising that actually, nobody cares as much as you think, and that you really can be yourself. It’s so freeing.
Here’s to finishing a great cup or tea before it goes cold; to wearing bright lipstick and ordering a new book to add to my ever-growing To Be Read pile.
Here’s to giving spare change to the man on the street I see every day, passing on a good moment from one palm to another; to sending a thoughtful message or letter to a loved one; to basking in the glow left after a really, really good dream.
Here’s to a cold glass of white wine on a Friday afternoon; to a freshly cleaned room, and to flowers I bought myself which aren’t reduced for once (because I finally believe I’m worth more than half-price!).
Here’s to inspirational discussions about books and art and life and possibilities. Here’s to letting go of the weight of the past, to the sticky smell of sun cream and to the moment the words come out just right.
Here’s to all of the little moments which make us feel at our very best, like we’re the most powerful and lucky and peaceful person on the planet. Here’s to the good days when we can learn more about our brains and feelings and understand more about how to be there for ourselves.
Here’s to learning to love ourselves more.
Here’s to the things that help us to thrive.
Cherish them and hold on to them as much as you can.
And be there for yourself.
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