World Mental Health Day: How I’m Working To Empower Myself

When you’re struggling with your mental health, every day becomes a battle to stay afloat. You never know which interaction is going to propel you forward with confidence, or which has the potential to stop you in your tracks. There are days when the smallest of set-backs can become roadblocks to your healing journey. I have learned that by doing a few little things each day to fortify myself for the bad days, getting back up from a fall can be easier than I previously thought possible.  In honor of World Mental Health Day, I want to share the little habits I’ve picked up that are really helping me to redefine my worth and move forward with a new kind of confidence that I have so been missing in my journey.

No more calling myself “crazy”

I think this is an easy habit to fall into, as anyone or anything deemed to be difficult is quickly smacked with this label. In particular, it is usually leveled at women who do not conform to what makes men comfortable.  There have been many times I’ve whispered this to myself with derision after failing to get this whole perfect life thing right. It’s not only unfair, but a particularly cruel way to invalidate the pains and triumphs of living with authentic vulnerability.  No more, I say!

I’m committed to talking about what I do – and don’t – need

I was raised by two very polite people who instilled in me an almost pathological desire to keep the boat from rocking. I’m thankful to them for the ways they’ve modeled kind and caring behavior, however now I am working to unwind myself ever so slightly from this fear of letting people down. Being a considerate person is a wonderful quality, yet when you’re unwilling to do what’s best for your mental health can anyone really win? Nowadays, I am doing my best to say yes when I mean it, and no even if it might disappoint the one making the request. It seems everyone in my life is better off because of it.

I say my name proudly

Folks with spicy names will get me when I say this: no more watering down my name to make others happy. I can scarcely remember a day that didn’t involve someone stumbling over the schematics of my first name. They get a confused look, turn up their noses, and sometimes even scoff at the ridiculousness of me not being named something easily digestible like Rachel (no shade to girls named Rachel). I used to get so embarrassed that I would quickly encourage people to call me Kasey or Kase, or I would laugh along with them. Can you imagine what that does to a young person, always trying to make others comfortable? It’s a nightmare. I can’t remember the exact moment things changed, but rather the growing rage that made me say enough is enough. My father carefully chose my name to honor his sisters, and I am happy to have it. Just that simple act of wearing my name with pride as changed the way I look at myself in the mornings and how I carry myself. There’s a wonderful kind of joy in reclaiming something so simple.

 

My journey has taught me that a lot of the struggles tied to my mental health involve the way others will perceive me and how those perceptions shape my confidence. It’s truly never too late to shake things up, especially when it comes to how you’re going to take care of yourself. These are just a few of the little ways I’m trying to help myself along each day, but they have made a marked difference in my life. I hope you are able to find ways in your own life to protect and foster your own mental health.

 

 

The Emotional Freedom Technique Is A Great Way To Ease Into Meditation

Keep your heart clear

And transparent,

And you will never be bound.

A single disturbed thought

Creates ten thousand

Distractions.

– Ryokan Taigu

Within the Black community alone, for every one woman who reports a sexual assault there are fifteen that go unreported. Statistics show that 80% of rapes are reported by white women, but women of color are more likely to be victims of sexual assault. Due to low rates of reporting for men, the numbers aren’t clear on how many are truly affected by assault, but it is believed 12% of Black men are survivors of rape. When it comes to healing, the road is long and winding.

Nothing steals peace of mind like trauma. It muddles every thought, each activity, and disrupts one’s ability to take care of the self. The pain makes even the most mundane tasks seem like mountainous undertakings. For most people, meditation is a healthy way to engage with your mind in the pursuit of peace. It offers the kind of self-care you can’t find in a product, or fancy meal. But what if you’re unable to meditate? For some survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, or other traumas, being left alone with your thoughts can be more terrifying than relaxing. When struggling with symptoms like PTSD or automatic thoughts, it can be difficult to settle into the kind of space that allows meditation.

I was introduced to the Emotional Freedom Technique in a therapy session. As a survivor of sexual assault, I have truly struggled with any form of self-care that involves my thoughts or being still.

When it became apparent to my therapist just how difficult sharing was for me, she suggested we explore the Emotional Freedom Technique. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or “tapping” was developed in 1993 by Gary Craig, who believed stimulating the meridian points of the body could release energy blockages and perhaps stop negative emotions. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, such as acupuncturists, believe the meridian points are channels the chi will pass through to flow to the vital organs. The tapping process requires using the fingers to gently tap or massage various points on the face and torso while repeating positive affirmations. Ideally, as you continue the tapping you will feel yourself begin to calm. You can repeat the process as many times as you need.

The act of tapping and focusing on her words allowed me to recenter my thoughts, breathe easier and relax. After that, we began all of our sessions using the technique until we were comfortable enough to share and grow together. Now, as I revisit meditation, I use EFT to begin the calming process. Tapping soothes my mental aches from the day and helps me to reclaim the power I thought I lost in assault.

Below is an instructional video on tapping if you would like to give it a try.

*Statistics courtesy of End Rape on Campus

 

Feeling Low? Let’s Make A Gratitude Journal!

A big part of my healing journey has been dedicated to the slow and steady re-calibration of my brain. If this sounds crazy, well, that’s because it is! It goes against everything your body wants you to do, with all those learned behaviors and ticks being questioned. However, I’m not trying to learn how to write with my left hand versus my right. I’m more committed to undoing the jigsaw puzzle of trauma.

As humans, it’s natural for us to look at the bad things we’ve experienced and replay them over and over in order to learn how to survive the next bad thing. That instinct is compounded when you introduce a traumatic event. I’ve lived most of my life replaying the same nightmares when I’m doing something as innocuous as making toast. Referred to as Automatic Thoughts, I really don’t have much control over how they flood my life, but I’m working on developing ways to counteract the impact with a little bit of good.

Enter the gratitude journal!

nicksplat writing GIF by Hey Arnold

Now, I’m not talking about the kind of journal where you wax poetic about a celeb crush  – this particular journal is a place for you to fill up with all the things that make you feel thankful for your life. I’m talking every good moment, every good bite of a sandwich, every compliment, every time you push forward when you want to give up. It’s been my experience that the more time I dedicate to making time for my gratitude journal, the stronger I am once I’m hit with an automatic thought.

So, if you’re struggling ,or just want some more good vibes in your life, I highly recommend giving this practice a shot. Your time is never wasted when it’s dedicated to taking care of yourself.

Have you ever tried a gratitude journal? If you have or will be, let me know in the comments!

If you would like to learn more about automatic thoughts, I suggest checking out this resource by clicking here.

Shame As Explained By The School Of Life

Have you ever been enjoying your life – perhaps laughing with friends – when you feel overwhelmed with the desire to hide from the world? Perhaps sometimes you feel bad, wrong even, for merely existing? It’s difficult to pin down where these feelings come from if it feels as though they’ve always tailed you, just a few steps behind to ruin a good time or justify the bad.

Lately, when I’m struggling to name the emotions which drive me to sadness or joy I turn to the video essays produced by The School of Life. The organization produces videos, essays, and classes dedicated to unraveling the complexities of the human psyche. I hadn’t considered the nature and root of shame until this video from The School of Life. After watching, I could see how trauma and cruelty had twisted me away from the truth that I am not something to be ashamed of, but rather someone to be loved and valued. I highly recommend watching the video below, then working with a therapist to unpack the ways you have found yourself bound in shame.

 

If you enjoyed this video from The School of Life, I suggest you subscribe to their channel for more information to aid in your journey.

What Is Self-Care?

 

stars bubbles GIF by Kobie

If you had asked me last year what I do to practice self-care, I probably would have just rolled my eyes and returned to my phone. Ok, maybe I wouldn’t have been that much of a douche, but I honestly wouldn’t have had an answer that wasn’t totally made up. It’s not necessarily that I thought the concept of self-care was lame – the truth is I didn’t think I was worthy of it. That belief was completely rooted in a misunderstanding of what the hell self-care really is. Let’s jump into it!

Self-care is merely defined as “care for oneself”. That’s it. Pretty simple, right? Not if you’re like me and don’t know where to start! So, I did some work with my therapist and realized I had the whole thing wrong. For many years I was simply uniformed about what constitutes taking care of myself. I thought it meant fancy meals, a trainer, mani-pedis, and other luxuries. I mean, how could I – a poor – afford to do any of that and still maintain a bank account? Well, those things aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but I learned that self-care is something I define for me. I’ll lay out some examples that seemed simple at first, but really help me to feel like I’m taking good care of myself:

Watching movies I love

Brushing my teeth 3 times a day and flossing

Reading a book I’ve wanted to read

Declining something I don’t want to do

Talking about topics I love

Writing in a journal

Going to the doctor when I have an illness instead of suffering through it

Getting dressed up

Dancing!

See what I mean? Some of these things are kind of innocuous, but when I look deeply at how I feel afterwards, my spirit just feels lighter. I’ve realized that self-care encompasses not only the things we need to do to survive in a practical sense, but also the little or big things we do to keep ourselves strong emotionally. Put simply, self-care is really just showing yourself that you matter. I’m becoming more active in doing what I have to do to feel better about myself.

So, I challenge myself to practice self-care whether I’m low, or feeling great. Just as we go to the dentist every 6 months (in theory) whether we have a tooth ache or not, it’s so important to take time for ourselves even when everything seems to be going well. You just never know when something might pop up, so why not have good things in place that you can turn to.

Every Monday I’ll be sharing my self-care favorites as well as tips to define your own caring ways! What are you doing for yourself these days?

kid dancing GIF