"Truth who can handle the truth?" this is a line from the movie " A few Good Men". Too often we are tempted to water down the truth to make it palpable for people. We are in the age where we don't want to connect . We think we do but what trully connects us is commonly shared truth. Pain is a part of that truth. It may not be convenient but people only connect with authenticity. The fakeness of social media only separates us. An ad about loneliness in the UK states that we should disconnect from phones and chat more. TRUE. But my question before I connect with anyone is, can you handle my truth because that's all I got.
Truth forces us to see another person as ourselves
Most often the answer to that question is NO. Can I handle the truth about abuse, depression, anxiety, poverty without feeling the need to deflect to another topic that's comfortable and less time consuming? Honestly, if I do not want to know how you are doing , I'd rather say hey and bye and keep it moving. But if someone asks me, "how are you doing?" I would rather ask, "Do you really want to know how I am doing or do you only have time for Hi ?".
THE TRUTH ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH
You may wonder why is Tabitha writing about mental health? I am doing so because most businesses have shut down in this season. It reminds you that behind every business is a person who is experiencing the highs and lows of the pandemic.
Are you mentally healthy? When I have heard the phrase mental health ,it is often associated with other people. In truth, if you are human and are living life, you will have to deal with your mental health. It is not other people, it is my mental health and your mental health. So listen up!
COVID-19 is the biggest test of mental health I have ever seen en masse. For those people who have done any emotional work on themselves, they were already aware of their triggers. Statistically knowing that lockdown affected people's,mental health is one thing but when faced with that statistic, it is another. Every statistic has a face and a name. This week , I met some of those faces.
I am a fighter. My first conscious memory of myself as a child is of a fight and in that case I was rescuing someone from abuse. Being raised in an abusive and negative household, I learned to fight for my peace of mind. It was assulted every Saturday like clockwork and the only escape I had was music. More specifically worship music. I think , I was destined to find God because I was born in an impossible world that humans could not save me from. Only a God who could do impossible things would. My favourite verse is :
If God be for you, who dare be against you?
I realised that my triggers are toxic and negative environments. I learned to fight and defend myself. But nobody believed me. When I couldn't fight, I would get these headaches that would create a fog in my mind. It was my mind's way of protecting and shutting down all the external. To this day, I am still fighting for that little girl. I see her in the women and girls who are doing water walks everyday.
THE RIGHT WHY
Today when I look back, I have the language to call it mental health. I didn't know. It is our way of dealing with adversity. The blessing of my childhood is that it taught me to make do with what I had and deal with suffering i.e become adaptable. If my triggers are toxic and negative environments, you might wonder how I exist in this very negative world.
Without the right why, your fight always dies. My why is to solve the water crisis for those girls I talked about. This is bigger than me. So if I hate social media, I will learn to navigate it in a healthy way so I can achieve my why. In order to have enough energy to pursue this purpose, I need an environment with peace,love ,joy and truth. Anything that takes these away, I will surgically cut out of my life no matter the relationship. There's no mental health without boundaries.
Without the right why, your fight will always die.
Anger delivers the message that my boundaries are being crossed. Then I have to address that situation to restore peace and joy. Gratitude always cancels anxiety like butter and my inner core of friends get to encourage , build me up and challenge me to come up higher. They also get to call me out on my crap. For that why, I will wake up everyday and fight.
It is great to fight for self. But when life kicks you and you are down and you've got no fight left , the right kind of why( bigger than yourself) will get you over that moment. Find your fight. It doesn't have to be substantial like a purpose. Sometimes this big purpose comes with a lot of pressure. It can be the one thing that you can do to unplug the sink and let the water level fall down.
RECOGNIZING STRESS AND DESTRESSING
Remember that fog I talked about? Your body is under stress anytime it is required to adapt. Uncertainty introduced by COVID-19 increases the body's stress level. It means that the body has to adapt daily. Similarly, your problem solving ability has to increase with new diverse demands. Unchecked, this builds up over time. Scientifically, cognitive ability reaches a limit when you feel overwhelmed. Like water in a sink, when the stress level increases we need to find a means to unplug.
If uncertainity is stress, then rhythm and routine is peace. Consistency is key. A year ago ,when I had work fatigue, I discovered meditation works for me. I unplug by literally unplugging. I do this daily for an hour. I now have a favourite bench at Wollaton Park. I have worked in rest into my year. Every 3 months, I go somewhere quiet and unplug for a week. I read books, listen to music , journal and dance. I process and come back with strategy. Or not. But that's okay.
GETTING BACK TO BASICS
Above all keep the following basics constant:
If you are stressed, one of these will be affected. Social contracts with someone else are great because they keep you accountable when exercising or just walking around the block. Rest is key as fatigue during this season has increased with remote working. There's no separation of work and home hence the boundaries are bound to be pushed.
Find people who are for you and talk to those people. I am learning that the people who walked with me through this tough season are friends indeed. Let's get out of our comfort zones and make friends where we normally wouldn't. Say hi to the stranger who jogs in the same park you do. They may or may not respond. At least you tried to connect.
It is also a good time to discover our warning lights or triggers. When I am stressed or under pressure , I ................................fill in the gaps. Keep an eye on the things that have stressed you before. How did you manage them? Spend more time in the things we can control than those we can't. Above all give yourself a thousand graces. If you didn't notice ,the worlds upside down!