This month has been a culmination of realizations. I have been more introspective in the last 30 days than I have been for the last decade. This is partly due to mental health awareness month but also due to being beyond my breaking point. Mental health is starting to be more acceptable and talked about, but it seems to be on either end of the spectrum – rich and famous or people that hit their lowest low and need medical intervention. Today, I want to talk about the people in the middle, the people that manage it well, but still fight the same fights.
I am 34, I am happily married, I have a cool cat child, and I have a well paying job. I even got to move to the PNW (Pacific Northwest) – a place I have been dreaming of living in for about 9 years. From the outside, everything seems fine and on the up and up. But inside I haven’t been this anxious and depressed since I was a young child having a panic attack hoping my father would show up to a birthday party.
I am a stoic person from the outside. Strong, quiet, a noticeable presence in a room. When I do talk up it is because I am truly engaged or have something important to say. I think deeply and take my time considering, but can be very responsive and reactive in the moment. These have always been strengths of mine that I don’t shy away from, rather lean into. The problem is – being this kind of person prevents others from noticing if anything is awry.
As long as I can remember I have dealt with anxiety, but until the last few years it was pretty dormant. I believe the triggers have been my day job, my need to do something more, and my need to slow down.
As mentioned, I have a well paying job. I make more now than I have ever in my life from one revenue source, but as most say – money is not everything. This job has also been very mentally tasking with little to no return, outside of monetary incentive. I talked about this in more depth in the last edition, so I won’t go down that rabbit hole. What I will mention, I finally put in a leave of absence.
Additionally, I am looking for real meaning in life. I have been a creator, a maker for years. I tell stories, build things, and create art. I need to use this skill for things that truly matter to me, not just what others assign to me. As most of my readers know, I have been making a film series. That filming is done, now I need to edit my heart out, but I cannot get into the groove, find the purpose, never mind think. I hope to use my leave of absence to finish this, to fill that hole a little.
Lastly, I have really become intentional about all things I do. I started practicing minimalism a few years ago. Not only letting go of unnecessary things, but unnecessary actions. This allows me to think about how and if I want something to affect me. In order to be this person you have to slow down a bit – do less volume, do more things of purpose.
I hope to just shed light on my experience. Yes, this is therapeutic for me, but I hope it is insightful for you. Mental health awareness starts with awareness. Who are you, what are your values, what do you need/ want? When you know these, your limits become revealed. For example, I know all of these, so I know that when I am unfulfilled at work or with personal goals I become silent, everything becomes belabored, even getting out of bed gets hard. This triggers my anxiety in the form of heavy breathing and a heavy beating heart. High amounts of my anxiety then lessen my ability to focus. My dyslexia and ADHD run amok. I literally cannot finish anything productive that I start. This is my current problem with my documentary.
If you are feeling any of this, if you can, take some time for yourself. Be it a vacation, long weekend, or even a leave of absence. My experience with putting in a leave of absence has been quite shit so far. Put it in at 9:30 am, still no word while writing this at 5 pm. I hope this isn’t your experience, but be prepared for the worst if your employer is not historically empathetic.
This is my story, my experience, my perspective. Yours is likely different in some way, but the thing that is the same is that repair stems from awareness.
If you know anyone that would benefit from this letter, please share it with them.