I don’t feel I am really qualified enough to write about mental health issues and ways to cope with them but what the fuck, here goes:
My own Demons
I have dealt with my fair share of mental health issues in the past. I am still dealing with many of them right now as some of you might be as well. Those feelings of inadequacy, feelings of inferiority, identity crisis, difficulty in communicating with people, fear of being around people, depressive states of not wanting to get out of bed, and having no purpose in life whatsoever among other things.
Trust me; I get it. I went through it too. I don’t know if all of these falls under the umbrella of mental health issues. However, I do think that these are some of the issues we all go through at some point in our lifetime.
Currently, I suffer from a lot of anxiety, which trust me, does not help with my sleep cycle. It’s frustrating sometimes that my brain can’t stop thinking.
There are times when I feel like I am not good enough and that maybe all the things I am doing at this moment will never amount to anything (That constant feeling of doubt). I feel like I have to constantly reappraise my work and, life, going over every little detail, and trying to fix and change everything as much as possible. I know its a shitty way to cope with the world but its something that I have learned to endure with time.
Letter to the reader
As you can see, my head is a total fucking mess, and I constantly find myself trying to cope with a lot of my issues and end up digging myself into a rut. The reason why I wanted to share this was; I guess to help you understand that you are not alone. Every person out there is feeling shitty at this moment, and no one has a fucking clue as to what will happen next.
This article is a small contribution to the rest of the world (that especially includes you my dear reader ;)), to try and add an ounce of positivity at a time when everyone else is either scared shitless or angry or both. If any of the things I am about to share helps you in any way, shape, or form, do send me a text. It will make me really happy about the work I am doing (I have no fucking clue as to what that work actually is, but I do want to feel like I am doing something really important). Although I have to admit that I been the happiest I have ever been in my life. That happiness is despite all the self-hate, anxiety, and self-doubt that manages to cripple me every once in a while.
I know that all of us at some point in our life go through situations we can’t handle. Those situations can throw you into a mental hell hole that will eat your soul if you don’t do anything about it. It can be triggered by almost anything such as the death of a loved one (which is horrific), Parental and social pressure, Academic pressure, Pandemics, and a host of other things.
These tools (if you can call them tools) have helped me cope with a lot of my issues, fear, anxiety, and has gotten me where I am today. I want to share some of those with a hope that it might help some of you as well: (These are not in any specific order; use what you find interesting and throw out the rest if you want, it’s your choice)
As this article will be long as most of my writings tend to be (I don’t why. This started off as a Facebook post). You can jump to the topics you are most interested in :
Meditation was the most powerful thing that I picked up while I was going through those depressive periods during my fourth semester in engineering. At the time, I was having a massive identity crisis amongst a host of other mental issues. I had reached a point where I saw no value in the degree that I was trying to obtain (I still don’t) and kept overthinking about my future and my career. After that, I decided to take responsibility onto my own hands and started experimenting with a lot of things (I still am). All these tools are a direct result of all the experimentation I have done until now. If I have to point out one thing that has single-handedly made my life better as a whole, it has to be Meditation.
Meditation in a traditional sense is hard, although it seems very easy at a glance. How hard could it be to cross your leg, sit on a floor, close your eyes, and do nothing, right? Well, it turns out, very hard in need. I still remember when I first started Meditation, I could not do it for more than 2 mins. I instantly would feel scared and helpless to all of my thoughts that kept pouring in and would not stop. Now, after about three years of *consistent practice, I can hold my meditation practice for about 20-30 minutes at a time.
The waves of thoughts that rush in the first time you start meditating are, to be honest, can be very destructive if you can’t let go of them (and that is the essence of Meditation, to learn to let go of them, and not to let your thoughts define you). I will admit that it will hurt a lot in the beginning if you are already having a lot of mental issues but if you manage to stay consistent enough then a lot of those thoughts after a few weeks or so will start to subside.
All Meditation does is help you observe your behavior and your life from an outside perspective. There is nothing supernatural about it (I know, sad). You get a choice to change the actions that make you miserable or choose to run through the same cycle of making yourself miserable again and again. And I think that choice makes a lot of difference to help cope with our issues and improve our life as a whole.
There are 100’s of different ways of meditating, and you can choose any of them. Meditation is simply the practice of stillness, i.e. trying to focus your mind on the present moment. I personally use the traditional method combined with Yoga(described below), i.e. by focusing on my breathing and my body. For you, however, it might be a sport, or a fighting technique, or music, and so on. It does not matter as long you can stay focused, and you are not miserable while doing it.
Talking to people
I have to admit I am very lousy at this myself. I have never been good at sharing vulnerabilities. I feel like I have been changing that recently and because of that I have discovered something really interesting, talking to people helps you (shocker!), who knew? Right? Talking about your fear and anxiety to others helps because it can help you see how irrational all your insecurities and fears can be in the first place. We are often in a miserable mental state because we constantly overthink about certain situations. And because we stay locked inside our own head with no outlet whatsoever that fear and insecurity slowly starts to deteriorate our mental health.
Some of those insecurities and fears may sound something like this, “Fuck! Why did I say that, does that person hate me now?”, “Why the hell did I make that mistake, I such a dumb fuck”, “Am I that boring person that no one wants to speak too”, “Does she not like me anymore, what did I do to make her hate me so much”, “where did it all go wrong, am I ugly”, “Am I fooling myself, trying so hard to get this degree”, “Maybe I will never amount to anything in my life”, “will I fail and will people figure out that I have been a failure all along”, “why did this post not get a lot of likes while that bitch Rachel has 10,000 likes on her pretentious post about food”, “Am I doing something wrong, is my work that awful…” and on and on I can go, but let’s stop for now.
I think it is crucial if you are having issues to try and talk to a good friend who is willing to listen to you and not judge you. That person whoever he/she is may help you see how irrational your fears can be. They may also help you understand that it doesn’t matter how many likes you get on your posts as long as you are proud of the things that you have created. It doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks about the kind of person you are because they have no fucking clue about your life circumstances. Talking to people helps because it gives you a room other than your own head to place your turbulent thoughts.
Yoga is similar to meditation in that it helps you attain stillness. But the reason why I kept it in a separate column was that although the end goal of meditation is similar to that of Yoga, there are functional differences.
I dislocated my shoulder a while back when I fell down those small shitty wooden stairs in Humbre. Ever since that incident, I have had a problem with my right shoulder randomly dislocating every once in a while. This means that I am unable to go to a gym and I don’t think I will be going to one anytime soon. After a while, I started some bodyweight exercises at home but regardless of what I tried my right shoulder kept dislocating. Because I had no other options, I decided to try Yoga, and I am so grateful that I did.
I have recently found that combing yoga and meditation is the single best thing you can do. I think Yoga works like any other exercise, i.e. it helps you too focus your mind onto a single task and help calm it down in the process.
Yoga movements can go from really easy to very complex. You have to constantly check where each and every part of your body lies (Core, hands, legs, hips, and so on) in reference to the movements (i.e. if you are doing Yoga correctly). This means that Yoga practically makes you incapable of fixating on anything else (mental or physical) other than the movements themselves. This focus helps to calm your mind and has personally helped me cope with a lot of anxiety that I feel almost on a daily basis.
If you are at all curious about how to start doing Yoga, check out the youtube channel Yoga with Tim, which I use on a daily basis for my practice. The instructions that he gives are very straightforward and easy to follow.
Books have been some of my best friends for the past three years. Most books that I have read have helped me gain a different perspective on my life. Of course, not all books are created equal, and some books are really shitty. But I have found that it is most helpful if you try and read the books that are most relevant to you at this moment. i.e. If you are going through a rough period, then it can be helpful to read a book that can help you deal with those specific issues (It could be as good as talking to a friend about it). I think the reason why I love books so much is that I am very lousy at talking to actual people.
Having that different perspective can sometimes be a difference between life and death.
Drawing & Music
Creating something on your own can help you cope with a lot of your fears and anxiety by putting it in a place other than your own head. Drawing has worked for me because I find it very meditative. It helps me shut my brain off every once in a while. Drawing anything (really anything, it doesn’t matter) and listening to music I have found is one of the best remedy for your mind.
If you want to do it, then find a reference and just start drawing. Or just move your hands randomly on that piece of paper. Trust me; you will create something. It’s really important that you don’t worry about making a “beautiful piece of artwork”, it doesn’t matter. If it happens, it’s ok, but don’t be too concerned about how it will turn out. Just try to draw and paint in whatever way possible with whatever color you feel like using at the time (the idea is to go crazy). Move your hands with the rhythm of the music if that is what you feel like doing, don’t overthink it.
Writing, Journaling, and Poems
Something that has helped me a lot to cope with my anxiety has been writing. When I say writing, I mean articles like these ones or just simply writing in a journal. Daily journaling was probably one of the best things I have ever started (among other things).
I use the technique called the 5 min journaling, and it is exactly like the name suggests. With this technique, you don’t have to worry about writing everything that happened within a day although you can choose to do that. But I do feel that trying to write everything down can make it very hard to stay consistent with journaling(I don’t know why I am being such a nazi about maintaining consistency, just do whatever feels good). The journaling technique I am talking about has a particular system that helps you to stay positive even during bad days.
And of course, writing articles like these help a lot where I can simply pour my thoughts without thinking (I know that sounds paradoxical, but you get it, right?).
I have also found that writing poems can also help you cope with mental issues. It is sometimes tough to articulate the things we feel, and poems I feel help you to do exactly that.
Despite the problem of articulation, there is yet another problem which is we are often uncomfortable sharing our feelings, and it’s understandable as it is difficult to be vulnerable. And it is especially the case considering the culture we live in, where having a mental health issue is seen as a taboo. As if you are never allowed to be sad and always have to stay happy regardless of the situation. That’s bullshit, I know.
However, that bullshit has been rooted deeply into all of our psyches through years of conditioning. With poems, we can be as vague as possible and hide our insecurities in plain sight while putting it all on paper. I feel like writing poems helps you circumnavigate those fears of judgment, anxiety, and insecurity through the use of metaphors and simile. You don’t have to be a genius to write poems trust me, I am an idiot, and I can do it, and I just started a few months ago.
There have been other tools such as public speaking and debating, which have helped me a lot in the past few months (specifically with social anxiety). But I think these tools I discussed above have been significant in helping me cope with most uncertainty and shittiness in my life. And my only hope is that one of these tools could help that one person who is going through a terrible time right now and doesn’t know how to cope with all this uncertainty and chaos. Even if it as simple as providing momentary peace of mind.
You will be the luckiest person on the planet if you manage to go through life without having a single mental problem, in which case, fuck your perfect life. However, for many of us, mere mortals, we will suffer from a multitude of mental problems and especially right now where we are isolated and have no buffer to cope with all the pressure this lockdown has brought.
I just want to say its ok to feel as if you are not able to do enough, to feel utterly helpless and uncertain. We all on some level, feel helpless. No one has a fucking clue as to what is happening and what will happen, not even our incompetent leaders. All we can do is hope, and that’s a powerful tool indeed. We will get through this and although many will suffer (which is the sad part) a lot us will survive this crisis, and someday I can only hope that it will be a good story to tell our grandkids.
In the end, I will say, do the things that feel right and take care of yourself. I see that there is a lot of talk about productivity that is being thrown around. I just wanted to say that It’s ok to not be productive all time. You don’t have to live to those standards.
If you are having problems with all the negative news; there seems to be a lot of those going around right now. It’s ok to close your eyes for a while and move away from all of it. Delete all your social media and focus on yourself for a while. You are not alone; everyone is a fucking mess at this moment. It doesn’t matter what you do during this time as long as you can figure out a way to help yourself cope with all the uncertainties. And if one of my ideas end up helping, then I will be glad.