Today I was told that this week is Men’s Health Week. I had no idea, probably because I have been actively avoiding social media for the past week or so, fittingly, for my own mental health. I’d like to say that during this time away from social I found lasting relief, unfortunately, that’s not the case. Though one thing is for sure, stepping away helped to reduce some of the noise and grounded me a great deal. Its easy to get caught up in everything and after all, we were never programmed to deal with the goings-on of 7 billion people, in fact, according to Dunbars Law that number sits around 150.
For me, my mental health has always been a bit of a rollercoaster, it’s definitely improved in recent years as I’ve developed tools, but like most of us, the uncertainty at this time just added insult to injury. Most of us have no idea what the next three months have in store, let alone next week. I don’t even know what I’m going to do tomorrow, although I know it will include my morning routine and hopefully a coffee. In these unprecedented times, nothing is certain, which is anxiety-inducing enough in itself. Its all very well to preach “go with the flow” and say stuff like “this is a lesson from the universe in letting go” but this doesn’t really help does it?. That doesn’t save us from wondering when we will see our family’s next, or whether we will have an income in six months time. What we need is tools and techniques to mitigate our own mental health.
My mental health has been a priority for the past 5 years or so. I’m a daily meditator, have cold showers, walk frequently, eat as best I can (most of the time). I know personally how much all this benefits me, one-day last week I did none of the aforementioned and ended up having two coffees, and a chocolate muffin by 10 am, properly messed my whole day up to the point where I achieved nothing whatsoever. Even though I’m proactive in regard to my mental health, it often still feels like I’m fighting an uphill battle. During these times I find solace in knowing that if I wasn’t being proactive, taking these steps, I may be in a far more challenging position. I look back and try to appreciate how far I’ve come. There was one point no to long ago where my friends threatened to walk away because they were so sick of me.
One way I have found for releasing these tensions and stressors is through journalling and tears, real tears, the ugly face ones that leave you aching. There is something about the sobbing, gasping, convulsing from lack of breath, the honest, raw movement of emotion that always seems to relieve some of the symptoms. When nothing else seems to be helping I have always found journaling to at least slightly soften the burden. Obviously, having someone to talk to is the best scenario, but that’s not always an option, and if you’re like me, and you have trouble reaching a point where you begin to cry, maybe journalling first can help. The technique I use to journal is relatively straight forward, find a quiet space, maybe light a candle, focus on the emotion or physical pain, and ask how does it make you feel? Can you describe the sensation? where is it exactly? What colour is it? Does it remind you of anyone? or anything? Get a pen and paper, and write it all out, write it till your fingers ache and there is nothing left to say, then reread it aloud, sit with it, see where it takes you. It may not lead to an emotional outpour, but it will definitely do something.
“We need never be ashamed of our tears.” – Charles Dickens
Yesterday I developed, what I can only assume, was a migraine and during that time, in an effort to understand what was causing it I began to journal, this is a section:
I feel sore, tired like a weight is pressing on my brain, and I’m sinking. In the midst of it, all my head is pounding and I want to throw up. I feel vial, a mixture of exhaustion and anger, fuelled by resentment and self-criticism. Why can’t I make decisions right now? Why can’t I commit to anything? Instead, here I am going in circles. My neck is tight, my brain swelled and feeling as though it will pop out my eye socket. I hate this situation of not knowing, of being trapped. The lack of forward movement, of drive. The nausea of lack of direction. When will it all end? Thunderclaps and rain pours outside. I feel the tension of it all. How good it must feel to pour from the heavens when conflict arises. An instant release of tension. Yet here I sit. Emotions trapped like seized threads in the unturned vice which is my heart. Clogged and downtrodden. How good it would be to relinquish this pain, this frustration. Just like nature, we aspire to release to the elements, to both internally and externally, go with the flow. Rain, hail, or shine.
“I never guessed I could cry so hard my face hurt.” – Vernor Vinge
I’m sure I’m not the only male to say I find crying incredibly difficult, and it sure as shit isn’t talked about. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I was even able to cry at all, and only more recently that I realised how beneficial it can be, instant weights removed, and stresses released. For me, the movie Lion, was what first powerfully moved that energy within me, maybe in some way I relate to it? the feeling of being lost from something or someone? myself? There is strength in surrendering to that weakness, to really sitting with your emotions. Even when your head is pounding or your breath is scarce, just staying there, digging deeper. I do this through writing about the feelings, emotions, and thoughts that come up, and if I really get deep enough, through tears.
“To cry was to release all sorts of ugly little pressures and tensions. Like waking out of a long, dark dream to a sun-filled day.” – Anne McCaffrey
This post isn’t a cry for help, this is just me letting you know that life doesn’t always feel great and that no one is exempt from these sorts of feelings or emotions, it’s just that some hide it better than others. The beauty in this is that we are all in it together which I hope can help us all feel a little lighter.
“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.” – R.J. Palacio