Mental Wellness Challenge – 2020, June 26
ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM… and another week has gone by…
Last week I challenged you to:
1. Do a little research and learn one thing new about ADHD, or depression/depressive disorders, or anxiety disorders, or any other mental health concern/disorder.
2. Share that one thing you have learned with a friend. This might be an odd conversation – and that’s part of the challenge. Talk about mental health.
3. Write yourself a note in the evening – that you will see in the morning – telling yourself that you an important part of the world, that you make a difference to the people around you and that you love yourself – OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. Be intentional about this. Give yourself a little love, a little boost of esteem… you deserve it.
I am pretty much always on the lookout for pieces on the parts of my mental wellness that I work on. I subscribe to a couple of different periodicals that are pretty good… there’s – of course – lots of advertising for this herbal remedy or that new course or program – but there’s always a nugget here and there… ADDITUDE Magazine is one that I get resources for my ADHD… it tends to focus on the female perspective of the disorder – and that’s OK – there are always pieces to learn from. I also read white papers on depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD and most of my other ‘Ds’…
Certainly – the sharing of the what I learn, my insights and perspectives is one piece of my doing this blog. Encouraging people to talk about mental wellness, my efforts to discuss and through that discussion attempt to “normalize” mental illness, and my sharing of my struggles are all part my sharing my learning, my journey with everyone and anyone who cares to listen. As my rant goes – we very appropriately put up posters, discuss and promote awareness of things like different cancers, sexual health and sexual responsibility, planned parenthood, women’s health and women’s issues, men’s health and men’s issues – but in all that – there is scant mention of mental health, mental wellness, mental distress. And – when mental health hits the news cycle – well… that’s always (ok – almost always) a negative perspective because someone with a mental health disorder did something that hurt someone else – a shooting or rampage or some other terrible thing.
On this a bit – I am willing to posit that there are people with cancer, or other terrible afflictions that take their own lives just as there are people with severe mental disorders that do the same. Absolutely, terribly tragic. I would also posit that there are so very many more people who are afflicted with severe depression, anxiety, PTSD or other disorders that keep on – keeping on… Our society doesn’t look at both groups of afflicted individuals with the same light… Do we? I have personally experienced the stigma, prejudice, fear and ignorance of all sorts of people – from health care workers, to government bureaucrats, to just other folk. Society is scared spitless of mental illness… That fear, in my view, comes from ignorance. So – I do my bit to try and create dialog, awareness and acceptance of mental illness, and of course mindfulness of mental health.
I’ve left notes for myself at work, on my keyboard each day this week. I have been intentional about this. I even left my self a little heart (felt really odd, contrived doing this) on a window I look out of every day… I truly believe that this helps me with self-acceptance and self-esteem… two pieces of MY puzzle that I have trouble with. I actually had a discussion with my wife this week where I was saying that I felt like I was spending massive amounts of energy trying to ‘keep water in my bucket’ and realizing that I need to spend more time ‘fixing the whole in the bottom’… “there’s a whole in my bucket dear Karen, dear Karen… well fix it dear Kevin, dear Kevin, dear Kevin… with what shall I fix it….” Goes the old song… Leaving the notes and the pictures are part of both filling and fixing for me…
I think it’s a pretty common, socially expected, healthy part of everyone’s day to practice personal hygiene. You know – all the things we do at the start or end or multiple times each day (depending on your individual habits and, of course, vocation) to be clean. We bathe, we scrub our teeth, groom ourselves, maybe shave, etc… BUT – WHY do we do all those things??? Hmmm – the answer becomes very clear to those around us – maybe not to ourselves – but certainly those around us… if we don’t. Personal hygiene is one of those things that we do to look after ourselves for certain… and it helps us with our closer relationships (maybe physical distancing will change this??? Hope not..)
I know, in my experience that even if I am out camping and roughing it – I do my daily hygiene routine… or I can’t live with myself… I have to wash me – I have to clean my body from my own stuff and from the dirt of the world that ends up on my body. Wash those hands! This helps to keep me healthy.
Well then, what do I do to “wash my mental me”? For lots and lots of years of my life, this isn’t even something that I thought of. What do I need to do to wash the world off ‘me’ and to wash the ‘stinky stuff’ – the mental B.O. from me? Have you ever thought about that? My experience has been that too often, I don’t do enough of this. I don’t take the time to intentionally clean the crud from my mental health. My environment is filled with all sorts of “mental dust, dirt, crap, grease, air born stuff” that I find that sticks to ‘ME’… If it was only just as easy as stepping into a shower and scrubbing all that stuff off my mind with some good old Irish Spring and a wash cloth… it would be so easy and so routine that I would maybe include that in my daily physical hygiene routine… BUT WHY NOT? WHY ISN’T IT JUST THAT EASY… well – I don’t think its been part of my regular mental health routine to even be aware of how much “dirt” I’m packing around….
The thing here is – there’s no overt signs – odors – ickyness that accompany this stuff… this is dirt that I actually have to look for… I’m reminded of a time when I was about 5 or 6 when I was sitting in my back yard washing carrots on the lawn with my mother… I was (so I thought) clean… anyway – as we were working there – she had occasion to look behind and in my ears… well — Ha… I got the hose and a wash rag right there… I guess that was a piece of my daily hygiene routine that hadn’t been exercised very well… (I was one of those kids that played outside from 07:00 until the street lights came on) Ha – that piece stuck with me – since then – I make sure to wash behind my ears and in my ears… but I didn’t see the dirt that I couldn’t see because I wasn’t looking for it.
The jist of what I am getting at is that I have to be intentional in “cleaning up” my mental space. Washing down the walls from time to time, scrubbing the spots that are sticky and sweeping up the floors and giving them a mopping. I know I have never painted in my mental space because I don’t want to cover up stuff… I don’t believe that that’s very healthy… My mental space is starting to get better, but there’s still stuff there that needs to cleaned up… There’s even stuff in there that I can’t pack out by myself – I need to call in the piano movers for some of it… (my counselors and supports)… That stuff is all bigger stuff or stains and marks that need professional attention… I am learning, little by little to perform a more routine, daily mental wellness hygiene regimen.
This blog is actually an accountability piece for me, checking in with myself in an accountable way. I am certainly sharing this with y’all and that’s part of my intention… there are pieces of my experience that I clean up – write down (journal, share with my wife, my counselor or other supports) that I don’t share here.
I have a mind space where things tend to stick… like carpet maybe… others are blessed with hardwood floors or tile or something… I have learned that I need to work a bit more than some others at keeping my mental space tidy… and I suppose – like the differences between broadloom flooring and hardwood flooring – there’s difference in scratches and scrapes and wear… I don’t tend to take my shoes off… so I track in dirt… its harder to see – but its still there… every once in a while I have to run the old steam cleaner around… but that even doesn’t get it all – just like the cracks in a hardwood floor trap stuff… we all have “stuff”.
OK then, so I know that I’m different from everyone else and that my “space” and your “space” are different. I have to develop tools, routines, schemas to keep my “space” clean and healthy just like you have to develop your same things for your “space”…. The first piece for me is/was to be aware that there’s cleaning up to be done. We are all different – but we all have the same need…
Just like our personal and societal expectations for personal hygiene, I believe its important that we (collectively – socially) practice similar responsibilities our/my mental health/hygiene. I believe that I am responsible for my own mental wellness. I also believe that responsibility extends to encouraging mental wellness in others – good mental hygiene if you will…
This week I am going to challenge you to:
1. Have a look inside your “space”. Have a peek and poke around a little… Are there “potatoes” growing behind your ears??? Are there spots that could use a little cleaning? Are there things you’ve recognized that need some attention… Is the dust of your experience in the world building up – and is that having an effect on your experience
2. Having had a look in your “space”, think about a way or ways that you can do some cleaning.
3. Take 5 minutes every day to “wash off” the crud from world – from your mental space – each day.