Or, how I claw my way out of the depths of despair when things start to go wrong.
For as long as I can remember, my mom has begged me, and our entire family, to put together a bag of essentials in case of emergency. She’s not wrong, as we live in California, where earthquakes and fires run rampant, and we might have to evacuate our homes and everything we love at any given moment.
Also, given the way humankind is just burning through the Earth’s natural resources like the rainforests and oceans are a stash of Bath and Body Works candles, and the fact that we’re on the brink of total political and cultural chaos, it does make sense to have a few jumbo Kirkland water bottles put away in my closet in case of emergency.
Anyway, this post isn’t about real disasters. Although, a post on the Google doc my mom put together in order to help inform friends and families on the essentials they’re most likely to need in emergencies is probably more interesting and useful than what I have to say.
My point: my mental health isn’t exactly what I’d call perfect, but it is what I’d call, constantly teetering on the edge of total collapse, while appearing to be mostly fine to those on the outside. The problem with my mental health, if I had to pick just one, is that it goes in waves. There are weeks where I’m perfectly fine, and going to therapy feels like a total waste of money (… although it definitely is not, in retrospect), and weeks where I feel like if I have to walk to the kitchen to get myself a glass of water, I will definitely die.
So, you win some, you lose some.
It’s really hard for me to determine when I have a bad mental health spell (or as I like to think of it, a bout of ennui, though I am neither French nor hot) coming on. However, here are a few ways I’ve noticed I was in the midst of something… troubling:
- I signed up to get email alerts from Kourtney Kardashian’s lifestyle website, Poosh, which has only made me feel worse about myself. Also, I’m not 100% sure how to unsubscribe from email subscriptions.
- One of my plants grew a huge new leaf, and I teared up at the sight of it.
- A Linkin Park / Jay Z song* came on while I was driving, and I gazed out the window and nodded to myself, like, “this guy gets it.”
- I was unsatisfied with my Co–Star daily horoscope, and gave it a negative rating, which resulted in a pop-up notification that said “if you want to talk about horoscopes, or need any help, email us!” I seriously considered it, but my Gmail app wouldn’t open.
Anyway, I’ve gotten better at sensing when something wicked this way comes. And when it does, I’ve figured out the best ways to help me ride the rough, tumultuous waves of my soul-crushing anxiety, and refresh my mindset.
- Clean up your space, you slob – it’s a fact of life (according to my mom) that if you are in a gross, messy space, you will feel like a gross, messy person. Despite knowing this very very well, it has yet to be truly hammered into my brain. When I feel the cold grey fog of anxiety coming on, I do a 25 minute cleaning sprint, 10 minutes of which is spent cleaning soda containers off my nightstand**.
- Use the gym membership you purchased so optimistically – Or, take care of myself in a healthy way. Endorphins make people happy, we all know this, but the knowledge that I’ve done something that is productive and good for me makes me happier.
- Recognize that an hour is a long time – For some reason, I constantly overestimate the amount of time things will take me, and underestimate the amount of time things actually are. If I have an hour before I have to go somewhere, my mind immediately goes, “welp, that’s not enough time to accomplish anything,” and lies down and watches TV for an hour. When I recognize how much can be accomplished in the small pieces of time throughout the day, I get so much more done, thus lessening my existential dread.
- Spend time with another human – Yeah, you’re introverted, we get it. But spending time around other people is part of existing in society, and usually makes me feel better.
- Eat something good – Or, stop trying to find happiness in the bottom of a DoorDash order. When I make something for myself at home (even if it’s a Trader Joe’s frozen meal, which, yes, counts as making something for myself), it’s cheaper, faster, and usually doesn’t make me feel like shit afterward.
If you’re still here, thanks for sticking around. Writing this made me feel less like a disaster.
*From the criminally underrated Collision Course, a joint venture between Linkin Park and Jay Z. Also my favorite album of all time, don’t @ me (unless it’s to tell me how much you agree)
** Yes, not only am I a soda-drinker, I am the type of person who leaves empty soda containers next to her bed. I’m not perfect.