health, love, mental health, personal journeys

a toast to the scary times

he’s a good guy

Halloween night saw me in the emergency room for antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication withdrawal. I had the shakes, electric shock-like headaches, nausea, lightheadedness, tunnel vision, etc. My boyfriend got me ready to go to the hospital, got me in the car, and held my hand the whole way there. Long story short, I’m fine. I’d had toxic levels of that med in my bloodstream before I even started withdrawing, so it just all really sucked. On the other hand, I had someone by my side who loved me 100% of the time, who loves me and shows me how to love myself when things feel dark or like I’m failing at being strong.

Today I’m paying that forward.

To anyone going through any kind of mental health struggle:

Being afraid of yourself, your body, your mind, the medical system–it’s normal. Chances are we’ve cried over the same thing at the same time. You’re really not alone.

You can be afraid of the dark places your mind goes and you can shake and cry and you can still let yourself feel all of it. You’re handling this, even when you don’t feel like you are.

You can let yourself have bad days.

You can get up. You can fall down after you get up, and you can get up again.

Social media is all bullshit. Everybody can look good with the right filter, the right hashtag, the right cocktail, the right words, the right job, the right school, etc. Don’t compare yourself.

And lastly: I don’t know if you’ve ever seen any of the Cate Blanchett Elizabeth movies–if you haven’t, you’ve missed out–but there’s part of the first movie that always sticks with me. In summary, a conniving piece of shit tries to break young Elizabeth’s heart, career, and life. Instead of banishing or executing him, she decides to keep him at court forever. She keeps him close and she tells him why:

because you will be my reminder that I beat my enemies, even if it takes me a moment to figure out who they are

because you will be my permanent reminder that I’m smarter than you, even in my most worst moments

because you will be a reminder of my strength–that I am and will always be stronger than you

because it’s my own weakness that shows me how strong I can be

Any bad days, any rough day? Keep them close. Let them remind you that you’ve been here before and, even in the worst moments, you’re that strong.

I’ve been through a well-balanced (hah) sampler of mental health struggles, and when I think about my passions in life, about anthropology, about sustainability, adventure, and the mountains, I know hard times just make those loves more worthwhile. It’s cliched, maybe, but it gets truer the more I experience.

Caring about people and the earth all becomes richer when you know what it’s like to not care about yourself. Loving the mountains deepens when they’ve given you a sense of wonder and smallness when you’ve most needed it. When you come back to yourself, when you see all that and love yourself, it’s a richer love. You know you can love yourself through it all and come out of the worst, safe in the knowledge that you are your own unfailing best friend. The mountains are no longer postcards. Loving yourself is no longer a hashtag. This is the real shit now, the real adventure. It’s so much bigger now, and there’s no going back.

The mountains are no longer postcards. Loving yourself is no longer a hashtag. This is the real shit now, the real adventure. It’s so much bigger now, and there’s no going back.

We humans (and, I assume, any bored stoner aliens busy binge-reading human blogs–in which case, hi bro!) are here as a species because we’ve found some finite meaning and peace in this crazy life. We’re hunters and gatherers whose greatest achievement is rigging up traps of belonging to stop some hard falls. (I’m really sorry everything is somehow a climbing metaphor.)

This is the time of year where many remember the ancestors. Maybe take a moment to think about what they went through. Think about the hands they’ve held in the dark, about the traps they laid to keep loneliness at bay. Thank them for being badass bitches who sometimes gave up and cried but always came back.