May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is not a month I’ve been aware of before, but apparently it’s been around since 1949. Obviously, it was an underground thing for most of its existence, since it’s really only been the last couple of years that the stigma around mental health has lessened enough that it’s ok to talk about it. I don’t think anyone is unaware of mental health after the past year, nor that it is something everyone has, as opposed to just the “crazy” person down the block.
The truth is it’s more than just a month. Maintaining your mental health is a daily practice that needs attention year round. This isn’t one and done. It’s more like exercising. You don’t work out every day for a month and then think you’re done for the rest of the year. In our society we want a pill for everything. There is no magic pill here. You have to put in the time and effort every single day. Some days will absolutely suck; some days will be fabulous. Most days will be somewhere in between, and there will be highs and lows throughout every day.
Resilience is key. Everyone has things come up in life that can flatten you. You are never going to be able to avoid that altogether. It’s about building tools and skills into your life, so that the dip isn’t as deep or doesn’t last for very long. Learning how to navigate around the problems to prevent them in the first place helps, but we all need to learn how to handle crises with the minimum of stress and trauma. Easier said than done, but the daily work you put in pays off enormously when things go sideways.
You may not feel like the meditation, the exercise, the therapy and counseling is making a difference in the moment, but it all adds up. If you have multiple ways to down regulate your body and lift your mood, you are going to be so well equipped to deal with adversity when it does arise. Know that you are not alone and do the best you can in the moment.
I went to the eye doctor for my annual check-up, which has been two years because of Covid, and found out that not only do I need reading glasses but I also have cataracts. My first thought was I’m not that old, I’m only 43, cataracts is for old people. I spent the entire drive home in so much reaction.
Immediately after walking in my door, I looked up cataracts (a clouding of the eye lens) in Messages from the Body by Michael J. Lincoln: “seeing a dark future ahead in which there is no joy and no end in sight…they systematically seek to avoid looking at the future.” (Louise Hay says the same: Inability to see ahead with joy. Dark future.)
My first thought upon reading that was, yeah that’s pretty much where my thoughts and vibrations have been for years. My vision has been very cloudy about my future, my hope for my future, if I would even have a future. I really didn’t start saving for retirement until I was in my late 30s because I never thought I would make it to retirement age. I figured I would’ve killed myself by then.
I want to be more hopeful about my future. I want to believe that I can have a future that includes really amazing things. I want to believe that I can have a fulfilling, satisfying, amazing life for the next 50+ years. I want to see clearly. I don’t want my perspective clouded by everything that I have thought and created and manifested from before. I want to start fresh and see my future with a clear perspective.
I don’t really want to talk about this with people, unless they are in alignment and on the same path, because I know what I will hear is, “Getting old sucks.” or “That’s just the way it goes.” or “Yeah, it’s all downhill from here.” Yes, I do have those thoughts and beliefs, but I want to shift them. I do know it’s possible to heal and return to well-being. If you have any doubt about the ability of the body to spontaneously heal, read Anita Moorjani’s book Dying to Be Me. Every time I have doubt I think about her. After slipping into a coma because her body was riddled with cancer, she had an NDE and came back into her body. She KNEW she was healthy and two weeks later the tumors were gone.
This diagnosis opened me up to really focus on what I want for my future. It’s like a switch was flipped. I’m more excited and positive than I’ve ever been. Every time I notice the clouding, I tell myself I have amazing and wonderful things in my future. Source is bringing everything in perfect timing. It’s already on the way. The last few days have been so freeing. I have a completely different perspective about life and how the universe works. It’s like everything has fallen into place and I’m seeing with new eyes. This is how you change your life—little by little, day by day, being confronted with contrast and consciously pivoting to what you want.
Many articles and much commentary have been devoted to mental health since the pandemic began. Some people were very cognizant of how the extended quarantine and altered daily life were going to impact everyone, but I don’t think most people were aware how deeply it would go and how many would be affected.
Everyone has been so focused on the physical threat of the virus, justifiably so, that they didn’t realize there’s going to be a mental health pandemic that comes after this. I understand the thinking, because like in a war zone, you want to stop the physical death first, but as we’ve seen with so many people, PTSD is a serious problem and it has serious consequences. It’s not just soldiers coming back from war who are going to be dealing with PTSD. Everyone has some trauma from a year of isolation and quarantine and fear and change and loss of jobs and loss of finances and everything being upended. Those daily traumas have created so much anxiety and depression and we have few resources and no system in place to help people with that.
Now that we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic with the arrival of widespread vaccinations, people are eager to get back to normal, but that normal doesn’t exist anymore. Every single person on the planet has been profoundly changed by the last year. Society seems the think there are two groups when it comes to mental health—normal people and crazy people. The truth is mental health is a part of everyone’s life, just like physical health. At one time or another everyone will have a mental health problem because of stress at work, a bad breakup, the loss of a loved one and myriad other everyday occurrences.
While I no longer have shame talking about my mental health, it is still a very taboo subject for a lot of people. When you feel shame about something and can’t talk about it for fear of ostracism or punishment, the problem doesn’t just go away. In fact it gets worse, because it is growing and festering underneath the surface. People have spent the last year just trying to function on a daily basis and if they haven’t been also taking care of their mental health, there’s a lot that’s going to be bubbling up now that the physical threat is gone.
The stigma around mental health and people thinking you’re crazy is a huge block to getting help. Most people suffer in silence. My first suicidal thoughts were at the age of nine. I did not get help for my depression until I was twenty years old. We need to do better than that. Now that I’ve been open about my mental health issues for so long, I don’t have any hesitancy talking about it, even with complete strangers, but that isn’t the case for most people.
If someone tells you they are depressed and thinking about suicide and your response is we can’t let the neighbors know, what you’ve essentially said to your loved one is—I would rather you kill yourself than have other people think poorly of me. That’s not what you intended but that’s what the other person hears. If you gossip about someone saying she’s “crazy,” anyone who hears that who has emotional problems will not come to you or most likely anyone for help, because they will be afraid of being labeled the same.
I hated the ending of the Hunger Games series because even though Katniss won, she lost. Twenty years later she still had PTSD and was barely functioning. That’s not winning to me. That’s losing an entire life. In our drive to keep people alive, we’ve lost our way on people actually living and enjoying that life. It’s not enough to still be breathing. Being miserable but still breathing is what hell is. Hell isn’t what you get for living a bad or mean or evil life. Hell is disconnecting from who you are while still living in this body.
I spend equal amounts of time every day on my physical and mental health. I’ve written before about my routine, which changes from time to time, but I zealously guard my time. Exercise and meditation are essential for me. It’s not if I have time—I make the time. It is nonnegotiable. Having that maintenance be an everyday occurrence makes mental health more on par with brushing your teeth or drinking enough water. It needs to be viewed as part of overall well-being not as some deep dark secret.
We all benefit from improvements in mental health. There isn’t as much volatility in the air. People are able to see different perspectives. Happy people are kind to people. Relaxed people know there’s time and space for everyone. Well-balanced people are able to view conflict and adversity calmly and to find a satisfactory solution. This pandemic has caused a lot of upheaval, but maybe it has also cleared the way for us to have a productive conversation about all the mental health issues that it has brought up and find a better way forward.
When I look at how my life has turned out, there are some areas I’m extremely proud of and other areas I’m less than thrilled with. The fact that I’m even still alive and didn’t commit suicide, having lived with depression my whole life, is a testament to my perseverance and drive. But when I look at the things and stuff I’ve accomplished, I think: how did this happen to me? I was the Type A overachiever growing up who was going to be super successful. I got straight A’s, worked doubly hard to be the best at everything, got into an elite East Coast university and then everything fell apart.
All my goals were based on me not being enough, not feeling good enough and needing to do more to prove myself to be worthy. I was going to be a superstar because then I would know I had accomplished enough to be lovable. When I switched from International Relations to Theatre in college, I went from thinking I’d be the Ambassador to France to thinking I’d be a movie star. Nothing else was good enough.
When acting didn’t work and I realized I didn’t have the drive for it and just wanted the glamour and wealth, I decided to let it go. But then I realized how lost I was. I’d come to LA for acting and now that I wasn’t acting, why was I staying in LA? I had done a lot of admin and PA work because I did it as a student in college for extra money, and when I came to LA I just needed a job to pay the rent. I didn’t need a job to further my career; I was going to be a movie star. Then there I was at thirty feeling deeply unmoored with no clear direction in sight.
I decided to save up money to travel and set up a blog to document my six-month road trip in 2009. I was going to be a superstar who got paid to travel. Travel influencer wasn’t a job yet, but blogger was. I had no idea how to do it as a business and no confidence in myself to say, hey look how awesome I am, you should pay me for this. I came back in debt, unemployed and expanded my photography skills to food by documenting my numerous baking projects.
In 2012, I moved to Paris to study French at the Sorbonne, thinking, see America just wasn’t right for me. I’m going to be an expat living a fabulous life in Europe. Six months later, I was back in LA, unemployed and in debt again.
I’ve spent the last nine years trying to unravel the emotional roadblocks and resistance instead of picking up and running away, even if it is to someplace fabulous. While I know I’ve grown tremendously as a person and really expanded and become a more balanced and less reactive human being, I can’t help thinking that I’ve pretty much wasted the last decade. I know deep down I haven’t, and I’m so proud of myself for where I am mentally and emotionally now. I know for the first time in my life I have a solid foundation to build on. Outwardly though, it looks like I’ve done nothing. No relationship, no career, no fabulous house or lifestyle.
It’s made me take a really hard look at my values. What does success look like? Is it money, power and prestige? Is it the amount of joy, love and happiness in your life? While I know it’s the latter, I haven’t accomplished much in either category. Who gets to decide that, though? Is it what I feel is of value to me or what other people tell me is of worth? Am I doing what I want or what I feel I need to in order to get the pat on the head from society? Who says I need to have a husband, two kids, a house and two weeks of vacation a year? Personally that image always freaked me out, because I looked around as a child and saw that once a woman got married and had kids, her life was over. Any dreams she had were set aside to take care of her husband and kids. It doesn’t have to be that way, but that was the only example I saw and I ran screaming in the other direction. But that wasn’t me pursuing my dreams and passions, that was me taking action in response to something I didn’t want. Success is being connected to your true self, that inner being that only wants the best for you, and making all your decisions and actions from there. I’m far from mastering that, but it’s something I work on every day and it’s led me to some insights.
Here’s what I do know. I have a rock solid friendship with the most amazing woman. We’ve known each other for almost twenty years. We lived together for a while a decade ago. We’ve been through everything with each other. We know absolutely everything about each other—the good, the bad, the horrendous and the embarrassing. We’ve never had a fight. We don’t judge each other. We are always there for each other and we’ve managed to remain friends as we’ve transitioned from being two young, single women to her marrying and having kids while I remain single.
Here’s what else I know. This kind of relationship is incredibly rare. When I think I don’t have much of a social life, don’t have a lot of friends or a man, I remember that having the quantity does not necessarily mean having the quality. I need to focus on the amazing relationships I do have, including a new friendship that is similar to my most treasured one. I would still like to find a man I can have a deep connection with, one I can travel with and build a life together, but I don’t want to settle for less than what I want and I don’t want to think I have to be less in order to be with him. So I’m focusing on me, on being the woman who attracts an amazing, supportive equal partner.
Ultimately I have to let go of how I thought my life would look, because that image was based on a lot of negative beliefs that I don’t want to carry around anymore. It was the dream fantasy life of someone who was miserable, lonely and trying to escape her isolated life. Some of the things I want might look the same on the surface, but the feeling behind them will be completely different. The money, house and lifestyle will come because I love myself and know my worth, not as evidence to convince myself I’m worthy. My man will come because I feel complete as I am, not because I’m looking to him to complete me.
The perspective I have is one of my greatest accomplishments. The life I thought I would have was full of stuff, but I was never clear on how it felt. The stuff was supposed to fix everything and make me happy once I’d achieved it. Letting go of that empty existence doesn’t seem like such a sacrifice anymore. It’s also letting go of the girl who wanted that stuff and all the heavy, dark reasons for wanting it. I’d like to be able to say that I’ve let that go, I feel light and have created fabulous new things in my life, but I’ve committed to be honest here. While I can feel how good that would feel to be like that, I’ve still got some work to do to live there on a more regular basis. Life is always a work in progress and some days are going to be better than others. I know everything is always working out for me and things are always getting better. That’s the life I know I’ll be having for the rest of my time on earth.
People are getting really angry at younger people for ignoring the social distancing and self quarantine recommendations and just thinking, well I’m not going to die so who cares. Older people keep saying they need to do this for the greater good. Well, the younger generation has been saying we need better environmental regulations and better opportunities and a social safety net for the greater good. They’ve been saying we need universal healthcare, campaign financing reform, and more inclusivity for the greater good. And they’ve been ignored by the old people in power. Now the old people in power are telling the millennials, you need to do this for the greater good and millennials are saying, you don’t listen to us, so we’re not listening to you.
I’m forty-two and part of this weird half generation made up of people born from 1976 to 1982. I’m not a millennial, but I’m not Gen X either. Our older siblings are Gen X, but our younger siblings are millennials. I tend to straddle the two and can see things from both sides. In some aspects I’m more millennial and in other aspects I’m more older Gen X pre-technology, dinosaur days. I graduated from college in 2000. In the first 20 years of my adult working life there has been the dot com bust, 9/11, war in Afghanistan, war in Iraq, the 2008 crash, Republicans blocking everything Obama tried to do, Russians hacking the 2016 election, Trump as president dismantling the government, and now the coronavirus. I understand the millennials’ anger.
Do I think it’s selfish that the younger people are ignoring the recommendations and putting other people at risk? Yes. Do I think it’s selfish that the older people are not doing more to help younger people have the same opportunities they had? Yes. I also know we all create our own lives regardless of the circumstances.
I find it ironic that the old people, specifically old white men, who have been telling millennials trying to create progressive change to basically, “Fuck off. You’re on your own. We’re not going to change,” are now insisting that millennials do their part and work together for the good of the whole, so that a bunch of old people don’t die. Baby Boomers have been broadcasting their message for decades: I’m in power, I don’t have to change. Basically if you’re in power, you can do whatever you want. And young people have been watching and are now following their example. They have the power now and can do whatever they want. I don’t think this kind of revenge thinking is the balanced, loving response, but I understand it. You don’t create a better life by lowering yourself to someone else’s level, but anger is much better than hopeless. The key is to keep moving up the scale to compassion and love.
We all create our lives with the thoughts and emotions we put out into the world. We all choose when to die. Whether you commit suicide or get hit by a bus or die from a disease, you are choosing when you die. If I step back and be the observer and think of this as Source, in a law of attraction kind of way, I know it’s all working out. We’ve been asking for change and this pandemic is ushering in a lot of change very rapidly.
This is the first virus that doesn’t attack young people, who are more fluid and open to change. The old resistant ones are dying and the young ones are going to move into positions of power. The shift may not have unfolded how we thought it would, but this is part of the big change we’ve been asking for. I’m not saying just let all the old people die. We need to pull together and help one another, which is precisely what younger people have been saying for years, and what I’ve been saying since I was a younger person. We need to help everybody. We need to be inclusive. Everybody needs to participate and help the whole population for the greater good. We need a social safety net. We need universal healthcare for everyone. Old people have universal healthcare. It’s called Medicare. Young people are just asking for that same basic human right.
COVID-19 is going to change the entire landscape. Everyone is still in it right now and panicking and dealing with the shock and fear. Luckily (or unluckily), I’ve been dealing with fear, depression and anxiety for years, and I have a foundation now, so I haven’t gone too much out of balance so far. I’m looking down the road and all the possible outcomes from this, and I’m trying to think of the positives, because there are going to be a lot of negatives before this tragedy is over. What is going to end up being for the greater good?
We’ve been asking for change. We’ve been asking for the healing of the earth. Well, this shutdown of the entire world is giving the earth a bit of a reprieve. The air quality above China has gone up dramatically. A lot of new technology is going to be developed because of this. Our election this fall could look a lot different if a good portion of the older, conservative voters are no longer alive to vote. I cringe even saying that because of how callous it sounds, but again we all choose when we die, and you better believe that political analysts are already thinking it.
Hopefully, this will make everyone realize we are all in this together. Not just with COVID-19, but with climate change, the world economy, and healthcare and other social problems. There can’t be older vs. younger, rich vs. poor, us vs. them. We need new ideas, and we need people with experience. We need open minds and people with the knowledge of how things have been done in the past. I think the most important thing that is going to come out of this is that we will have a renewed interest in connecting with people and connecting with our true self, and that will always be for the greater good.
I’ve seen a number of people commenting online about how hard it is to stay home all the time in order to create the social distancing recommended to slow the spread of the coronavirus. I’ve never understood why people who can work from anywhere go to a noisy, busy coffee shop so they can concentrate on their work. People like that think it’s completely abnormal to be alone and are actually freaked out by the thought of being by themselves.
What is seen as an inconvenience to social people is an everyday reality to introverts and people with mental and emotional problems. I belong to both categories. Sometimes there are days I don’t talk to a single person. I’ve been this way my whole life, so it really isn’t that big a deal to me. I’m used to being alone. Even when I’m around people I tend to not really connect or participate. I do wish I had a few more people in my life, but truly I would not want a huge, boisterous group of family and friends, especially not considering what most people have to put up with in order to stay in or maintain the balance of the group.
Cultures revolve around socializing, so people feel cut off when they’re not physically with other people, but I think a lot of people give up themselves or compromise their own integrity with themselves so that they fit into the group or are accepted by the family or community. Religion, culture, family, society all put rules and restrictions in place and if you don’t follow those rules, you run the risk of being excluded or ostracized. In many times in history, if you left the community, you could very well die on your own, so people have this deep seated primal fear that if they are alone, they are at serious survival risk. I still have that to a certain extent; I think everyone does, but I spent so much time trying to find myself and extricate myself from depression, that I have zero desire to join a community that’s going to take me down that road again. I’d rather be alone.
I want people in my life who want me to be my true self, not to conform. I have only one person I talk to on a regular basis, and she is the very best friend anyone could ever have. We know each other inside out, have been through the good, the bad and the very ugly together. Nothing is private or off limits. We call each other on ALL our stuff and never go into reaction to each other or if we do, we say, “I’m in reaction to you. Please help me through this.” I say we, but I think it’s probably at least 60/40 with my stuff and I’m being generous. But you know what, she loves me anyway. We can be ourselves with zero judgement from the other. So when I say I want more people in my life, I mean more people like her. There’s nothing wrong with having friends you socialize with, acquaintances or colleagues you go to dinner with, but take this time of semi-quarantine to reassess the people in your life. If you don’t feel good when you’re with them, it may be time to let them go. Learn to sit with yourself, by yourself with no phone, no internet, no tv and get comfortable being with the amazing human being inside you.
Potential has been on my mind the last week. I’ve been watching The Mind of a Chef and reading Grape, Olive, Pig; Pasta, Pane, Vino; and Rice, Noodle, Fish, some of the projects Anthony Bourdain was doing in the years before his death. I just keep thinking of all the potential he had, the projects he could have produced for decades, even if he didn’t star in them. In The Mind of a Chef and the books, he didn’t have a lot of direct input; he was a producer and narrator, and he could have continued in that vein for years to come, if only he’d gotten a handle on his mental health. Instead he committed suicided with so much future potential unrealized.
I’ve been trying to keep that in mind for myself. Because while I haven’t had the career or financial success that he had, there is still potential. A lot of potential based on the contrast I’ve lived. I have so much in my vibrational escrow that would start to pop in rich and fabulous ways if I could just line up with it. I feel like I have gotten a handle on my mental health. I feel like the things that would trigger me to go back into depression or become suicidal again just aren’t there anymore, because I have a daily practice that re-centers and rebalances me. I KNOW that no matter what happens, what kind of huge obstacle or success or life-changing event, if I just sit and meditate and exercise every day, I can get back on track. It may look a little ugly for a while in how I handle things or process the changes in my life, but I feel like I can get through anything, even huge success.
It’s ironic that when I say I can get through anything, I’m thinking and bracing for something horrible to happen to me, some trauma or drama. I’m reminded of the Marianne Williamson quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.” We’re all so scared of huge success. Is it going to change me? Yes, but it could be for the better. Am I going to lose my family and friends? Maybe, though you can align with new people who will love and support you as you are now. The potential is in all of us. There are opportunities and experiences that are ready to come into your life. We just need to allow the Universe to bring them in.
This is what I’ve been working on the last couple of years. Not DOING anything. I feel like I should be taking action and doing things and working toward my goals. If you are not in alignment, you will make very little progress. You’ll be like a hamster on a wheel. If you are in alignement with Source, your soul, your inner being, magic will happen. Everything will fall into place. You will randomly meet someone in the grocery store who will open a door for your project. It’s not about sending out a thousand emails, fishing to get a bite from anyone. You want the right someone. That results from being the right someone for yourself. Being centered and confident and acknowledging your awesomeness without having the huge payoff. You are successful, you are beautiful, you are amazing just as you are right now. You don’t need the job, the relationship, the money to prove it. You are an incredible human being just by being you. Knowing that, being that, will unlock all your potential.
I always say I’m a jack of all trades, master of none. If I’m having a good day, I think it’s awesome that I know a little bit about everything, that I can do just about anything well, maybe not exceptionally, but competently. If I’m having a bad day, I think that’s great and all, but no one hires the person who’s OK at a bunch of things. You hire the expert and I’m not an expert at anything. Except I am. I’m an expert at depression. And I really wish I weren’t. I don’t want to make a career out of depression. I want to leave it behind me, but I have to admit that living with it since I was five pretty much makes me an expert, though I have no official expertise other than my own experience. In the thirty-seven years since, I’ve learned ways to cope, ways of surviving but not really coping, gone down numerous dead ends on my quest to healing, and sought out just about every alternative option known to man.
Western medicine and psychology were the first stage for me, but after the initial slight improvement, they were pretty much worthless to me. If anti-depressants and therapy work for you, do it. Use anything you can find that helps you return to your natural well-being. It did nothing for me and I know that there are others like me out there thinking there has got to be a better way. I think that’s why I’m still here—thinking that there must be something else that I just haven’t tried yet. Otherwise, I would have committed suicide long ago.
I tried just about every alternative therapy I could find from reiki to massage to acupuncture to energy work and everything in between. Many things helped, but I was never able to really turn the corner until I went to Peru for ayahuasca ceremonies. Now, there are clinical studies on the use of hallucinogenics for treating alcohol and drug addiction and depression, but in 2006, it was something only to be found in National Geographic Adventure magazine, which is where I read an article about a women who went to Peru and healed her depression with ayahuasca. At that point, it was literally do or die time because I needed a solution or I was going to kill myself. I was done. But because I was done, I was also able to let go of the resistance enough for a solution to come through. It was an incredibly extreme solution, but it was the only thing that helped me. I came back after doing ayahuasca feeling like there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I knew I still had a lot of work to do, but there was hope again. It turned out to be a lot longer road than I anticipated, but I finally felt like I was on the right path.
Ayahuasca is illegal in the US. It’s worth looking into what’s right for you. When the options available in our healthcare system aren’t working for you, you need to think outside the box. We’ve been taught that these types of drugs are morally wrong, but OxyContin was not only legal but advertised as non-addictive until millions of people became drug addicts because of it. What feels right to you? What do you need to return to your well-being? Don’t rely on doctors who don’t know and don’t have all the information to be your sole source of guidance. Learn to rely on your own guidance. Your body knows what it needs. Your inner being will guide you if you listen. That’s what this is all about. Learning how to hear that guidance and then listening to your connection to Source energy and following that guidance. Only you know what’s best for you.
Here’s what I know now that I’m mostly out the other side of depression. I say mostly because you’re never “cured” and never have to think about it again. For me it’s daily maintenance. Maybe there will come a day when I’m just happily living my life but right now it’s WORK. You can’t go to the gym every day for a month and then say, OK I don’t need to exercise anymore, I’ll be in shape for the rest of my life. You have to be consistent and your mental health is the same as your physical health. What you put in is what you get out.
My mental health is dependent on my physical health and vice versa. You need to take care of yourself mind, heart, body and soul. That means moving my body, getting out in nature, eating properly and meditating every single day. For me that’s going for a walk or hike, doing yoga, meditating twice a day and eating lots of vegetables and whole foods.
As I walk you through what I do on a daily basis, a lot of you reading this will think, are you kidding me? I don’t have time for that. I understand, but I’m single, with no kids, and a mostly anti-social introvert, so I basically have no life and have a lot of time on my hands. I’m working on opening up to more relationships, but in the meantime, it means I have a lot of time to focus on myself. Not doing everything I do on a daily basis means I fall back into the black pit of despair pretty quickly. It sucks some days because I think my entire day is taken up just trying to maintain the basic foundation of mental health. But the alternative is darkness and suicide, and I know I don’t want to go back there. So when someone tells me I don’t have time for that, I think I don’t have an option. It has to be a priority for me or else I’m barely even alive and I’m certainly not thriving.
Your well-being needs to be a priority to you. You don’t have anything to give until you take care of yourself. You and your well-being need to come before your kids, your spouse, your job, and that’s really tough for people to do. We’ve been told that’s selfish, but if you’re empty, you don’t have anything to give and you’re teaching your kids and everyone around you that they need to put everyone else first, even if it means completely undermining their own health. That’s not the message we want to give and it’s not what we want to see repeated in the next generation.
So here’s my day.
3 mile walk
15 minutes yoga.
45 minutes exercise (squats, lunges, handstand, jump rope, core, etc. depending on the day)
25 minutes meditation
Get ready for the rest of my day
Walk to work setting my intention for the day as I walk.
Be conscious of when I’m going out of alignment and try to right myself immediately.
Walk home, mentally making the transition so I don’t take any of my work problems home with me
Get home and do 20 minutes exercise (The extra exercise is partly because I’m working on strengthening certain areas and partly it’s because I just need to move or I go stir crazy with anxiety.)
Another 25 minutes meditation before going to bed
Sleep meditation to fall asleep (25 minute meditationand then 1 hr of music)
Get up tomorrow and repeat.
- Follow the candida diet (no sugar, no dairy, etc.), gluten free, vegan diet, all organic if you can. Eliminate processed foods, alcohol and caffeine. Do this for 6 months minimum and then start adding things back in slowly so you can assess which ones affect you adversely.
- No smoking or drugs, not even marijuana, which a lot of people use for the anxiety that so often accompanies depression. Marijuana mimics my depression, but makes me incapable of dealing with the issues that come up because I’m high. That makes me more anxious underneath even though the surface is numbed by the drug. Learn to deal with your emotions without any pharmaceuticals. That said, do whatever you need to do in the short term to take care of yourself. I went to Peru to take something similar to LSD, so I’m the last person to pass judgment. Just ask yourself, is it for your health or to escape your life?
- Exercise outside in nature for at least 20 minutes a day—every day no matter what. It can be a nice easy walk, just move you body. Studies have show that a 20 minute walk has the same effect as taking an anti-depressant, just without the side effects.
- Meditate. I started with guided meditations because I had so much trouble quieting my mind. I kept saying mediation where you quiet your mind and eliminate thought just didn’t work for me. The truth was I was too lazy and too scared to deal with what would come up when I did quiet my constant chatter. I only saw real movement when I put in the time to find that true connection to my inner being. There were times when I only got to half a second of feeling good and the rest of the 25 minutes was my mind going every which way. Then it became a full second, then a couple of seconds. I’m not going to lie, I was severely frustrated that I’d been meditating for six months and the most I could come up with was a couple of seconds of silence, but I kept telling myself that that was more than I had had before and I knew the other way lead to misery, so at least I was on the right track.
- Massage. I used to think getting a massage was a luxury and one I couldn’t afford, and it is out of reach for a lot of people, but if you can get a monthly (or weekly) massage, do it. For me it’s maintenance. I have a lot of anxiety and it gets knotted up in my muscles. The stress release, not to mention the lymphatic drain and overall benefit to my physical and mental well-being, are worth the money.
If you’re thinking no way, I’m not doing that, what if I told you this would turn around your whole life? Would you do it? If the answer is still no, then you need to ask yourself why you’re saying you want to heal but are turning down valid options. It’s a process. It’s been over the course of years that I’ve figured out what works for me. It’s going to be different for you. Take what works and leave the rest, but if you’re in resistance, then you’re avoiding and just saying it doesn’t feel right for me. Some things are presented to me that just don’t resonate with me. Other people rave about them, but they just don’t work for me. Journaling is a good example. I can feel I have some resistance to it, so I do need to look at that, but mostly it just puts me in my head when I’m trying everything to get out of my head. There’s something about writing things down that engages my left brain and instantly I’m in my Virgo list making brain. Check in with yourself and learn to distinguish between resistance and resonance. It’s ok if something isn’t for you, just make sure you’re not saying no from a place of fear.
I still have bad days, sometimes really bad days, but I always know I can bring myself back into alignment and balance. That’s such a huge gift. I know I have a rock solid foundation that can’t be shaken by anything. No matter what life throws at me, I know if I sit and meditate I will get to my happy place. It may not be today or even tomorrow, but I know that within a couple of days at most I will regain my well-being. Don’t let anyone make you believe that having a mental illness makes you weak. Every single day that you reach for joy and happiness makes you strong and beautiful.
Fire in nature is cleansing and beneficial but the landscape has to be destroyed before the benefits can be attained. I tried to keep that in mind as I went hiking in early August in Zuma Canyon for the first time since the fires in Malibu last fall. I wrote down my thoughts at the time but I never published them, probably because I was trying to be more optimistic than I was. It was disheartening to see the devastation to this beautiful area. I returned to Zuma just before Thanksgiving and was able to gain a better perspective and to see how much new growth there was. In August I thought it would take 5-10 years for the area to recover, but less than four months later, I’m thinking that in another 2-3 years, everything but the trees will be back to normal. That’s pretty amazing that nature can regrow an entire landscape in just four years. It gives me hope for other areas that humans have destroyed. If we just let nature be, we don’t need to fix anything.
Zuma Canyon has always been one of my favorite hikes in LA—a 10 mile loop up and down the mountains through native chaparral with an incredible amount of biodiversity, which you really only see in the spring when everything blooms and you realize how many plants are dormant for most of the year. Tall bushes and shrubs cover the hillsides with shorter plants packed in underneath. At least they used to. To say I was shocked by the destruction is an understatement. As I drove up Busch Drive, I passed empty lot after empty lot, the only thing left being the cement foundations and a couple of charred gates. Only a couple of houses escaped the fire. As of November, some people have started to rebuild, though other lots remain vacant.
The only plants growing were ones that had cropped up since the fire, mostly non-native grass. All that was left of the ten foot tall shrubs were charred stalks. I usually do the hike in the afternoon because then most of the hike is in the shade. Unfortunately, that’s no longer true. There’s no shade anywhere because nothing is over three feet tall.
The trees in the creek bed have tons of tiny shoots coming out of their trunks, but the branches are all dead. Usually when a fire goes through, the older, more established trees escape with just some charred bark, but this fire burned so hot that it left all but the hardiest trees in ashes.
In the last four months, everything has doubled in size, which is amazing because we just got the first rain of the season. All the growth has been fueled by dew and mist from the ocean air, which I find just incredible. Most everything is still under two feet tall, but there were a couple of shrubs that were in the 5-6 foot range.
There were a couple of lizards at the trailhead, but otherwise I did not encounter a single animal outside of insects and birds. I met a local woman whose house luckily escaped the fire and she said a week after the fire, the trail was littered with animal carcasses and the only place you can find rabbits and snakes are in the neighborhoods that didn’t burn. If this is true of all the areas the fire hit, it’s going to be a long time before animal life is going to return to the deepest areas. By November, deer had returned to one section of the interior, miles from the trailhead, but the only other life I saw were a couple of lizards near the trailheads.
That said, I was really happy to see all the new growth. Nature is always in a cycle of rebirth and the landscape will recover, though it’ll be years before it will look like it did a year ago. All the native flowers have come back and they were still blooming in August, which is really unusual.
Tons of orange monkeyflower, some fireweed, and most heartening to see, swaths of mariposa lilies. Mariposas are one of my favorites, but I think they may end up getting choked out by the rest of the chaparral or maybe I just don’t see them in the density of the hillside. This time, I saw them everywhere; all along the way, there were vines of white flowers. Tons of mariposa lilies were still blooming in November, with many buds ready to bloom. I’ve never seen that.
Since every plant had been burned to the ground, the normal variations in height weren’t on the mountainsides. It was really beautiful to see the elegant shape of the mountains without all the bushes and shrubs. Such gorgeous lines.
I kept having to remind myself that the absence of animals and vegetation wasn’t a bad thing, which is also an important reminder in life. You can either lament the things that have come to an end or see the rebirth and growth and embrace the beauty that is unfolding.
I kept getting an intuitive impulse to start my blog back up again after shutting it down for the second time a few years ago. I decided this time I’m doing it for me not what I was hoping to get out of it before—global domination and complete adoration along with tons of money. I’m kidding but my fairytale prone brain was convinced that was at least somewhat possible. This time around I want it to be completely me not just what I feel safe enough to share about myself, which was basically nothing. I can’t imagine why I didn’t have millions of followers. Yes, that was sarcasm. I’m brutally honest with myself even when I wish I could ignore what’s standing in front of me. I’ve finally figured out that I need to be myself and share that with the world not because people will like me more or respond better, but because I want to be that person who is completely confident to be herself. I may not be that person all the time yet and some days not at all, but that’s the goal. So I’m following the impulse and starting this journey again from a new perspective knowing that that changes everything. Welcome to my journey.