January 2017 will be one for the books, y’all. I will forever remember it as my personal bitchslap month of reality. After an exhausting winter break, I returned home expecting 2017 to sustain my bliss from 2016, but I was surprised to learn that the holidays, the cold Northern weather, and overall feeling of disorientation led me to an infamous “funk,” which is our cute way of saying really shitty mental health issues.
Aside from knowing I wasn’t in a great mental space, I added on a layer of guilt and shame. “But wait,” I told myself, “You already did your self-work that was supposed to prevent you from finding yourself in this mess ever again!” To cope, I was saying and doing everything opposite of what I believe is healthy: fantasizing a new career, researching homes in other states, being hyper-critical of my physical body, and distancing myself from my support system. No. No.
That ain’t no way to live, folks. I consciously knew this, but there is so much pleasure in the pain of self-destruction. I was surprised that I could barely make it an hour through my day before I kept thinking about how shitty everything is. ME! I used our awful president as an excuse, but it had to be more. Daniela advised me to “figure out what I really want.” My mom guessed the origin of the issue in about 10 seconds, and she was right. My perspective snapped into place because moms just know.
Revisiting the cloudy skies of my life was unpleasant, not to mention inconvenient and counterproductive to the happy and healthy life I regularly live. I’m no mental health counselor, but here are the things I did–and all of us can try–when we’re wanting to get ourselves out of a funk (and I don’t mean diagnosed mental illness; you can’t just snap out of that, of course):
Decide that you want to stop being unhappy. (Gonna say it again–if you don’t have a mental illness, happiness can be a choice.) A lesson I learned from one of my therapists is that we often live our lives in a sad state out of habit. Years ago, one of my therapy breakthroughs is when I was able to say, “I’m only sad because I’m used to being sad.” After that point, I made the choice to try to be happy, faking it until I finally made it. I had to make that same choice during the past few weeks until I got my energy back.
Figure out what’s really making you sad. It’s probably not your job, your state, your house, your dog, your car, or whatever other scapegoat you’re looking for. It’s probably an intangible emotion you’re struggling with, which is why you have to find something tangible to blame it on. In January I was missing connection; I felt lonely, isolated, rejected, and inadequate. When I discovered the root of that disconnection, I could actually feel my body shift. That night, I bought Publix chicken tenders, cookies, and a big ‘ole coffee, feasted, and emerged from that meal feeling invincible.
Use all your resources to heal. When I started on the upswing again, I utilized my support networks extensively–the same ones I rejected when I felt the pain. I hung out with Charise almost every day and spoke with my mom on the phone every time I took my dog for a walk. I gave myself permission to watch This Is Us on Hulu a few nights per week instead of going to the gym because I reminded myself that my mental health is better when I’m not trying to mend significant body image issues. And goddamn it, I bought another box of cookies.
Learn from the pain and the recovery to remember how to heal next time. This past month of “slipping back” into a place I haven’t been for a hot minute was an important reminder that pain is a natural and expected aspect of life. I released the shame of thinking that “I should know better by now” than to feel so sad. Instead, I vowed to remember that pain is temporary and that the only way out is through. I can be aware of my sources of pain and try my best to avoid them, but if pain finds me again, I know how to bounce back.