Submitted by Kristine Strangis
It is Mental Health Month! The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one of the most dedicated and passionate organizations advocating for mental illness prevention, awareness, and recovery is promoting this event in order to break the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses.
This time gives us the opportunity to raise awareness about mental illnesses, and therefore, we should take advantage. We need to break the stigma and raise awareness about these issues in order to see change. Mental illness can only thrive when it is in the dark and kept in isolation, so let’s shed some light onto the issue by speaking up and letting other’s know that they are not alone in their suffering.
When I saw that it was mental health month, I was so excited, thinking that this is a great opportunity to raise awareness about these issues and finally bring eating disorders out of the darkness. But, along with my optimistic thinking, my perfectionistic and obsessive-compulsive tendencies started to emerge as well. Immediately, I felt this urge to do more than I could handle, like this was going to be the month that I had to do it all in order to get my voice out there.
My mind started racing with ideas as I methodically planned out the month ahead. I needed to volunteer more, participate in all of the events going on, set up a fund-raiser or two, share my recovery story at multiple organizations, and finish writing my book on my recovery story, all in this one month. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to do it all so that my dedication to these issues could be known. But, the ironic thing is that, I do not have to participate in everything in order to be heard. Therefore, I want to let you know that you do not have to be a part of any extravagant fund-raisers, write a memoir about your own experience, or participate in all of the events going on in order to be heard, but rather, all you have to do is be you.
Now, while I am all for advocating for mental health and helping others, I did not want this perfectionistic thinking to send me backwards in my own recovery. So, I took a step back, put my racing mind on pause for a moment and just thought: why not just take things a day at a time? Instead of thinking within that black-and-white, rigid mindset, I decided to be more flexible and spontaneous in terms of how I could contribute to this wonderful month. Today, I am writing this blog post, letting you all know that it is okay, and even critical to your recovery, to slow down and just live in the moment rather than thinking that you need to do everything now. The greatest thing about this is that, by focusing on your recovery, you are contributing to mental health month in the most important and valuable way that you ever could.
I know where your minds may be going with this because mine went there too. You may be thinking that focusing on yourself is selfish, but I am here to tell you that focusing on your recovery is not selfish, actually, it is exactly what you need to be doing during a month like this.
Focusing on yourself, you are building a foundation; you may not see the growth for a while, but, one day, you are going to blossom. By gathering knowledge and wisdom from your own experiences-failures and successes, you are building the foundation that you will need in order to help others who are going through similar struggles. Eventually, you will have the coping strategies, tools, and empathy that you need in order to help others; by focusing on your own recovery, you are saving lives; and, even if this is not so obvious on the surface, it is happening inside. As you give yourself the strength to fight your own demons, you will be able to pass that on to someone else who needs it, but only when you are ready.
Remember, you do not have to do it all in order make a difference in the world. The simple act of giving a friendly smile to someone is enough to brighten a person’s whole world.
As the wise Gandhi says “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
This quote is my mantra because it reminds me to be true to who I am, to focus on modeling the behavior that I want to see in the world around me instead of setting such high-standards for myself. For example, by taking the time to write this post, I am hoping that my words will resonate with you so that you can find the strength within yourself to stay on the path of recovery. I may not have had a choice in having an eating disorder, but, by continuously choosing recovery and focusing on myself, I am sharing my wisdom, creating a ripple effect, and changing the world one person at a time by taking small steps in the moment.
You can get involved in Mental Health Month and break the stigma simply by embracing who you are. You may not know who that is just yet, but I guarantee that you will find yourself by staying on the path to recovery.
Never give up on yourself. You are enough.
This blog post was sponsored by: Mairs & Power, Inc.