I believe that mental health should be less stigmatized. I’m comfortable talking to others about if I had a cold or if I fractured a bone. Why should mental health be treated any differently? I’m going to let go of that stigma. This blog is meant to be about telling my journey in not only veganism but how I’m navigating taking care of myself by embracing my queer identity and through my spiritual practices. If I became vegan for mostly health reasons, then I am going to share with you how I am taking care of myself mentally. I am not a professional; I cannot diagnose you or tell you how to navigate your journey with mental health, nor would it be right to endorse a certain view point as the only correct way. These are just my personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. Do with them what you wish but remember to always be respectful.
I feel as though a large portion of my life was focused on repressing my emotions. If an emotion is not “positive”, if it is not happiness, joy, peace, it is not meant to be felt. I am doing something wrong, evil. How dare you feel any discomfort? With this mindset and a generalized anxiety disorder that leads to depressive episodes, one can imagine how difficult it was to balance and understand my emotions. On the one hand, I have these anxious thoughts and feelings that I cannot necessarily control. On the other hand, I believe that anxious thoughts and feelings are wrong. With that belief in mind, my anxiety only grew. I messed up. I slipped. I fell back into the trap of having emotions and feelings. How could I let myself do this? How could I allow for myself to make this mistake again?
But emotions are never a mistake. They happen and they are natural. Some come with a trigger or reason and others just appear seemingly out of nowhere. I read somewhere a long time ago that feelings are just signals telling you what you might need. For example, if you’re feeling really worked up about a particular situation, maybe that emotion is communicating to you that you need space to be alone. If you’re feeling lonely, maybe your emotional brain is telling you that would like some company. This view of emotions challenges my former belief that there are “negative” emotions. All emotions are fine and natural and serve a purpose. Emotions can catergorized in a neutral space. For me, when they are in that space, neither good or bad, the emotion is less intimidating.
In keeping with the former belief that emotions are bad and intimidating, I would often seek to run away from them. Distract myself until the point that I would forget about them and let them arise at unforseen times. See that emotion, lock it up, and throw away the key. Except emotions can’t be contained like that. Somehow, some way, they find a way to come up again. My old pattern of behavior would say to repeat the whole process again. It was draining and ultimately unproductive. I wasn’t getting rid of the “bad feeling” just setting it aside for another time.
What helped me reframe the idea of running away from my problems was praciticing Mindfulness. Headspace is the app I use to do that. One of the principles that really stuck with me is that running away from those emotions takes so much effort. It’s tiring. Why not try and just let the emotion pass without necessarily inviting the emotion. The app described it like this. Imagine you are sitting out on your front lawn. You live next to a road that has frequently has cars on it. The cars driving by are your thoughts. Sometimes there are lots of cars, somedays no cars, somedays not so many cars. Did you invite the cars to your street? No. But here they are. You can try to control the traffic, the thoughts, but it may not work. You can get caught up in the thoughts, running out into the traffic so to speak which would only end in harm. My personal favorite option is to just watch the cars drive by, allowing the thoughts to come and go without having to get entangled in them.
I’ll end this by sharing other grounding and mindfulness excercises that I enjoy doing regularly:
- Yoga. There are many free yoga videos out there to follow along with. My personal favorite is the channel Yoga with Adriene. I like to do it in the mornings to start of my day with a clear mind
- Mantras. I have come up with two mantras that help me when I feel a big emotion.
- “There’s a big wave of emotion crashing over me. But I have a life jacket; I’ll be okay”
- “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still” (Exodus 14:14). Keep in mind with this second one that this is based off of my own personal spiritual journey and not a a way to endorse a particular religion. As stated in the first paragraph, you may respectfully do with this what you wish.
- Worry Stone. Mine is a necklace that I bought off of an Esty shop. It’s an Opal, one of my favorite Steven Universe fusions.
- Small Zen Garden. Another purchase from an Etsy Shop.
- Journaling when I remember to.
- Coloring/drawing while listening to either piano music of lo-fi.
As with any journey, this isn’t the end but just the beginning. I will continue to learn and grow and better myself through these practices. I would love to hear what sorts of practices you do to clear your mind. Feel free to leave a comment or send a message on the contact page. As always, I appreciate you on this journey with me. Until next time.