Overshare Alert: February was a really tough month for me. I wasn’t feeling great, my motivation was at an all time low, my routine was off (non existent), I was immobilized. I wish I could share the secret to how I climbed out, but I can’t. There isn’t one. What I know is I rode the waves, I have a partner who rides them with me and I tried very hard to be patient with myself. The voice in my head is not nice in times like this. It shoulds all over me. It questions my decisions. It asks WTF repeatedly. Super helpful, right?
I’m writing this as I want to shed light on reality; I want to highlight real. I know the highs and the lows are so different for every single person and for that reason, it’s so important we all start paying attention to what those differences are and support them, uniquely. When my anxiety is in full swing I’d love nothing more than to be able to identify what caused it, address it and move on. That would be luxurious. That, however, is not realistic. For me, when anxiety strikes it comes out of left field and it comes all of a sudden. I have some warning, but barely enough to even look away. For me, time is one of the first things altered. Hours feel like minutes yet minutes can feel like hours. I know doing something, anything, is best yet nothing happens. I literally inhale resistance and exhale fear. The world around me is spinning so fast but my body has turned to lead. There are times when I can barely drag my squirrelly self to the yoga class that I KNOW will make all the difference. For me, anxiety is like living life as a contradiction. I’m sharing this because I know it to be true for so many people. Everyday I hear stories of intimate struggles of individuals’ difficult relationships with life. Functional anxiety and depression are hidden beneath the many filters of social media. It’s why we are often so caught off guard when someone shares their personal struggles with us:
“You always seem to have it so together”
“But you’re so busy and active and you look great”
“But you go to work full time”
In most ways, mental health is invisible. We can’t see it, and those of us who struggle with it work very hard to keep it below the surface.
So what is the point of this piece? I want to shine light on the reality of mental health and what we can do about it. I want to give people a platform to either talk about themselves or ask another about how they are doing. I want to give language and dialogue to daily struggles that don’t make sense. I want to give permission, to those who need it, to talk more about what a bad day (or week or month) means to them. I want to help break the silence, every day. I’m a big fan and supporter of Bell Let’s Talk Day however, it is only one day. One day out of 365 where the internet blows up with messages and video and love and support. A day of empathy and kindness, hashtags and truth telling. What about the other 364 days?
Beyond mental health, I think it’s time we all start to get real. As a society, we are struggling in silence. Shame is at the root of so many of our addictions. As a whole, we are so unhealthy. We have moved away from our communities and have hid behind our screens. Our armour can be downloaded in the latest snap chat filter and trending hashtag. Why is this an issue? Because we are seeking connection in something that is not real. We are placing our value and self worth on external approval. Selfies have become the pathway to self esteem. WTF.
Before you accuse millennials and teenagers, I need us all to take a hard look inside. We have all become prisoners to our phones; this is a multigenerational issue. Our children are tiny tech addicts, our teens avoid contact and are awkward conversationalists and as adults, rarely are we in one place without being in 16 other places. Technology is a part of our world and we absolutely need to make room for it. However, we need to limit its real estate. It needs to be a part of our world, not our entire world. It needs to be out of bedrooms, off the dining room tables and it needs to have a curfew. We are all operating a hand held device without a license. Click. Scroll. Post. Like. Click. Scroll. Repeat. Morning, noon and night. Let’s disconnect from our phones and reconnect with our people.
For the young kids:
Technology can be a life saver and that is an amazing tool to have. Use it, but do not use it as a replacement for human interaction and connection. Free play is essential for the development of these creative little minds, an iPad does not constitute free play.
For the teens:
Personally, I don’t think any teenager should be going to bed with their phone. As I see it, you are essentially sending them to bed with every single person in their contact list. Scary thought, isn’t it? As the adult, it is our job to set our kids up for success. A curfew on electronics is one way to do this. Their phones are weapons, much like a vehicle can be when not used properly. No passcode. No porn. No bullying.
For the adults:
Put the fucking phone down. Please roll over to your wife/husband/partner in the morning, not to your phone. If you are watching a TV show, watch it. Sitting with your partner, watching TV and scrolling on your phone is not quality time, do not count it as such. When you’re walking, look up and look around. When you’re driving, DRIVE. We are the example for the younger generations, NOT the exception.
Intentional use is my goal, and I hope you will consider making it yours. The first step is always awareness. If you find yourself becoming defensive, I am going to challenge you to why? Our defensiveness is often a reaction when we are protecting ourself from an underlying issue. No one likes to be in the wrong, no one likes to admit to a dependency, no one likes to be challenged on their current way of doing things.
I challenge you to setting times in your day that are tech free. Not sure where to start? Start around the dinner table and in the bedroom; subscribe to the relationships in your home, not the ones on your phone.