Mental Health Lessons I’ve Learned

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and my main goal of this blog has always been to play a part in fighting stigma through my own transparency and vulnerability. Whether it’s through actively talking about the struggles I’m facing, or providing ideas of things that help me cope with my mental health struggles like books or music, it is all a part of a larger goal to make even just one person feel less alone in their struggles. Since this month is all about raising awareness and breaking stigma, I wanted to share five lessons I’ve learned along my mental health journey!

Struggling with your mental health does not make you inferior in any way.

This is the most important to remember. No matter what the mental health issue you are dealing with is, it doesn’t make you weak. I’d argue it shows your strength. Waking up and choosing to put one foot in front of the other when battling your own brain is so impressive. Choosing to get out of bed today when you couldn’t get up yesterday shows your resiliency. Every little thing you accomplish takes strength and it is important to remember that none of what you are battling mentally makes you inferior.

Therapy can help so much, but only if you’re honest.

I am a big advocate of therapy for literally anybody. Whether you are actively struggling with a diagnosable or diagnosed mental disorder, or not, I think it can be beneficial. Learning different techniques and tools to help combat my anxiety has been a game changer. I want to make it clear that therapy isn’t a cure. I still have anxiety, OCD, and have struggled with depression, but having someone to talk to who will not judge me and will give me some ideas on how best to cope, has helped me come a long way. The most important thing to keep in mind though is that in order for it to be even remotely helpful, you have to be honest. Even when you want to hold something you are feeling or thinking back in fear of judgment, it is important to share so that you can better understand how your brain processes things.

Taking mental health days is important.

I truly believe all companies should provide sick days and mental health days separately to their employees. I also believe that there should be excused absences in schools for mental health days. Taking care of your emotional and mental states is just as important as your physical health. Listening to your body and actually taking a day to mentally recharge and reset can make a huge difference in terms of stress level and productivity. Taking breaks isn’t lazy, it’s important.

Talking openly about your mental health struggles is powerful.

I think the tendency in most of us is to hide our struggles from people around us for various reasons. Maybe you don’t want family or friends to worry. Maybe you want to protect your image. Maybe you are just embarrassed that you are struggling when it seems like everyone else is fine. Well, one thing I have learned is that when you voice your problems out loud, often others will do the same. No one’s life is perfect. Whether they have a diagnosed disorder or are just dealing with stressors in their life, everyone is working through something. Once you believe that, talking about your mental health is so much easier. My friends often hear things about what Susan, my therapist, tells me. They know when I am having a particularly bad anxiety day. Talking about those things is freeing because it allows you to let go of some of that weight that accumulates from keeping it all in. And you never know when your own openness is going to make someone else realize that their struggles are valid and okay as well. Just talking about it helps fight stigma and makes an impact.

Boundaries are healthy.

Setting boundaries and sticking to them is a great way to positively impact your mental health. Whether that involves boundaries with other people, or just boundaries for yourself, they help keep you on a healthy path. For example, my friends know that whenever they go out drinking, I am not coming, unless it is for some special occasion. There was a time in my life when I felt like saying no to things made me a bad friend, but whenever I would push through to have the experience, I was miserable. The crowds made my anxiety worse. The drinking itself didn’t make me feel good physically. And I would end up regretting going. Now they know and I know that a boundary like that doesn’t mean I don’t love them or want to spend time with them. It just means I am protecting my own mental health and that’s okay. Learning what your boundaries are is part of growing up and listening to yourself and what you need to be your happiest and healthiest is important.

These are just some of the things I have learned along my own mental health journey, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more in the years to come. I hope they make you think about your relationship with your own mental health. I’d love to know what things you have learned in the comments below! Conversation and vulnerability are how we fight stigma and I look forward to continuing to do that with you here. Have a great day!

Rachel (:

Life Update

I relaunched this blog at the end of March and talked about how I really had no idea what I was going to do with my life, but I wanted to do a little update now that I have a true direction!

I am going to graduate school! For those of you who didn’t see my Barbie-movie-themed announcement on social media, I officially got into Pace University starting later this summer. I will be getting my Master’s in Communications and Digital Media. The one thing I have always been passionate about is storytelling. Both consuming it through books, movies, TV shows, or music, and creating stories myself. I love seeing someone’s imagination come to life on screen or in the pages of a novel and I want to be a part of that moving forward in my life. This online Master’s program will help me do that. I start on July 13th and will be taking Creative Writing for Media Professionals and Communication Research and I am so excited to dive in! Getting back into the swing of schoolwork will be a challenge but because these are subjects I am very interested in, I genuinely can’t wait to get started. I’ll keep you updated on my graduate school journey throughout my time there, but for now, everyone wish me luck as I jump into a sea of papers and projects!

I am going to be an online literacy tutor! When I was starting to think about the kinds of jobs I wanted to do while in grad school, I was looking for flexible part-time work and BookNook fell into that category. I was actually a literacy tutor at the YMCA in college for a couple of years, so it is something I already knew I loved doing. Watching kids make progress in their reading skills and helping foster a love of reading at a young age are two of the most fulfilling things I have been a part of and I look forward to doing it again. It is online and I set my own hours, so it is a perfect side hustle to have. It also keeps me working in the book world from a different angle. Looking forward to starting this month!

I am going to be working at a local store part-time! While literacy tutoring is a fun way to earn extra money, my other source of income while I am in school will be working at Abode Mercantile, an incredibly welcoming home decor, gourmet food, and gift shop right down the road from my house in East Nashville. It is a part of a street of stores called The Shoppes on Fatherland which are some of my favorite places to support local artists and businesses. Some things I love about the store I will be working at: the support they show local artisans by selling their products, the ability to meet all sorts of interesting people who come into the shop, the fact that they are dog friendly, and the ability they have to make you feel welcome the moment you walk in. I start training this week and I can’t wait to get started. Having this steady source of income along with tutoring gives me the flexibility I need to complete my schoolwork and also still have a life outside of all of those things. I didn’t want to look for another more corporate, stressful 9-5, 5-day-a-week job that left me nights to do schoolwork and then absolutely nothing else. Being able to do school and tutoring on days when I’m not at the shop, will leave some nights still free to hang out with my friends and maintain some work/school/life balance that I’ve realized is so important.

I saw Taylor Swift! This is not really the same kind of life update about my new path, but it is something that just happened that I will never forget so I must share haha! My brother who came down from Maryland, one of my best friends who came over from Utah, my roommate, and I all went to The Eras Tour for Nashville Night 1, and boy was it everything I ever dreamed of. How Taylor Swift has the stamina to do a 3 and a half hour show with almost no breaks I will never understand, but I’m so grateful for it. We got to scream the lyrics to all our favorite songs and witness the surprise announcement of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version). And if that wasn’t enough we also got surprise songs from the two eras I wanted them from: Sparks Fly and Teardrops on my Guitar. Truly a perfect evening! If you want to see us all experience the day check out this TikTok I made!

Life this year has been full of ups and downs, but I’m excited about the path that has started to form for me. Anxiety surrounding change still hangs around every day, but an underlying feeling of contentment and gratitude is there as well. I appreciate you going on this journey with me. If you would have asked me at the end of last year, where I’d be now, I wouldn’t have said any of the things I just listed, but that’s what makes life so interesting. Looking forward to seeing how the rollercoaster twists next.

What have you been up to? Anything in your life you are excited or nervous about? How do you handle change? I love hearing other people’s stories so let me know!

Rachel (: