When you grow up in an environment that does not support the value of going to seek help from a professional, you’re pretty much fucked. My childhood knew nothing but Catholicism and values rooted in Mexican tradition. That meant you solve your own problems by not talking about them. My parents were very unhappy people. They were always suffering.
My father worked his ass off for very little pay. He had almost no formal education and came to the United States in the 40s with pesos in his tattered pockets. My memories of him are of a man who was forever upset with the world. Although to this day I don’t think I ever met a more brilliant human being (he was a mechanical engineer without the degree), he never realized his dream. And he made the family suffer for it.
My mother married him when she was barely 21 and he was in his 50s. She is from a small Mexican village outside of Guadalajara. You know those little barefoot kids in the Feed the Children commercials? She lived that. My dad came in and rescued her…with a cigarette in his mouth and a wink, he won her over.
These broken people never had an education on how to deal with emotions. Men don’t cry. Men work and feed their families. Women are in the kitchen, cooking away their dreams.
When you are depressed and your heart feels the squeeze, the best place to start is a good therapist. I recommend someone who will not immediately prescribe medication to dull the pain. Although medication is good in extreme cases when all other options have been exhausted, it’s not a good starting point. As my therapist said, medicating your problems only deals with the physical and chemical symptoms of your emotions. They do not get to the root. They do not solve your problems or face them head on. Here is a good article about what antidepressants do to your mind and body.
Here are five life changing actions that are helping me deal with my mental health issues:
- I FOUND A GOOD THERAPIST
It may seem like a simple task, but in reality, a compatible therapist requires time and thorough research. And you might have to visit a few before deciding on one. What I did was post a question on Facebook asking for recommendations from friends and family. After researching the responses, I chose the one that I thought would be best for me. I admit, he was also the closest. Don’t laugh. It would have been stressful to drive 100 miles once a week. I was lucky. My first selection was the right choice. My therapist is an open-minded individual who uses alternative methods like astral projection and hypnotism as tools to get to the root of issues with my psyche and soul. It’s not for everyone. If your friends and family do not have any recommendations, try good old-fashioned internet research. The American Psychological Association has some good tips on how to find one.
2. I AM MINDFUL OF WHAT I PUT IN MY BODY
This sounds like no-brainer advice but this is something that is crucial to healing the mind and body. And good nutrition can be a game-changer. Let me quickly tell you a story about my Paleo lifestyle experience. About three years ago, my brother-in-law told me and my ex about this diet he was on. At that time, we did notice he had lost an incredible amount of weight. But not only that, he looked super healthy. The Paleo diet is basically a vegan who eats meat. It may be a little stricter than that. I have some vegan friends who eat pasta and processed foods. In Paleo, you are not allowed to eat processed foods, dairy, or any wheat products. My ex and I tried this for a month and the results were mind blowing. The first week we went through a harsh withdrawal (because your body is detoxing from all the sugar and crap that your body is addicted to). But by week two we noticed the differences. Three months later, I was a babe. My belly fat shrunk, my hair and eyes were shiny and healthy, I felt like a new person. You know that brain fog? The one that makes you want to sleep in ten more minutes? The one that stays with you all day? That was completely gone. I had even more energy than when I was a teenager! I also stopped getting sick. Not even a cold.
The point is, be mindful of what you put in your body. Going Paleo made me realize, gave me the evidence, of how harmful the wrong food can be for your body. Just remember that you are worth it and you deserve better. Make the effort and I promise the payoff will change your life. How will you be able to heal your mind and spirit if you can’t heal your body? Also, and this is important, remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Take out the sodas, sugary drinks and even the juices. All you need is H2O to restore your body to a healthy and natural state.
3. I MOVE MORE
This usually follows diet, right? The exercise. But with the new diet change, you will notice that your body craves that release of energy. I have to admit, I hate gyms. I want to be outside and feel the sun on me (also good for your body to be in the light). I bought a bike and try to go ride for an hour at least three times a week. And today I start a kickboxing class! We’ll see how that goes. But I recommend trying a variety of activities. You don’t have to run a marathon or cross-fit or win a medal. It’s all about getting your body to move. One great way to start is basic yoga. There are some cool apps to try if you are not ready to go to a studio. I use a free app called Simply Yoga which is pretty good if you have no idea where to begin.
Exercise is a good way to keep the chemicals in your body happy. You’ve probably heard that endorphins make you happy. It’s true. According to sites like WebMD, regular exercise trigger positive feelings in your body that are similar to morphine. This was another tool that my therapist insisted that I use to change the chemistry in my brain, thus, not relying on pills to do the work for me.
4. DO IT FOR ME!
I always make excuses when it comes to things I want to do for myself. It may be the same for you. You want to make choices in your life based on that voice inside you that is constantly telling you what to do. But outside forces squelch that voice and call it ‘reason’. I’m not talking about the crazy voice that tells you to put the magic powder in the Kool-Aid. Or to stab your lover. No! That’s not what I’m saying at all! If what you are doing does not physically or emotionally harm anyone, take a leap of faith. Example, one of my leaders is a well-known actor who as always relied on his inner voice to guide him. He doesn’t question it. And the result has been a shining 40 year career in the entertainment industry. But it’s also a combination of drive and creativity. But it’s easy right? When you know what you want to do and you let go and do it, everything in the universe sorts itself out and begins to open a path to your destiny. The thing about humans in the western world is that we listen too much to what other people think is good for us. They tell us what job we should stay with, who to date or marry, how many kids we should have. But think of the people who are rock stars in their field. Everyone from Seinfeld to the late Steve Jobs. How many ‘NOs’ did they encounter before they found their door? All of them. If you’re waiting for a sign or permission, consider this the sign. I’m giving you permission. What you do with it is in your hands. You will fail along the way. The battles may be difficult. But the quest for your happiness can be won. Don’t wait. Time waits for no one.
5. I HAVE OPENED MYSELF UP SPIRITUALLY
I’m not talking about joining a religion or even believing in God. If you’re an atheist, you can still feel the tingle. The universe, my friend, is made up of energy. If you want my personal belief, here it is. Take it as information not as a preach. And I’m barely some crazy blogger sitting at home eating Cheetos watching the Kardashians. Okay…I am a little crazy. But the good kind of crazy. This is coming from someone who has her masters in a research field. I dun my homework. I digress. The universe is energy. It’s little bits coming together to make bigger bits. If you think about it, this material world is an illusion. Kind of like a hologram. If we look at things, like our flesh, under a microscope, we see that the world underneath is doing a dance and these atoms and partials are not melded together. But they are perfectly aligned to make an arm…a body. I believe that when we our gone, our energy, selves, spirit, soul…whatever you want to call it…does not disappear. It just gets transferred to another place. I’m not an atheist. I do believe that there is a master brain. But this entity is not sitting in a cloud, sporting a hipster white beard, angry and testy like the Bible says. I believe this energy is pure love. And that love is what makes up the universe. It may seem like a childish thing to believe. But children are the closest to this purity and therefore they know. If you want more understanding, I recommend reading books and other literature about Near Death Experiences (NDEs). One really good one is called Proof of Heaven by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander M.D. It’s a quick read and you don’t have to have a degree in astrophysics to understand it.
I have also looked into Eastern beliefs and religions that are radically different from the Catholicism and Christianity I grew up with. I am by no means bashing them. I am simply encouraging people to educate themselves. That is one thing my strict, and often close-minded, father taught me. It doesn’t matter if you disagree with something. Do your best to understand the other side. If anything, it should strengthen your own beliefs.