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  • Writer's pictureOutlaw Angel

A Nation of Sorrow

Wave after wave of indulgence is killing us and bearing down on our children.

What we are doing to combat the mental health issue is decidedly not working. We have more than a health problem, this is a crisis of catastrophic proportions. Our mental state is directly linked to our quality of life. I see many standing on quicksand.

Mental Health by the Numbers

Generational Justification

We are acted upon by a huge number of external forces. International politics, the value of the dollar, weather, pandemics - every generation is influenced to varying degrees by things so very far out of our own control. We wallow in those events, dedicating our time and energy to them. We indulge this on a large scale as a society and granularly as individuals. It alters how we live, when we act, what we engage with in life and then we pass that down the line to our children.

Mental Health: Never-ending Feedback Loop

I forfeit seven weeks of 2023 to depression. Mid-January my physical health started declining, my husband’s health left the plateau we’d been comfortably resting on and started its downward track to the next plateau and work became more challenging (and not in the fun, self-growth sort of way). With each new wave, my depression grew, and my resolve waned. Like a snowball rolling downhill, I made cascading poor decisions. I bought and ate an entire bag of Valentine’s candy, myself, in a matter of hours. I overslept. I binge watched TV. I stopped spending time outside. I stopped reading. I didn’t practice yoga. I kept asking myself what I did to deserve this, when was I going to get a break. I slept even more, I didn’t write a single sentence, and I ate more junk food. I fueled my feedback loop with negativity, and it turned into a familiar monster.

Hamster Wheel of Mental Health

I, I, I … I was in control of all of my actions. I know there is an uncontrollable aspect to my bi-polar disorder, the depression or mania that can spend days amping up or unexpectedly shows up banging on the door at 2 a.m. drunk. I have also proven to myself that there is a larger part of my bi-polar disorder that I control. How I respond to my bi-polar is 100% within my control. Whispers came to me from books, counselors, and doctors telling me to take a walk outside, invest in self-care and eat better. I heard those voices for decades, but I did little about them. I would walk my child to school, come home and go back to bed until work or class started. I would start to read a book but put it down in favor of the NCIS marathon on TV.

Lifestyle Revolution

Every single one of us knows how to live better, how to do better. It is the discipline of doing that we fail regularly. I can say with 100% certainty that when I slack on my discipline, my quality of life degrades exponentially. Knowing what to do to improve my life wasn’t enough. Knowing that all of these recommendations had been given for thousands of years as ways to improve the quality of life, didn’t matter. I had to understand that letting go of my old coping mechanisms (overeating, oversleeping, zoning out) was more valuable to me than holding onto them. But how do you imagine something you have no understanding of? You may as well have asked me to fly a spaceship to Mars.

Countdown to Liftoff

Building the rocket ship was like pulling up anchor on a boat in a storm. In order to understand the value these lifestyle changes could have to my life, I had to figure out what I wanted my life to look like and feel like. That process nearly sunk me as I realized I had never defined my own life for myself. I was in my mid 30’s and I felt like I was watching someone else’s life on TV. Everyone around me appeared to have their proverbial shit together yet I couldn’t tell you who I was. I could tell you what I did for work, what car I drove, where I went to college, my familial roles and where I’d lived or traveled. Those are stats. I needed a who and a why. Along with realizing I was completely clueless about myself, came the anger over never having realized this autopilot feature was so deeply ingrained and then the overwhelming grief of lost time.

Now boarding: Spaceship to Mars

I’d love to tell you defining the who and why was a simple, one foot in front of the other sort of journey. Ten years later, I am still refining the who and why. It’s been a severely messy process that features loneliness, grief and more course corrections than I can count. It also represents the most genuinely happy parts of my life and one of the many things I am grateful to have wrestled with.

Who and Why - The Beginning

It’s time to set your stage. Who are you? What do you value? Honesty, authenticity, action, freedom? Are you living those things? If not, why not? How can you align your life, so you are living your who? Why are you? Why did the universe put you, this completely unique individual, in this time and place? There is something about you that no one else in the universe, in any other time, can do. I used to think this question was way out of my league. How can I figure out why I am alive when I can’t even tell you what my favorite food is? If you keep drilling down, asking yourself what it is YOU like to do, what YOU feel strongly about, the answer will actually present itself very clearly. The voice that pops up immediately afterward telling you things such as you are not special enough, smart enough or capable - that voice is why so many people don’t know their why. We are all born knowing our why and our who. Those things have never left us. They are only buried under all those other voices who didn’t know any better and who don’t pay rent for the space they occupy in our heads. Sign the eviction notice, sweep out the layers of ideas other people gave you, open the window and let new life, your life, in.

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