Mental Health Awareness Month: You’re Not Alone

by | May 3, 2021 | Mental Health | 0 comments

This month is something special to me.

Not only is it Mental Health Awareness Month, but the theme this year is “You’re Not Alone” and MY GOSH if that hasn’t been the absolute message I’ve been trying to share with so many people since I first shared my recovery story. From the song I wrote during the pandemic to writing an entire book where the message is to remind people that no matter what they are going through, they are not alone in it, this month literally means everything.

AND talk about serendipitous, as I’m writing this, the lyrics to the song playing in the background of the coffee shop are “It’s okay not to be okay.”

So to share with you all about how you are most certainly not alone, I wanted to tell you a little story that hopefully makes me more human in your eyes.

A Very Real Story About A Very Real Human Being.

Since I’ve started growing my community online and have shared the preorder of my new book, I’ve been blessed with meeting incredible human beings through different platforms. People who are writers and dreamers, others who are looking for support and need a friend to share their stories with. In a time where loneliness has been at the forefront of so many people’s minds despite whether or not they’ve felt it before, I found myself to be one of the luckiest people to have found a way to connect despite the state of the world.

One new friend I’ve made has been one of those people who truly makes an impact on your life. The kind when they say things, you write them down because you don’t want to forget. So I wanted to take a moment to write down what they said.

You see, on social media, it’s easy for people to misconstrue a sense of perfectionism that is incredibly far from reality. I try very hard to share my truest, authentic self, even when it’s not picture perfect. I want to provide a safe space for people to feel what they need to feel and be who they are down at their core.

But this person asked me what was wrong with me. As in, I seemed too perfect. Was there anything actually wrong with me?

So of course I responded, “Absolutely. I can share all the things wrong with me right now.” And I did. I Wrote a list of 10 things I hate about me. Because isn’t that easier than describing all the things we love about ourselves?

Talk about being vulnerable with someone you barely know. Because again, transparency in the fact that I am not, nor is anyone, a perfect person, is my jam.

What I assumed would come next was a, “Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s all going to be okay.” You know, that response you hate hearing even though you know it’s true, but again, not what you actually want to hear in the moment. Because in those moments of doubt and self-loathing, you want someone to commiserate in despair instead of pull you out from your deep, dark well.

But their response was beyond what I could’ve imagined.

“It just means there are times I get to stay inside with you and hang out. You have a tough day mentally, we’d have to chill and watch a movie or something. Shucks. And all the other stuff… one day at a time yo. Thanks for being honest and opening up about that.”

Now, you might be reading this and say, “What’s so great about what they said? Doesn’t seem monumental or life changing.”

Talking to someone who doesn’t suffer from mental health conditions can be difficult because they don’t always share the most helpful advice. It comes from a great place, but the truth is, we don’t necessarily always want advice. We don’t always want people to fix our problems. We want people to treat us like human beings. We want people to ride the wave of ebbs and flows with us.

To hear someone I barely know, speak with kindness and genuine sincerity all to say, “Hey, what’s the worst case scenario in all of these situations? Tough days can often be resolved with very simple solutions. And if you need to feel a certain way, then feel it. And you’ve got a friend to sit in those feelings with, in whatever capacity you need. Because it won’t last forever, and I’ve got you while you find your way out.”

I get asked a lot about what the “right” way to approach the subject of mental health and eating disorders with someone is. If someone is concerned or worried that their loved one is suffering or wants to check in, how to do it in a way that doesn’t deter them. And I’m not a medical professional, so I don’t always have the right answers. I barely know how I want someone to approach the subject with me, let alone am remotely qualified to give other people advice on how to do so.

But what I can say is, my new friend’s words were as perfect as perfect can get.

We are constantly pushing down each other’s throats the sentiment that everything is going to be okay. I would like to go ahead and scratch that from everyone’s vocabulary if I could. We all know that, eventually, everything will be okay. But in those tough moments, we don’t always want to hear that. We don’t want to be told that because it makes us feel like we need to suppress our feelings, that we need to be better, “buck up” and do better.

What my new friend gave me was so wonderful, probably more than they know, because what most of us really want to hear is, “That sucks. I’m here for you if and when you’re ready to talk about it.” It’s as simple as that.

So, if someone is hurting today or you’re concerned for someone. Reach out. Let them know that you’re here to let them feel what they need to feel, and that they have someone to eat ice cream and stare at walls with.

Now, I can’t end this story on a note of you believing that I said 10 things I hate about myself and didn’t follow up with the most important piece of this puzzle. How to rewrite the narrative. How to reframe the negative self-talk.

I took the 10 things I shared with my friend, and rewrote them in terms of love. And I am living proof that even in some of the darkest hours you experience, there is always a way to light the candle to guide your own way home.

Here are 10 things I love about me.

  1. I am currently going through a tough time, and am proud of myself for acknowledging that my actions are not productive towards achieving the life I want.

  2. Today I will give myself compassion as I navigate something that is incredibly difficult, and I love me for starting the hard work by removing the shame I carry for my habits.

  3. I am on a journey of self-discovery, and I love the process of growth I get to experience every day.

  4. There will always be tough times ahead of me, and what is happening in life right now will prepare me to handle difficult situations in the future. Today I’m going to put my energy towards what is happening now, and not on the anxiety for a future that doesn’t exist yet.

  5. I have a beautiful family now that I get to love every single day, and I am truly blessed.

  6. My depression is managed, but I do still have bouts of severe debilitating depression & occasional manic episodes, just not as frequently. Which means there is still more self-care to be done, and who doesn’t love a good self-care day?

  7. I burp. A lot. But also don’t really care but apparently others do. No need to change this statement.

  8. My social anxiety stops me from doing things, and that’s okay. Because we don’t always have to say yes to everything. Because when we say yes to things we don’t want, we are saying no to things we do.

  9. I have codependent issues I’ve worked through but sometimes don’t trust my judgement simply on the fact of my history. I love myself for showing up for myself by acknowledging where the work still needs to be done.

  10. Oh ya, did I mention I have like… 4 different types of eating disorders I manage daily? And hell ya I’m a fucking warrior for doing my absolute best each and every day.

If you are looking for resources available for you, visit this link. This list is not exhaustive. There are multiple amounts of resources available, and here is just a start.

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Meet the Author

Hey, I’m Lauren Dow. Author, advocate, and feeler of the big feels. I’m here to provide a safe space to normalize the conversation about mental health and reinforce self-love. Thanks for joining me on this wild ride.

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