World Mental Health Day is here and more important than ever. We need more chances to talk freely together about our mental health because it's the foundation of not only a healthy, happy individual life, but also the health of our families, communities, and societies. And mental health is unfortunately something that is not guaranteed to us... so many of us suffer silently with a wide variety of mental health issues. Not everyone does, but it's hardly unusual. In fact it's actually quite normal to be carrying around underlying mental issues that eventually impact our physical health, lower our quality of life, and damage our relationships.
Even though I have always been pretty high-functioning, I have suffered from anxiety since my earliest childhood memories and depression since mid-elementary school... I don't talk about it a lot (except in my bad poetry...), but I feel no shame in it. And neither should you. Like everyone else, I power through my daily life as best I can, and try to find ways of dealing with it. And thankfully, there ARE ways of dealing with it. a wide variety of ways to help our wide variety of issues and personalities...
If you are currently in the self-medicating stage (as I was with alcohol for many years), this era of social distancing is a great chance to change tactics and start some kind of formal therapy. There are many different options such as medication-based psychiatry, talk-therapy based psychology, group-based counselling, and alternatives like hypnotherapy, etc. For me it ended up being hypnotherapy, but really, just pick one that resonates with your general world-view / personality-type and go for it. Now. Unfortunately, I don't really know anyone who saw life-changing improvements without taking this step, and some of them tried a few different types before seeing those results, but it does seem to create a necessary turning point.
And if you are currently in this formal therapy stage, please do realize that even though it is a necessary step, it probably isn't going to be sufficient or enough to bring you long-term stability. You've got to get some new habits to expand and extend whatever positive results you have gained. And again, this current era of social distancing is actually a prime opportunity to do so. For me it has been a daily 15-minute reiki meditation, making sure I get enough sleep, and trying to schedule some regular light exercise. When I keep these simple habits up fairly regularly (not religiously), I'm pretty golden. When I let them slip for weeks at a time, my mind starts slipping back too. For you this might be medication, a support group, some spiritual practice, a significant hobby, or just a focus on healthy exercise/diet/sleep routines. Again, just find something that resonates with you and actually makes you feel good sustainably and commit yourself to it.
Commit yourself to you. and accept your commitment to you. You totally deserve it.
Last night I went to a local poetry reading for the first time in almost twenty years. I felt wonderfully outclassed and it was so pleasant to have that chance to be swimming in the spoken words and emotional currents of such skillful artists. An enthusiastic ¡Thank you! to those poets who shared their hearts with us--
I was also confronted with the reality that while my literary critical sense has grown richer and more nuanced than ever, through my personal reiki and hypnotherapy work I have successfully therapied my internal complexity and tension right out. I'm still a fun and interesting person, but I have released the layers where the engine that drives powerful poetry is moored. Along with all those wonderful books I ended up shedding through Marie Kondo, I have no regrets --I'm surprisingly happy being deeply happy-- but I suddenly realize that I am now doomed to sketching out well-crafted but simply pleasant moments in haiku.
Oh, yes, and then expressing my surplus poetics through densely complex prose in these blog posts... sorry!
Photo evidence of me smoothly rolling out one of my English haiku just after fumbling through my Japanese tanka version of the same ...all gracefully wrapped up "saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry" sharing my favorite Robert Hass poem 'Meditation at Lagunitas'
Long ago, a very dear friend told me over a midnight bottle of red wine that romantics like me always end up as drunken cynics. She was passing on a piece of wisdom from Joni Mitchell, and she was mostly right.*
So how did I end up with such a ridiculous name as 'joyomancy' to represent my healing work? Yes, the "joy-" means joy as in joyful and is certainly not a word to ever escape the lips of the cynic without a sneer. While "-mancy" means divination magic and invites skepticism from just about anyone...
Well, Joni Mitchell ends her song insisting that those inevitable dark days are just a phase before the possibility of transformation. And there she was right on. I eventually moved through and past that end. Because as they so commonly say, "It ain't over till it's over." And depending on the scale of your outlook there may not even be any point at which it is truly "over."
Let that thought bring you hope. and yes, eventually joy--
* 'The Last Time I Saw Richard' --Joni Mitchell