Before I get started, however, I want to dedicate this post to someone I’ve never met before but who has nevertheless changed my life forever. I want to honor the memory of Lee MacMillan, a “van life” social media influencer whose travel vlogs I’ve watched for years. She actually ended up moving to Santa Barbara, where I first went to college, in 2020. A little over a month ago, after seeking professional help and opening up about her struggle with depression, Lee took her own life at 27 years young. Her loved ones have led a campaign to #speakupforLee in the wake of this absolute tragedy, so I’m going to do what I can to do just that.
I think a major reason why Lee’s death has impacted me so is because she was living in the same town I was when I first “got sick.” In a place that relentlessly beautiful, surrounded by people that relentlessly beautiful, you just feel stupid for feeling sad. Amid that depressive head fog, you feel like the whole world is laughing at you. If you can’t be happy in a place that perfect, how could you possibly be anywhere else? After living there for a few years, the character I had successfully played for so long began to recede into abysmal darkness as major depressive disorder and anxiety slowly overtook me. The sunshine that used to evoke excitement and hope began to grate on my nerves, withering me down to a fragile husk of the person I once was. Santa Barbara is an awesome town and a great place to live, don’t get me wrong, but when you’re mentally ill…it can be uniquely tough.
Also, Lee’s death proves that depression can affect anyone, no matter the number of social media followers or how perfect their life may seem in photos. Mental illness is every bit as real and life-endangering as physical illness, and it doesn’t discriminate.
I promise I’m not going to post something that is wholly and solely depressing. I just think the ugly needs to be confronted and addressed. Monsters are only real in the dark. Once the light is switched on, once we drag those demons out and make them visible, we can see those demons for what they really are — phantoms. Phantoms made up in your mind. That is a roundabout way of saying that I think if there exists such thing as an “antidote” to depression it would be to talk about it, to find communion with and support from loved ones by sharing your story. No one can help you if they don’t know what you’re going through. You don’t have to blast your business all over social media or talk about it publicly at all; you do what feels right for your particular situation. Just don’t be afraid to ask for help or to tell your story. It matters, even when it feels like it doesn’t. People care. I promise.
I’ve spoken a lot about depression on this blog, but I also want to address an all-too-common mental disorder: anxiety. I’ve been struggling with immense anxiety over the past month or so. I’ve been waking up feeling like there is an elephant on my chest, an elephant that turns into a boa constrictor as I go about my day. I’ve felt so anxious that I feel it physically all over, from my stomach to my head to muscle cramps in my appendages. If you don’t make time to look after your mind, it will make sure you pay attention to it eventually by catalyzing a litany of physical symptoms.
What helps me most when dealing with anxiety (or depression) is to remember that nothing is that serious. Very few things are worth losing sleep over, and nothing is worth losing your mind or life over. Life’s a comedy. It can be tremendously rough, but, ultimately, perceiving it with a sense of humor and a smile is the way to make it through. Sometimes it’s the only way to make it through.
To someone experiencing a season when mental illness and intrusive thoughts reign supreme, that advice may sound like nonsense. You can’t just press a button and change how you perceive the world. I understand that. When things are that dim, my advice is just to hold on. Hang in there. Take it a minute, five seconds at a time. Nothing lasts, and it will get better. I know that’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason. It’s true. If you can, reach out to a loved one or a professional if you are hurting. I will be posting resources in a graphic below.
If you don’t directly experience any problems with mental health. I still have some suggestions for you. Check in on your loved ones. Don’t call people “crazy.” Think about how stigmatized mental illness truly is and do everything in your power to make the world an easier place to live in for those struggling. You could be the one struggling tomorrow, the one with a feeling you’ve never felt before glued inside your skull. You may have to go to a psychiatrist one day. Appreciate your loved ones and hold them tight. You never know what tomorrow may bring. It’s always good and right to live by the Golden Rule — to do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31). I think that verse is said so often that we forget to really pay attention to it and what it entails. Life is hard enough as is — do you really want to be the one to make someone else’s day harder? I’m not perfect by any means, but I have learned that using kindness as my North Star has helped me feel better, do better, and be better. You never know what others are going through. Sometimes getting out of bed alone is a victory. Live by the Golden Rule, and you may help someone conquer a challenge that day instead of making it harder for them.
I’m going to end this Mental Health Awareness Month post with a list of weekly challenges. I’ll post about them on all my accounts periodically to remind those who may be interested in participating. Good luck and Godspeed!
Mental Health Awareness Month Challenges
Reach out to an old friend or family member to whom you haven’t really talked in a while. Ask how they’re doing, and give them time and space to be really honest. Make the interaction as comfortable as possible while encouraging them to open up and be vulnerable. The best way to do that is by being open and vulnerable yourself.
Check in with yourself. Write a journal entry or just jot down some notes about what’s really going on in your head. List things you’re proud of yourself for. Be kind but honest with yourself.
Tell someone how you’re doing deep down. It can be a friend, a family member, social media, or a professional. Really spill your guts.
Do something fearless this week(end). I know a lot of you are likely traveling for Memorial Day, so you have a great opportunity to get out and experience the world in a new way. Hike somewhere different. Ride a horse. Volunteer at a local charity. Try something that reminds you that life is as exciting as we make it and that every day is worth living.
I hope you gleaned something positive from this post. Sending love and light to all ❤