May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As someone with multiple chronic illnesses and mental health diagnoses, I've found it's critical to understand that all parts of health are interconnected, and that compassion is necessary to work through any and all of it. In light of the current global crisis and a shift to focusing on all kinds of health, I thought I could give a list of reminders for everyone in these trying times.
1. Your mental health matters.
2. It's okay to step away to take care of yourself.
3. Being "productive" in these times in any way is an accomplishment- you're not "working from home", you're "staying home during a pandemic and still working", which is in no way normal, expected, or conductive to doing work.
4. Some people are responding to this by doing very little or nothing, and some people are responding to this by overstimulating and staying incredibly busy. Both are trauma responses and both are valid.
5. If you need something, it's okay to ask for help. We're human.
6. If you make a mistake, it's okay (but you should also acknowledge it). We're human.
7. Even if you don't hear from your loved ones daily or even for a while, it doesn't reflect on you and doesn't mean they don't love you. Assume best intentions until proven otherwise.
8. Dealing with isolation is a regular occurrence for a lot of us with chronic illness, and it's valid to have an emotional response to the way that others are framing it.
9. If you have the time and ability, reconnect with yourself. Discover a new hobby or reengage in an old one. Make art. Make food. Make time for others and time for yourself.
10. Most importantly, everyone's lived experience is different. I like this analogy: "We're in the same storm, but not in the same boat."
I've personally been absent from the activism and advocacy space because I'm dealing with my own mental anxieties related to the pandemic, but I'm always reflecting on these kinds of reminders and felt it appropriate in mental health awareness month. Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay true to you.