It was a really hard day. A stuck-in-the-mud day.
We had been quarantining for seven weeks. It had all started so suddenly — on a Monday, I had heard that coronavirus was in Provo, and by Sunday, I had traveled 650 miles by car from Utah to Arizona. My university had recommended that any students who could should go home. The sudden change of environments left me with a little psychological whiplash, but after a few days, I felt okay. I was with my family again. I was seeing my friends.
Then, my brother was sent home from his volunteer proselytizing mission for our church. We realized how serious this was, and we began quarantining our family.
I welcomed the slower pace. I relished the time I finally had to read, write, play piano, and exercise. But from the beginning, isolation was hard.
It was hard to go from constant social contact with my peers to none at all. It was hard to fill my social needs with my siblings who, although I love them dearly, have a special knack sometimes for getting on my nerves.
It was hard to find occasions to go outside when I didn’t have anything to go outside for. I started going on fewer runs. I went on fewer walks.
Eventually, I got a job that requires me to leave my house several days each week. That helped.
But I still noticed that my “bad days”, my “hard days, my “stuck-in-the-mud” days, were becoming more frequent.
I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was sure that I didn’t have depression, but I kept having to fight off more of the symptoms.
Friday, the 8th of May, was a really hard day. A numbness had descended upon me the night before and would not lift, even after I did everything I could think of to take care of myself — even after I exercised, dressed nice, styled my hair, played piano, went for a long drive, and launched this blog with my mom.
I made it through that day. It wasn’t the last hard day I had, and I’ve stopped expecting them to go away.
In retrospect, I’m grateful for hard days, because they have taught me something invaluable about mental health.
I used to think that it was an all-or-nothing deal, that you either had a mental illness or were the picture of mental health. Now, I don’t think it’s anything like that.
Just like the health of our bodies, the health of our minds goes up and down. Sometimes, you get a mental cold or three-day fever. Sometimes, you get sick for a long time. Sometimes you come down with a chronic illness that needs professional help.
When you’re feeling mentally sick, it’s easy to think that you’re “broken.” I hope you’ll believe me when I say, as your friend, that you are not broken.
You’re just a little sick. And sickness heals.
I’ve found the best treatment for my mental colds and three-day fevers is to do what I love.
I take drives through beautiful neighborhoods with the windows rolled down and my favorite songs on repeat.
I try to exercise and cook foods that I love.
I step outside into the sun and feel the warmth on my skin.
I read good books. I write down good quotes. I try to keep up with school.
I study the scriptures. I talk with my Heavenly Father.
Sometimes, I just let myself sit in my pajamas and binge YouTube. But that usually makes me feel worse.
Most of mental health is doing the things that are necessary to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually, plus indulging in the daily little pleasures that brighten your life.
I know it sounds like common sense, but I promise that it works. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I hope today — whether you feel mentally under the weather or mentally fantastic — that you’ll take some time to do a small thing that makes you happy.
What are the little things that you do to bring some happiness into your life? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!