Today will always be a day that I hold dear to my heart. I have suffered with anxiety and depression for more than half of my life. And during that time I spent it “alone and afraid.” I was too frightened to show people who I was in fear that I would be pushed aside, shunned, laughed at, teased. I am different in many ways. Many good ways. And today like other days, my difference aligns with 43.8 million Americans.

Today is Mental Health Awareness Day. The last two years I wrote letters. The first year it was a letter to the loved ones of the anxious and depressed. The second year it was a letter to the anxious and depressed. This year I wanted to find a different way to fight the stigma.

I’ve shared my journey from being in a really dark place to the place I am today. I can proudly say that these days the sun often shines. But, it is with work, perseverance and hope. It is with surrounding myself with a squad of people who shower positivity around me and from removing myself from those who weren’t. It is with remembering my self worth and understanding that even on the bad days I did the best I could and that is good enough.

It is my hope that I can help someone out there by sharing in my experiences and cheering them on. Today, I wanted to share some of my favorite self-care tips that push me through the hard days.

  1. Ask for help. Even if you don’t know how. I go to my husband and say I don’t know how I feel but I feel down. And we find a way together to fight through. Or I will message a friend and ask for prayer. I always thought I was alone. But, between my hubby and the girls they remind me that I’m not.
  2. Treat yourself. Nice warm bubble baths. Doing your nails or hair. Getting a full body massage. If treating yourself means staying in bed and watching Netflix for a few hours that’s okay too. Allow your body to rest.
  3. Be silly. Laugh. Dance. Listen to music. Life is too short to be tame and mild all the time. I dance with my dogs a lot. Or sing musicals to my husband. I let my hair down and no matter how ridiculous I look or feel it gets me to laugh. It reminds me that no matter how hard some days can be, the good outweighs the bad. (If you’re someone asking, “What if it doesn’t?” Come be my friend – I love pen pals – and I promise you I have enough Pearl moments to make you giggle through the day!)
  4. Pick up a hobby. Or visit an old one. I write or doodle. I also go for a walk or listen to music. I bake. I read. Anything that helps with getting back to normalcy.
  5. Scream or cry. I know, this is almost like a negative action versus a positive action. But, anyone out there knows that when your parents are driving you crazy screaming in a pillow helps. Or when you just don’t know and tears flow in front of your partner or best friend you feel better later. Don’t shy from emotions.

If you’re suffering from a mental illness, know you aren’t alone. Know that there are people out there willing to help you. You don’t have to protect yourself by shutting down. I promise. I know it’s easier. It’s a scary world out there. But, there are people like us who will understand, if you let them. We don’t even have to talk about it. We can talk about everything else. Like the gross reason you should never pepper your food in restaurants. Like the most beautiful places in America to visit. Or like how the Winchester brothers are getting ready to grace our TV screens in two days time. You’ve got this. We’ve got this.

My illness does not define me. Nor does it define you. Our strength and courage does. Love and prayers. xoxo