Just in time, it’s mental health month. I may need longer.
We have all been through a lot at this jagged time in history. Watching Mickey Mouse wrestle with Ron DeSantis doesn’t reassure us that mental health is a priority in this country. It’s just not healthy to experience such chaos. On the upside, it’s helping us get some great New Yorker cartoons. And, it’s spring. Birds are chirping, while we’re also trying to rebuild our own nests and digest all we’ve been through.
Looking back, we were quarantined, staying in place, socially distanced, wearing surgical masks… not able to travel or see loved ones. We watched in horror and gratitude as selfless, courageous frontline workers labored in hospitals. Many of us are still disoriented since the pandemic, traumatized, getting ill, challenged by relationships or expenses, grateful to be alive, unemployed, dying, relocating, inheriting money, grieving, celebrating, having babies, or falling in love.
The good news? As we ride the merry go round, I notice the people who say hello at the grocery store. Maybe we don’t even know each other, but our friendliness is life-giving. This week, the mail “man,” this time a female, stopped in her truck outside. I exclaimed, “I’m sorry, someone parked in front of the boxes!” She laughed heartily… “Oh, it’s how I get my exercise.”
These are the good people. While we face life’s struggles, like Big Pharma, the atrocious price of needed drugs, generosity of spirit is here in Sonoma as well as strife. Gorgeous orange poppies lift us up, the noble woman who rescued the little puppy, taking him home because he was lost in traffic, then offering a post on a good neighbor site… ” Got this dog, anyone know it?”
Anyway, back to mental health. We’re re-learning social skills and how to keep our attachments still attached and ongoing. Mental health means tenderness towards ourselves and each other. It’s patience, being authentic, even making a quick phone call to say hello to someone you’ve lost touch with in the shuffle. It’s self-reflection. Mental health means understanding our triggers and not overreacting without clarity about our true intention. It’s asking for what we wish for instead of spewing rage.
And speaking of which, I have to tell you mental health is also self-care. For me that included this week buying a bag of peanuts thinking it would be healthy while clenching my teeth listening to the news. I felt pretty sassy, fit as a fiddle, gleaming with nurturing nutrition, clean gut and all. Strutting through the kitchen this morning as I was tossing the empty bag I peeked at the ingredients, “WARNING Consuming this product can expose you to chemicals including but not limited to Acrylamide, Lead, and Sulfur Dioxide, which are known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.”
Good God. Life’s curveballs never end, but, thank God, neither does humor.
Glad it’s mental health month because I’m going to need some.
Katy Byrne, MA, LMFT, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the Bay Area for over 35 years and author of The Power of Being Heard. ConversationswithKaty.com. 707.548.8982