Making Peace With My Mind
One of the hardest and most rewarding journeys I have been on with my mental health has been learning to accept and embrace my mind and my thoughts. In the world of mental health, February is Body Awareness Month. In honor of this movement, I wanted to talk about how minds are also a part of our bodies and learning to accept my mind as part of me has been the core of my healing.
The stigma around mental health, in addition to my mental illness, was a heavy load to carry. When I began my journey of mental health over 10 years ago, I was in the most vulnerable place I could be. My mind felt like an enemy, and I could not function in my life. I was terrified of my mind…the overwhelming thoughts and feelings of depression and anxiety.
What I didn’t know was that these were all the effects of trauma, and I was in need of help that is necessary to take care of my mental wellbeing. In the beginning of this journey I felt angry. I was angry at my mind, and I was angry that I couldn’t trust my own thoughts and feelings. I was angry at myself and my mental illness. The shame and stigma made me feel like this was all my fault. That I was defective and broken.
How do I use a broken mind to fix a broken mind? What I have come to learn and hold as God Truth in my healing is that my mind was never broken, my mind is not the enemy, and my mind is a part of myself that deserves love, respect, appreciation and care. Even when it is loud and scary, I have learned not to fear my mind or treat it like an enemy. Trust me, I am far from perfect at navigating, accepting and even loving my mind and thoughts all the time.
Tolerating my thoughts and illness was the first step of my journey. I was riddled with self-doubt, self-ridicule, blame and beliefs about myself that were rooted in shame. I needed help pulling these into the light and making peace with myself in order to give myself a chance at living a full life. I was brutally uncomfortable with having to confront my own mind. I was ashamed.
For as long as I can remember I have always been at war with myself. I never felt good enough. I felt flawed. I felt like I was always the last one picked for the team. I just went along with it. It never occurred to me that this voice in my head that sounded like me was in fact not me at all. This voice belonged to shame. What I know today is that all of my journey with my mind has been important and necessary. Accepting my mind is also the same as accepting myself. Learning to love myself and see myself as worthy and whole is not possible if it does not include my thoughts, feelings and my past perceptions. I am not the enemy, and neither is my mental illness.
Wellness asks me to question my beliefs and navigate my thoughts and feelings from a place of curiosity and not blame. This showed me that I am not my thoughts or my feelings or even my beliefs. I am what holds these things. I am a person always worthy of love and safety especially from myself first.
At the core of my relationship with myself was shame. The feeling of not being enough or even being too much became this shameful secret that I buried deep underneath perfectionism, anxiety, depression and addiction. It didn’t help that I was a very emotionally sensitive person. It didn’t help that I was gay and non-binary in a family where both of these things were unacceptable. I was deeply terrified that I was a mistake. I also had no idea that this was my relationship with myself. These thoughts about myself were mean, cruel, angry, full of blame and full of ridicule. And I believed them. My belief in them led me down a dark path of wanting to change myself, escape my emotions, accept abuse and feel like I was a failure. My mind was a very loud, very angry and very chaotic place.
Learning to embrace my thoughts, question my perceptions and feeling my emotions has been deeply profound and life changing. These are the keystones to my mental wellness. When I was in the throes of mental illness, making peace with my mind felt like an impossible task. What I have learned is self-love; mind, body and spirit are not the destination of my journey, they are my compass.