This is about living, not just “coping” or “surviving”.
When I started to come to terms with my sexuality, the first thing that took a hit was my mental health. Hard.
I struggled to reconcile two parts of my identity and such ambiguity didn’t sit well in my mind. I sought clarity and I sought answers.
I didn’t find them
and in a world that doesn’t cater for my extensive pot of intersectionality, I no longer blame myself for freaking out.
As a carefree and confident person, this inability to find answers and constantly questioning myself was new to me. It quickly became the perfect recipe for a whole host of mental health issues, including anxiety.
Very quickly, tiredness turned into chronic fatigue. I lost all motivation. I no longer recognised myself when I looked in the mirror. This isn’t even me being metaphorical, I GENUINELY did not recognise myself. I became depersonalised and detached myself from the outside world. For someone who had NEVER experienced a single day of any of these issues, I had zero idea of what was happening to me.
I went to the doctors and blamed it on a few vitamin deficiencies.
I went from a spontaneous traveller, yearning for my next adventure, to nothing more than “scared”. I began to lose my confidence and insecurity quickly became the most committed of friends.
Again, I blamed it on those deficiencies.
I dug myself a hole in the ground and I sat there… for a long time. I made it the most destructive of safe havens and had no plans to get out.
I STILL BLAMED IT ON THOSE STUPID DEFICIENCIES
and then I realised that these supplements sure as heck weren’t working.
Then a friend sent me a book:Mindfulness. A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World (by Danny Penman, J. Mark G. Williams, and Mark Williams)
When I started exercising mindfulness, I began to realise a change in myself.
The cloud that filled my mind began to subside. I was in control of my mind, not the other way around. Each day I noticed huge improvements.
It would be impossible to say I’ve reached total fulfilment already, I’m still far from that, but my journey from “then” to “now” is enough to convince me of its benefits.
I can sincerely say that despite the obvious struggles, I’m HAPPY, I’m content, and I’m grateful.
So here’s my personal handbook to getting on the road to finding yourself again, as well as a hint of inner peace:
1 –Exercise mindfulness/meditation – acknowledge and appreciate every MOMENT in your life, including this one. Eckhart Tolle says “Wherever you are, be there totally” and it really is a skill that can be implemented anywhere. I use it at work, on the train or just before bed, so I cannot make any excuses. Whether it’s through prayer, running, or artwork, spend some time clearing your mind. Alternatively, simply recognising all of your senses at any given time will help. A quick easy technique to ground yourself is to sit and name:
5 things you can see
4 things you can hear
3 things you can touch
1 or 2 things you can smell.
One of my recent shortcomings was neglecting my mindfulness practice out of distraction by supposed happiness. I went a month without practising and such negligence caused unrest beyond my own observation. Surface-based satisfaction bred insecurity, and fear, and I began to make decisions I wasn’t happy with. I learnt that clarity of the mind breeds purposeful decisions.
“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.”
– Sylvia Boorstein
2 – Exercise…full stop. I made it my SINGLE AIM everyday to get out of bed, and get my heart rate up. I fought with myself, I struggled, but even if it was the only thing I did that day, I didn’t care. It was DONE. That increase in heart rate does wonders, releases a heck load of endorphins and gives you a sense of accomplishment. I’ve now integrated any kind of exercise into my daily routine, even if it’s just a walk before/after work. 5 minutes. Combine it with a bit of mindfulness – that’s 2in1. Do it.
3 – Find a focus. Whether it’s work, a project or something you want to achieve by the end of the each day, find it and set targets. For me, finding something charitable to do outside of work gave me a sense of purpose.
4 – Forgive yourself for your mistakes. If you think this doesn’t apply to you, you are lying because EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES. So, please take a seat. I realised that being in a place of difficulty clouds your judgement beyond comprehension, leaving you susceptible to the most ridiculous decisions. On top of that, when you’ve realised your wrongdoing it exposes you to a whole host of other emotions: guilt and shame. This coupled with a tendency to overthink screams a vicious cycle of negativity, allowing a single act to define our personalities. This is wrong.
Mistakes can consume you and they do not need your permission to do so. I’ve allowed my mistakes to stop and set up camp in the core of my soul, pitching their tents and getting comfy. I’ve allowed them to grow, and use every energy resource possible, until they’re ready to leave.
Well, let me tell you, they DO NOT leave until you tell them to get out.
It’s hard forgiving yourself for your mistakes
however the very feeling of guilt is an indication that the mistake is not in line with your current moral thought. Use this as your foundation for acceptance and to let the past go. Take responsibility, repair the damage (as best you can) and move on to greater things.
Be grateful for the mistakes you’ve made, for they’ve probably changed you for the better.
5 – Communicate – Connect with others. When you’re LGBT+, the first thing you seek is mutual understanding, or the ability to connect without having to explain. Build a network of trustworthy people you can rely on without fear of judgement. Equally, allow them to confide in you. I’m not saying expose your whole life to them – please don’t – but find people to vent to without having to answer those questions nobody wants to answer. I’ve found interfaith dialogue is integral to finding a sense of belonging. By discussing my beliefs and sexuality with members of different faiths, I’ve found the difficulties I’ve encountered do not just fall at the boundaries of my religion. I am now grateful to have found a sense of solidarity and community in a wider sense.
6 – Do things you actually ENJOY. For me this was hard, because I was the kind of person who only did things if they served a “valuable” purpose, or posed some kind of contribution to my future. I realised that not everything needs to be about where you’ll be in 5 years. Sometimes it’s about doing things you enjoy TODAY. I guess this ties a lot in with mindfulness and embracing the “now”.
7 – Appreciate the good things.