A few weeks ago I cried on a hotel room floor for 11 hours straight. Crushed with anxiety, rumination and loneliness, I didn't sleep for that entire night. I wrote a text message to my best friend but deleted it without sending... I was in pain and the mere existence of my hurt made me feel guilty and ashamed of myself. I tried to distract myself in any way I could, hoping it would all leave me.
Now let’s pretend that it was the same day and I had fallen down the stairs and broken my leg, trying to get to the hotel gym. I would have called one of my crew members, who then would have helped me get to a hospital. From there I would have gotten an x-ray, a cast, and pain medication. I wouldn’t have felt guilty or ashamed of my injury. I would have taken the action needed in order to take care of myself. I wouldn’t have been alone in my hotel room, hoping the pain would disappear and my leg would magically heal itself.
With mental health problems ever prevalent within our society, it is time to start giving the same attentiveness we give to our physical well being, to our emotional well being. When most of us are dealing with a sore throat, we go to the drugstore to buy medication. When we break a bone, we go to the doctor to reset it. But what are we doing to reset our broken hearts? Despite efforts to heighten awareness and acceptance, the stigma, secrecy and shame surrounding emotional distress is still VERY much a thing. That is why I believe in the idea of “Emotional First Aid”.
Emotional First Aid is being a first responder to yourself. It is about being self aware enough to know when you are hurting and brave enough to investigate why. It is then about taking the steps, in order to get the help that you need.
What might be in your Emotional First Aid Kit?
- Allow yourself to feel. Sit with your emotion without judgement and without the need to change yourself. Let your symptoms be whatever they may be.
- Do an activity that you know will make you feel a bit better. I go for long runs and listen to my favourite music. You could meditate, read, walk, journal, watch your favourite movie, go out in nature, etc. (Just make sure that it is not something unhealthy, that could make the problem worse.)
- Connect with someone. Someone you can trust, someone who loves you. For me that’s my family and a few really great friends. They can often help to remind you of your wonderfulness. You are always so loved and so supported! We all need each other.
- Go to therapy. I am a huge fan of therapy. Everyone can benefit from a calm, educated, unbiased perspective. EVERYONE CAN. It is not weak or unnecessary to see a registered psychologist or counsellor.
- Get yourself some pills. This is something I don’t have personal experience with but I do believe that there is NOTHING wrong with a brain chemical balancer, if it helps you feel good again.
I think a lot of us (myself included) struggle with thinking that our emotional pain is somehow not serious enough for help and attention. We compare ourselves to others with “bigger” issues and feel ashamed for feeling the way we do about the things that effect us. It is always good to have a healthy perspective but really, all you have is YOUR reality that YOU’RE experiencing. If you are hurting, you are hurting and your pain is just as valid as anyone else's. Get the help you need in the ways that you need it, for whatever it may be that is bothering you.
If you are struggling right now with something not immediately evident to others, like mental health, you have full permission to do whatever it is you need to do to heal. Take care of your emotional health in the same manner you would take care of your physical health. Treat a broken heart the same way you would a broken bone. Be open and vulnerable with yourself and others. We are all in this together. It is my hope that the more we do this, the more we will ALL collectively be able to mend one another. And remember to be patient, time heals all wounds, after all.