Mental health has been a pretty big concern ever since (& even before) I was diagnosed with my physical illnesses. Before I was diagnosed, I was hiding a lot of pain, trying to mask behaviors that were “weird” or “abnormal” & in general trying to be smaller, more compliant, telling myself that this was nothing.
When I was finally diagnosed, that in itself was a process. Going through stages of grief after a diagnosis of a serious chronic or terminal illness is normal – painful, but normal. Still, to this day, I have issues with my mental health: things that I repressed (& regret doing so) things that come up in unsavory dreams, & the constant stress of simply existing as a sick young woman.
I have depression! I have anxiety! I am the first to acknowlege this. Just like a physical illnesses, these mental conditions don’t define me…but they hang over me like a dark cloud. It’s one more heavy burden to bear, & sometimes it can just be too much to handle. I collapse under pressure. Crying, screaming, lashing out at those who care about me – I’m guilty of all of those things, & am the first to say that my being ill doesn’t excuse that behavior.
A few weeks ago, I was feeling really bad – anxious about the test results I’d just recieved, wondering about possible future careers, etc., etc. It wasn’t healthy, because I started retreating into myself again. I even stopped talking to “Internet friends” for a few days. I wanted to be alone. I wanted my family to leave me alone. I didn’t feel like engaging with anyone – at all.
While alone time is necessary & actually very healthy, self-isolation, particularly when someone’s going through a tough time, is really, REALLY unhealthy. For me, the end result is usually being in bed, blinds shut, crying by myself, or treating others unfairly when they ask what they can do to help.
Being an introvert? Cool! Self-isolation? Not cool, & definitely not the same thing.
I feel like some people might say: “Just try to spend time with friends more!” This is the ideal situation, yes! I wish I could hang out with friends more. However, when you’re chronically ill, “hanging out” can be draining…even if you’re just sitting at someone else’s house, on the couch with a box of pizza.
So – for the most part, hanging out is a no for me. It’s just too tiring. That sucks, & it makes me more angry, bitter, & closed off to the world, to my friends, & to my family.
So, what can I (& you, if you’re struggling with this as well) do to fix it – or, if not fix it, at least make day-to-day life more pleasant?
I started dancing & singing it out.
Am I a good singer? Nope. Dancer? Absolutely not. That’s what makes it so helpful for me. I know I’m not good at these things! I’m not striving for perfection, I’m looking for a healthy way to let out my stress. Dancing & singing badly is just plain goofy! It looks silly, & it makes me laugh.
It was when I was on Twitter a few weeks ago, Spotify on shuffle, that one of my favorite songs came up: “Danke Schoen,” sung by Wayne Newton. If you’re thinking: “is that…?” yes. Yes it is. It’s THE song from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – you know, the one where he’s on the float lip-syncing.
I immediately started smiling. Ferris Bueller doesn’t have any particular depth or a pancake stack of hidden meanings, but it’s truly a treasure. It’s a happy movie, packed with humor, adventures gone wrong (in the best way possible) – &…let’s just take a minute for Sloane’s fashion.
Anyways…Ferris is a super happy guy. He laughs a lot, he’s laid-back, he doesn’t think forwards; he lives in the moment.
Unfortunately, I’m not Ferris, but I want to be. When I say that…I mean that I want to smile more, laugh more, be more relaxed about the future no matter what lies ahead.
I decided to just prop my phone up on my laptop & go to town. I know all the words.
This was something I did on a whim. It was late, I was bored, stressed, & after hearing this song, felt a bit nostaglic!! So…I bopped it out.
There’s something about knowing lyrics to songs you love; songs you only associate positive things with. “Danke Schoen” makes me smile. It makes me feel happier, more relaxed, &, quite frankly, full of joy.
I just posted it to my Twitter without really thinking much of it. The next day, though, when I actually watched it myself, I realize how unfiltered my happiness was in those vidoes
So, of course, the following day, I did it again. This time? One Direction’s “Best Song Ever.”
I know! Some of you may be rolling your eyes. That’s OKAY! These are cheesy songs. The cheesier, the better. It allows me to be weird, allows me to feel more like myself; allows me to have 3-4 minutes of fun & joy…even on the saddest/most frustrating/most painful of days.
After going a little ways to my hospital (& having to spend the night in a hotel since I had to be in hospital at 6 am) I came out of my appointments & tests, scared, sad, & confused yet again.
My mama went back to the hotel to rest since it was still so early. I couldn’t sleep; I was too anxious & restless.
So, I took it to the streets. I filmed cheerful moments of my day. Now, instead of thinking of May as a stressful time filled with tests, pain, & anxiety, I’ll look at this & remember that the small treasures I encounter every single day are important to focus on.
It is okay to be different, to be weird, to not fit in. I’m used to not fitting in, but most of these “fitting in” situtations are becaues of my physical condition.
To truly let go, to truly just be myself – for a minute, two minutes, or twenty – is so liberating. Who cares if I look weird! If 5 minutes of bad dancing & lip syncing helps me out, I’ll take a daily dose of it.
Of course I’ll still have bad times. I might even have bad times two minutes after making something like that. But that’s not the point. I’m trying to prove to myself that I can..I can…experience joy, happines, & contentment, even in my darkest moments, even when I’m in a lot of pain.
I’m going to keep at this. For me, listening & dancing to songs that I associate with positive memories is truly an ultimate form of self care. Whether I’m in my bed, on the sidewalk, or laying down on my green lawn, this kind of behavior always cheers me up – & that’s important when you have a life overflowing with stress.
My name’s Sof. I’m a bad dancer. I don’t care! It helps me escape a frightening world, if only for a little while.
There’s lots of coping mechanisms out there. Some are really unhealthy & unsafe (though I understand why people cope that way – I have been there too), so why not try dancing once & a while.
I know. I KNOW! It sounds super cliche, right? But do me a favor. Just…try dancing! Try singing! Keep dancing! Keep singing! Just try it. You never know – it just might change your perspective (if only in a small way).
P.S. What are your favorite songs to lip sync/dance to? What do you like to do to cope/push negativity out of your body? I would love to know. Much lov!!