Hello mental health champions, how are you doing?
It has been a while since my last post because life has been hectic. I have had so much going on this year that from summer until now, I haven’t really been posting much. To the few of you that actually read these regularly, I’m sorry! But I am hoping to get back to it because I have been learning a lot about myself this year and I truly am feeling probably the healthiest (physically and mentally) than I have maybe ever? Okay, okay- maybe not ever but definitely the best I have felt in probably 3-5 years. Well where do I begin?
If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that I would be moved out, graduated, working a job I adore, spending more time with people than I have in years, and finally feeling like I could breathe better- I would NOT have believed you. This year has truly been a whirlwind and has felt like a comeback for me. As you all know, I have had long term issues post covid and breathing has been my main problem area next to some minute heart issues. I finally found a natural remedy that helps my breathing and it’s actually gastro-related. I found out in 2021 that I have an esophageal ulcer which can occur from acid reflux, which I have because of my IBS and from long term coughing vis a vis-Covid. I have been taking Brioschi which is an old Italian antacid drink every night (thanks grandma) and I am convinced it has cured a HUGE part of my late night coughing fits and breathing flare ups. For those who don’t know, you can literally aspirate on your own indigestion and it can lead to severe lung issues and pneumonia. Therefore, your lungs will get irritated and you cough, your airways constrict,etc. I truly think this was a huge part of the problem because like I said, I have been feeling night and day better. I still have little hiccups of coughs/lower oxygen levels, but NOTHING like what I went through before. Because I no longer have that constant gnawing anxiety around feeling like I can’t breathe, I feel like my whole life has opened up. I guess when you’re just trying to survive everyday, it can be really hard to focus on anything else. That anxiety around my health has consumed me since Covid. Now that I don’t have that health anxiety all the time, I feel like I can conquer the world. At this point, I have realized that there is nothing more scary than what I have been through these last 2 years. With that realization, I found life a lot easier to live. I find myself not getting as much anxiety about day to day things that would have sent me into a panic attack in the past and I don’t find myself catastrophizing as much. I feel like I can relate to that saying that goes something like this: “When you’ve hit rock bottom, the only way you can go is up”.
I think these last few years have just really put into perspective that when you have your health, you are the richest person in the world. I find myself being so appreciative of day to day things because I am not fighting to get a breath in with each new task. I have learned that life really is too short to sweat the small stuff. All the things I worried about previously:
-What if I can’t make it to an event I really want to go to because of my health?
-What if I do go to an event and have a health emergency?
-What if I’m the one to ruin something for someone because
of my health issues?
-What if something is really wrong with me and no one cares to listen?
-What if I have a flare up and I’m alone and I die?
…don’t take up so much space in my mind anymore.
I have spent so much time just surviving. Any kind of health sufferer will know exactly what I am saying. I haven’t been living. I truly believe that there are times in everyone’s lives where you’re just trying to survive. You can just be trying to make it through one more day of taking care of a restless newborn, or a job you hate, or a toxic environment. You look at each day as just one more battle you need to fight, until the next day comes. You are so miserable and in pain that you’re literally just trying to survive and have your basic needs filled.
I remember learning about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in my Psychology class junior year. I’m sure a lot of you know exactly what I am talking about but it was basically an ideology about human’s needs. I don’t want to get copyrighted so feel free to google a picture right about now but it’s a pyramid.
On the bottom- the most basic layer of human needs are: Physiological needs. This encompasses air, food, water, shelter, sleep, clothing etc. These are the most BASIC human needs. How many of you are already feeling like you don’t have these needs met? I can tell you right now- when you feel like you can’t do something as simply as breathe- the need for air isn’t being met. I feel like I have been trapped in this layer for so long. If I can’t breathe, how am I supposed to work, go to school, and function like a normal human? The same can be said for those who are unhoused or who don’t have warm clothing. Although I am so appreciative and privileged in many areas of my life, that feeling of suffocation has held me back from so much- including other needs being met.
The next layer is: Safety needs. This encompasses personal security, employment, resources, health, and property. I am sure there are people here who don’t feel safe in their neighborhood, their relationship, with their health, etc. That feeling of not being safe can directly correlate to those fight or flight responses to what’s going on around you.
After that layer is: Love and Belonging. It’s crazy to think how important love and belonging are to humans. This encompasses intimacy, family, friendship, and a sense of connection. I am so blessed with incredible friends and the most incredible relationship and a great family. However, I am sure we have all felt like we don’t have a sense of belonging or like we “don’t fit in anywhere”. This is a basic human need.
Next up is: Esteem. Name someone who doesn’t struggle with self esteem- I think we literally all do as humans. But this encompasses respect, status, recognition, strength, and freedom. I think esteem is one of those things that ebbs and flows and is more important to some than others. But at the end of the day, who doesn’t like a little recognition and respect?
Finally we have: Self Actualization. This is the desire to become the most you can possibly be as a person. This can be a hard one to understand but basically when you have fulfilled all the prior needs, this one comes more easily. In this layer, you are able to be creative, spontaneous, problem solve, etc. And in my opinion, hitting this layer means you are out of that survival mode and are able to live and enjoy doing it.
I highly doubt that there are people that feel as though they are always achieving that self actualization layer. But based on the psychology of this hierarchy, how are we supposed to get to a place in our lives where we can do the things we want to, experience new places, find new hobbies, and simply enjoy living if there are a bunch of unmet needs on those other layers?
I found myself super interested in this switch I felt recently. Since my health has drastically improved, I feel like I could conquer more and for the first time in a long while, I didn’t feel like I was just trying to survive. I wanted to know why I had this Ah-Ha life blossoming moment and that was what reminded me of this hierarchy of needs. I realized that through my whole life, there have been needs that weren’t met. I was lucky to always have a family, a house, toys, fun, safety, etc. However, I have gone through a LOT of trauma and abandonment in my life. I think that since as long as I can remember, I have been stuck in this fight or flight mode where I have struggled to just live. I also think that when you have a mental health disorder such as anxiety, you are always worried about the future. So if you’re always worrying about the future, are you ever truly present in today? And if you aren’t ever really present in the now, are you living or just surviving?
I know some of you may be rolling your eyes and that’s okay- I am getting really deep and philosophical but I just find it so interesting that I feel like a new person. My goal with this blog is to provide support and help people feel less alone. Since I now feel like I have truly had an epiphany, I am going to try my best to help you get there too. Throughout writing this blog today, I did want to remind you that mental health disorders aren’t a choice. I mentioned that I have spent so much time in my own head and that’s true. But in those moments, I also couldn’t control that. There have always been things I have done to help my mental health but mental health disorders usually don’t just go away. I am sure I will have anxiety and intrusive thoughts here and there but now I’m choosing to reevaluate in a better way when I am faced with these feelings. I guess all it took was having some of my needs met. When you are stuck dealing with anxiety, you don’t ever feel safe and it can make it harder to achieve those higher level needs.
I guess the advice I have for you today is to try and take a step back and look at your life. Evaluate the aspects of your life that aren’t being met and just see if there is anything you can do to help get those needs met. Not all of them can be done for everyone since we are all in different circumstances but maybe just try and have an objective view on your life. If my life was a business and I saw that certain areas of my business were underperforming, what would I do to solve that? Maybe try looking at it from that lens and see what your options are. I hope this helps and I will for sure be diving more into the practices I have been doing to continue my upward trajectory with my mental health. If this was at all helpful or opened your mind up to a new perspective, please drop a comment below!
Until then- I love you all so much and… talk to you soon brain battlers, Gracie <3
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I love to hear that you are taking care of yourself. And thank you for spreading the word about the importance of addressing our mental health as much as our physical health. Mental illness is a health need that has been swept under the rug for way too long.