Health and wellness touch everyone’s life differently. This is one person's story.
The most recent time I was in a high distress situation was in March of this year.
A couple of nights after my 22nd birthday, I had an intense panic attack. It lasted on and off for about two hours. After it ended — though tired and still rather tearful — I threw my things into bags and packed up all my belongings in my car. My home isn’t an emotionally safe place to live in, so I texted a friend and planned to drive to another state, four hours away, to stay at his house for a while. He knew my circumstances at home, so he was very welcoming.
But my decision to up and move was sudden and not fully rational. I was upset and wasn’t thinking my actions through. For example, my health and car insurance are for the current state I reside in — so I would be without them if I up and left. And I knew that driving long distances at night, while also upset, was probably not a good idea.
Picking myself back up again
I ended up using some dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills, like paced breathing and drinking ice cold water, before driving to another family member’s house about 20 minutes away and staying the night. On the car ride over, I repeated in my mind: “Love, you were never made for hiding. You are far too beautiful a thing.”
Those words are part of a poem by Torri Horness, and I know them because a singer I absolutely love — Alex G — spoke her poem in a video. The poem itself is gorgeous, but hearing the words empowers me and makes me feel less alone.
Those words kept me focused on what is important: my breathing and my mental health. That night, I decided I could no longer hide my emotions and hope they would go away. I learned I had to face them head-on, because otherwise, overwhelming waves of panic and sadness could take over and prevent me from finding what is referred to in DBT as your “wise mind” — where there is a balance of emotion and rationality.
In the morning, I still felt sad. A bit helpless and weary. But because I was able to refocus my mind on something meaningful and positive — like, “Love, you were never made for hiding. You are far too beautiful a thing.” — I was able to pick myself back up again.
How to make your own
In some of my darkest moments, I have found so much comfort and relief in mantras. I encourage anyone out there going through any type of difficult moment to find words that inspire you. And if you can’t think of one, you can put together your own mantra.
During times of change, like a new job, moving, or even ending or beginning a relationship, I have found mantras to be so helpful. The start of a new year, especially, can be a great time to write a new mantra. While a new year brings hope and joy and excitement, it can also bring worry and uncertainty.
Mantras are wonderful little reminders, usually a couple of words or a meaningful phrase, to carry with you — in your mind, on a piece of paper, or in your phone. Try following these steps to come up with your own mantra:
1. What is one adjective you would like to associate with yourself more?
My word is “calm.”
2. In what situations or moments do you want to be more of this adjective?
I would want to be calm in times of chaos or uncertainty.
3. If you were comforting a good friend, how would you word things to them?
Think about your tone — is it soft and gentle? Shape the words that you would tell a good friend, into something you can tell yourself. I would talk to my friends in a loving and supportive manner. I would talk gently to them and address them as “love” or “babe.”
After following the steps above, I’ve come up with my own mantra for the new year: “You are not what is going on around you. You are calm. Chaos and uncertainty may shake your peace of mind. You are still calm.”
I wish I had this mantra during times that I’ve needed it, like that awful night in March. I know now that I have the ability to take a step back, process, and proceed through a situation mindfully, instead of acting based on my emotions.
Now that I have my own personalized mantra, I feel more prepared for when I go through a difficult time again.
Struggles and dark times are a part of life, but you don’t have to reside in or stay attached to the pain. You can choose to fight hard to get out of that place. I hope you choose to do the work of finding a mantra. You are worth it and you deserve to feel better.
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression or mental illness, reach out to your doctor for support and treatment options. There are numerous forms of support available to you. Check out our mental health resources for more help.