Away to Focus on Self-Care

Photo of a Brown woman dancing and smiling in a blurry photo. There is a Brown man, whose face blends into the darkness, behind her.
Photo by a Friend

I have been away from my blog to focus on self-care. Do you see this photo above? That was me focusing on self-care nine years ago in the form of dancing and smiling at a friend’s birthday party. It is a blurry photo, but I am glad I did not delete it like I do with most blurry pictures. The details might not all be clear, but the joy in this photo is evident. This is definitely not a posed portrait. The birthday girl is not in this picture, but there is another old friend dancing behind me in this photo. I was looking through photos from this birthday a few months ago because I was reminiscing about this old friend. Unfortunately, he passed away. If it was not an intentional suicide, the few details I was given about his lead me to suspect it was an accidental self-inflicted death. Why? I knew from many conversations with him that he had a lifelong history of trauma, mental health issues triggered by the trauma, and suicide attempts.

As I was remembering the night of this party while flipping through the photos on my laptop, I realized that the date of this birthday party was exactly nine years before the date of my old friend’s funeral. Why do I keep calling him an old friend? I was friends with him for a long time, but in 2020, my old friend’s mental health declined so much that I no longer recognized him as a person anymore. He already had experienced so much trauma prior to the pandemic, that it only worsened as the pandemic progressed. Intellectually, this did not surprise me; emotionally, it saddened me. Although multiple healthcare professionals in my social circles kept warning me about a mental health crisis that will come from this pandemic, I do not think that information gave me much guidance in terms of how to support my friend; however, those warnings gave me the additional encouragement I needed to keep taking care of my own mental and physical health. I could not control my friend’s thoughts, beliefs, or behavior, but I had agency in managing my own.

There is so much I wish could have been different during this pandemic, but this pandemic has made it clear that people need to rely on more than individual actions to make collective change.

There is so much I can say about my old friend’s passing, but for now, those details may be best shared by talking to a good friend, writing a journal entry, creating poetry, or meeting with a therapist. Everyone is different, and a particular individual may need different pathways to healing at different times. In the beginning of my breast cancer journey, which also coincided with the start of the pandemic, I found posting in blogs to be a frequent outlet for venting my thoughts and emotions. For some reason, that did not feel right after my old friend passed away. I did not know why, but I chose to honor that feeling.

If you are feeling grief, I hope you find the most authentic and healing vehicles to mourn whatever or whomever you have lost.

I was not thinking of my old friend until the following image popped up on my social media from Red Table Talk.

Photo is of tips for World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.

Yup, today, September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. If you think you know someone who is struggling, this image reminds us to do the following:

  1. REACH OUT: You might say: “I feel a little worried about you because … (mention a few things you’ve noticed). How can I offer support”?
  2. LISTEN: Listen carefully and acknowledge their feelings
  3. SEEK HELP: Call or text 988 – Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Available 24/7

The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is relatively new. The first time I heard about the hotline was in July through this NPR article The new 988 mental hotline is live. Here’s what to know.

I am vocal about what is on my mind and heart because I have witnessed how other people’s lives deteriorated when they did not have outlets to express themselves and find support. Whether you agree with what I write on this blog or say on my podcast, I know that those outlets keep me healthy and in tune with my mental health when I need them.

My hope is that more people can figure out what works for their mental health because God knows I do not want to attend more funerals any time soon.

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