I had an interesting experience in yoga today. I had just checked in for class when a firefighter opened the door, looked right at me and said he and his team were testing fire alarms. The alarm would be going off soon. He quickly realized I wasn’t in charge, gave the instructor more details and she proceeded to warn the class of what was coming.
The alarm didn’t go off as soon as anticipated, so the instructor started the class. She talked about Mental Health Awareness Month – the theme for the class that day. She said 1 in 5 people are diagnosed with mental illness in varying degrees, and how we should release the stigma attached to it. She talked about how no one is alone in the mental health struggle, and it’s okay to not be okay.
As if on queue, the fire alarm went off, and continued to go off repeatedly for 10 minutes. As I lay there, in a modified child’s pose with my hands over my ears, I checked deep within, as I often do when challenging or unusual things happen in my life. What lesson did God have for me in this moment? What was the spiritual significance of this fire alarm going off, perfectly timed right as class was starting and the stage had been set for mental health awareness?
The message was clear to me – the importance of mental health with an emphasis on urgency. Fire drill-level emergency. Our mental health as a country and as a world-wide community is probably at an all-time low right now. We’ve been separated for long periods of time from the people we love – some by choice and others by government mandates. World-wide isolation, wearing of masks and social distancing have led to fear, depression, sadness, anxiety and suffering. This is on top of what was already a crisis pre-pandemic.
Part of the timing and the lesson from my perspective was found in the statement, “it’s okay to not be okay.” I’ve seen and heard that sentence multiple times over this past month (thanks, Mental Health Awareness Month). Sure, I suppose it is okay. But why settle for being “not okay?” There are SO MANY tools and resources available that can help you out of your struggles.
Millions of people take pharmaceutical drugs to improve their mental health. Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds can be highly beneficial for chemical imbalances in some people, but many people don’t need them long-term and can thrive without them if the root of the problem is addressed. In my opinion, these drugs are bandaids for many and aren’t actually fixing the problem. Beneath the chemical physiological processes of the body, there is an energetic component. I’ve seen with many of my clients that if you can balance the root of the issue at the energetic level, the body can heal and rebalance at the chemical level. But if you’re going to ween yourself off meds, you’ve got to put in a little effort toward healing yourself (resources below), and of course, find a good doctor to help supervise the process.
I know all about mental health emergencies. My sister committed suicide two years ago. We knew about the opioid addiction, the battle with depression and low self-esteem. We tried to support her and help her through it, as much as she would let us, but we never heard the fire alarm – it was too late by the time we could try to save her, and she didn’t want to be saved. There was even more to it than I knew at the time (and while we’re talking pharmaceuticals, she was on all kinds of them), but I know so much more now with my current understanding. The horrible loss of my sister has taught me that mental health is an emergency and should be taken very seriously.
As I think about this global crisis, I also think about what yoga and spiritual development has taught me and how it can be applied when times get tough, or when we’re struggling with mental illness:
- The importance of finding your center and finding stillness within.
- The reminder that we are never alone and always connected to not only God/Spirit/Source/Creator/The Divine, but also every human on this planet.
- We are not here in this life to suffer. We are here to experience peace, joy and love.
- Many mental health issues are not a result of your experiences, but rather how you respond to them.
- Fear, false beliefs and perceptions create illusions that we are separate from one another and leads to sadness, depression and anxiety.
So here is your fire alarm. Check on your people. Let them know you care. Tap into the divine light within you to honor, recognize and help them see the divine light in them. If you’re reading this and struggling with mental health or know someone who is, please know that I am here to help, and I also have additional resources below:
Light and Wellness – my mind-body medicine practice (I’ve helped countless people heal from mental health issues)
And of course, this fabulous directory of healers I’ve created for you 😉 My Natural Healer