May is Mental Health Awareness Month! Remember that you are so very loved and worth seeking any help that you may need. Whether it’s reaching out to a friend, seeking therapy, or just meditating, remember to set aside some time for yourself each day to distance yourself from the hectic nature of life. However, treating yourself kindly and practicing mindfulness shouldn’t just stop after May ends. Here are five poetic masterpieces which were written by women to remind you why Mental Health Awareness Month should be every month:
1. The Soul Has Bandaged moments – Emily Dickinson
Have you ever had one of those days with terrible mood swings? You know, one of those days where your mind decides to play a disorganized cacophony of emotions and thoughts. Well, famed American poet Emily Dickson has too! In her poem, “The Soul Has Bandaged Moments,” Dickinson takes the audience through the complicated journey that a soul takes, as she battles negative emotions and embraces positive ones. This poem serves to show that such emotional roller-coasters are normal to experience and a part of life. It’s the battle between fear and courage that we each face daily, one way or another. Just remember not to give up hope during the tougher phases of battle; you always have allies to help you fight the monsters. It’s okay not to know how you’re feeling. You are never alone in these battles!
2. A Lesson – Lang Leav
Perhaps one of the most basic rules in life is to always treat others with kindness and regard. Of course, the world would be a perfect place if everyone had this consideration for others. Why contribute to the problem of being inconsiderate when the world already has enough inconsideration? The truth is, no matter how much of a bad day that we may be having ourselves, it does not give us the license to make someone else’s day as much, or even more, miserable. We must always recognize the fact that we never know what is going on in someone’s life. Always make an effort to show your kindness to everyone. Also remember to check up on the people you know, even if you think they’re doing okay. Why? Lang Leav puts it best: “the saddest leave the least of clues.”
3) Eleven – Tanya Markul
We all have those memories of being the odd one out. In those moments in our lives, we hated being the only ones who somehow were not “good enough.” Whether it was in our elementary school years, amongst our peers at college, on some sort of team, or immersed in some work with our colleagues, the second it felt like we didn’t belong became the second that that specific environment no longer felt comfortable. In those moments, we begin to question ourselves. Even worse, we begin to gaslight ourselves into questioning our own emotions, feelings, and perspectives on the situation. In these times, it is important to remember that you bring your unique spark to the world. By practicing self-love, we can recognize our self-importance and can combat these feelings of insecurity. By practicing self-love, we can begin to heal and love ourselves. Tanya Markul’s poem “Eleven” illustrates this important concept.
4) The Backyard Mermaid – Matthea Harvey
Regardless of what path we walk in life, there will always be a time that will come in which we will want to escape. Those times will be filled with challenges, big and small. There may or may not be people who make it even harder for you during these times as well. In these moments, it is important not to lose faith and hope in yourself. No. Instead, you must be like Matthea Harvey’s Backyard Mermaid. Keep your eyes on the prize you are striving towards: those goals and dreams that you so desperately want to grasp onto. Remember that you are in control of your own life; you have the power to fight. You must always strive to believe in yourself and your ability to overcome, for you are enough just as who you are. Even when it feels like the fight is a steep, uphill battle, remember to reach out to the resources you need to keep fighting. You are not weak if you need to rely on any allies! As always, note that whatever struggle you’re going through: this too shall pass.
5) The Swimming Lesson – Mary Oliver
For anybody who wonders what depression feels like, Mary Oliver describes it perfectly in her poem, “The Swimming Lesson.” It feels like being cast out alone in a cold, unforgiving ocean and not knowing how to swim. Because you don’t know how to swim and no one is around to save you, you end up drowning. This poem allows you to be able to step into the shoes of someone who suffers from the symptoms of depression. These symptoms include trouble concentrating for long periods of time, a lack of interest in activities/hobbies that used to be enjoyable, a drastic change in eating and sleeping habits, fatigue, s*icidal thoughts, etc. Especially in times of uncertainty (such as the current COVID-19 pandemic), it is always a great idea to check up on friends and family to make sure that they are able to swim in the dangerous ocean of emotions. If you end up finding out that they are unable to swim, make sure you do your part in order to make sure that they stay afloat. Let them know that you care about them and are there for them. It is also important to note that you should not give unsolicited advice. Instead, ask them what would make them feel the most comfortable. If they ask for your advice, then make sure to kindly acknowledge their feelings as you do so and to think carefully before speaking. Otherwise, simply listening and understanding what they tell you is a great move as well. The great thing about this poem is that it does not only apply to depression. It also applies to other mental health conditions; some examples include: anxiety disorders, eating disorders, PTSD, and more. Regardless, the message to take away from the poem is the same: never leave someone in need stranded.
Needless to say, dear reader, that mental health should always be a priority for you, me, and everyone else. Let these poems be a consistent reminder for not only the importance of the concepts of mental health and mindfulness but also the necessity of acknowledging them and practicing them on a daily basis. Mental health is a process that takes time in order to cultivate properly. Mental health is a journey whose pit stops along the road are as important as the final destination.