Mark: What has helped the most with taking care of your mental health?
Megan: Moving away from negative people had the biggest impact towards improving my mental health. Growing up I was constantly surrounded by people who put me down and said hurtful things. When I went off to college I was able to remove myself from that negativity and surround myself with happy, helpful people. It made a huge difference in the way I viewed myself and the world around me.
Mark: How has your view of the world changed?
Megan: I used to view the world from a very narrow perspective. Looking back, my world completely revolved around me, my thoughts, and my emotions. I didn’t believe that anyone understood me or would ever accept me for who I was. I thought everyone was constantly judging me and thinking hateful things. Now I realize that’s not the case (and how naive that believe was). Most people are so preoccupied with their own self consciousness that they don’t spend time thinking about others. I also realized that there are a lot more people who hold off on judgement or are very optimistic in their view of others. I now take into account other people’s perspectives and experiences. I also think more positively about myself and the people around me. I realize that everyone has struggles they are fighting to overcome.
Mark: That’s awesome you’ve been able to think more positively about yourself and those around you. How did that switch happen from everything revolving around you, to taking into account other perspectives and experiences?
Megan: I was going to say I couldn’t think of a specific event, but then I realized I could. I started coaching high school sports during college and it had a very powerful impact on my life. One of the biggest results was that I could see young girls struggling with the same issues I had growing up. One girl in particular was so down on herself about her athletic abilities that she started crying in the middle of a match, even though she was making such a huge impact on the field. I tried to talk her through it, but it was very difficult. I remember writing about how powerful that moment felt for me, watching someone else struggle with their confidence and not seeing the potential that everyone else saw. I think that was the start of me being more aware of other people’s perspectives and experiences. I felt like I was outside looking in.
Mark: I wonder how often we’re all in similar situations, doubting ourselves, unable to see what’s possible or what’s really happening. How have you carried these experiences and insights into your life now, in the everyday things you do, whether it’s things specifically for taking care of mental health or just in the way you live?
Megan: I think experience has been one of the most helpful things when it comes to my mental health. The older I get, the more I realize that life does go on and things get better. When I feel like I am having a bad day, or a bad week, I just think about the fact that things will change. I also don’t try and over-analyze why I feel bad or upset, because you can feel bad for no particular reason. I have become more accepting of myself and my fluctuating mental state. Realizing that I am not the only one who struggles with mental health has allowed me to be more kind to myself.
Mark: There were a bunch of useful points in there I want to ask more questions about, but this is the last question, so I’m going to ask about something that I know was a big challenge for me and is something people often struggle with: How do you practice accepting a fluctuating mental state?
Megan: When I didn’t accept my fluctuating mental state, I either pushed myself too hard and failed, or never even tried at all. For a long time I struggled with having no motivation in life. I just lived day by day with no ambitions. Now I find things to motivate and challenge me. I have been working out regularly and creating mini-goals I want to reach. I’ve created lots of to-do lists. In my personal and career life I have been open to trying more things and finding things I am passionate about. What really helps though is when I know I am struggling, I take the time I need to regroup. I just accept that one bad day won’t ruin my plans for the future. Being okay with not being okay has really helped me in the long run. When I didn’t accept bad days, it just made them accumulate and seep into every aspect of my life. Now I deal with those struggles right away and it makes everything easier.
Megan is a 24-year-old middle child, who loves sports, science, and reading. She currently lives with her fiancé in a small town while he attends graduate school and she explores the possibility of a career in neuroscience. She continues to struggle with social interactions, but is growing more and more confident every day.
5 Questions is a regular series of interviews on everybodyhasabrain.com with people that have mental health. We start by asking: “What has helped the most with taking care of your mental health?” and the interview continues from there for four more questions. If you’d like to participate, become a contributor to Everybody has a Brain by clicking here to submit your info.