Ca locuitoare ale blogului Heartbrunch, un spațiu de discuție și share-uit experiențe pe teme despre care nu prea avem unde, când și cu cine vorbi cu toată deschiderea, am lansat, acum câteva luni, o mini-campanie de sensibilizare în ceea ce privește sănătatea mintală. Desigur, noi ne-am propus să ajungem la cât mai mulți cititori, dar recunoaștem că încă ne alcătuim, de ici, de colo, pe-o limbă sau pe alta, comunitatea.
Vrem să vorbim despre vulnerabilitate și gestionatul crizelor existențiale, a oricăror încercări emoționale care, la noi, sunt considerate tabu; ori sunt arătate cu degetul și luate peste picior. Știți cum e, ne luăm în serios dar nu cu prea multă seriozitate, așa că vom păstra umorul, cu inima deschisă.
In acest scop, am lansat campania #mentalhealthkit ! ***
Am vrut să facem un kit colectiv de urgență, o trusă de prim ajutor pentru minte și suflet. Am primit câteva răspunsuri - însă campania rămâne deschisă! Iar până vă gândiți la kitul vostru, noi vă lăsăm în compania unei scrisori ca un croissant cald, proaspăt scos din cuptor. Dacă săptămâna trecută am publicat răspunsul lui Frances Cannon la întrebarea noastră, azi vă invităm să luați cafeaua (sau ceaiul) și să rămâneți în mâini bune: cele ale psihoterapeutei Dr. Raluca Anton.
„În primul rând, musai să spun că îmi place mult campania voastră! Se pliază atât de bine pe activitatea mea de zi cu zi, fie că lucrez la cabinet cu clienții mei, fie că lucrez cu diverse companii, scopul meu este să ii ajut pe cei cu care mă întâlnesc să își construiască un astfel de #mentalhealthkit personalizat.
Avem atât de multe rețete pe care le putem citi de la diverși specialiști din domeniul sănătății mintale sau, mai bine zis, a stării de bine încât, de multe ori, ne e greu să ne dăm seama ce e util de făcut. Din păcate, informațiile pe care le citim din cărți sau pe care le auzim într-un training pot fi foarte faine și pot sa funcționeze pe termen scurt sau mediu, însă nu cred că există o mentenanță pe termen lung a efectului. De ce? Pentru că nu e suficient să știi ce ar trebui să faci pentru a avea efectul scontat, e nevoie să le aplici zilnic – al doilea motiv pentru care îmi place ideea de #mentalhealthkit, adică ceva ce să ai la tine tot timpul, dar cred că ar fi util să nu îl folosești numai atunci când ești pe avarii, ci să transformi tot conținutul lui în obiceiuri.
Acum despre kit-ul meu care, trebuie să recunosc, a suferit multe ajustări de-a lungul timpului. Pe măsură ce m-am cunoscut mai bine, mi-am dat seama mai bine de lucrurile de care am, de fapt, nevoie. Așa că știu că acum am nevoie de câteva minute pe zi să îmi închei ziua de lucru, să îmi așez informațiile pe care le-am auzit de la clienții mei, întrebările care mi s-au pus în training-uri, vulnerabilitățile cu care am lucrat și soluțiile pe care le-am oferit. Am învățat să îmi aloc câteva minute pentru a mă gândi la ce am nevoie să se întâmple în ziua respectivă (sa fie liniște, sa nu mai rezolv probleme, să stau etc.) și, dacă e cazul să implic pe cineva în povestea asta, am învățat să îmi comunic nevoia. Apoi, eu am un soi de therapeutic cooking asa ca ma refugiez în asta când simt ca e prea mult și am nevoie să lucrez ceva cu mâinile pentru a putea să îmi limpezesc mintea. Asta vine mereu in asociere cu jazz pe fundal. Iar dacă timpul nu îmi permite să fac mai mult, o cafea bună dimineața sau un pahar cu vin bun pe terasa casei la ceas de seară sună minunat.
Va doresc să reușiți să va construiți un kit cât mai funcțional!”
*** Ce e în kitul tău de prim ajutor pentru sănătatea mintală? Poate fi vorba de locuri sigure (safe space), prieteni imaginari, hobby-uri, animale de companie, obiecte - tot ceea ce funcționează ca un colac de salvare atunci când te simți stresat, obosit, luat pe sus de valuri de emoții sau când vrei să te reconectezi la energii creative și pozitive.
by Diana Rusu
You might have noticed that we recently started to write a Romanian blog, because why not, but more so because we found a gap in today’s Romanian culture when it comes to (speaking about) mental health. In my 4 years of living in London, I realized it wasn’t easy for anyone to find support whenever one would feel confuse, insecure or anxious. And I was often experiencing this overwhelming confusion and sometimes even depression. But somehow, I found myself many of times in various groups of friends or with complete strangers (the perks of working as a barista) being the shoulder they needed to cry on. I’m not the type to brag about my skills whatsoever, but I often found my mouth opening to speak without my consent. I mean, in a good way, I just could not stop! I remember when a girl came in the coffee shop as I was closing and ordered some tea. When all the customers left and I started cleaning up, she suddenly told me her boyfriend had decided to leave the country to travel without her, although they had planned a long trip together. I could sense a panic attack coming, but managed to talk, even though it was, for me, a really difficult subject. The kind of subject you don’t talk about because it sort of happened to you. She left the shop smiling and at peace, while I was struggling to keep up with my words (that can, apparently, bring a sense of awareness, presence and calm to others, except myself).
How do you handle a panic attack, be it yours or someone else’s?
Later that year I managed to learn how to talk to myself with kindness, though this would not have been possible without psychotherapy.
I remember when Iulia and I were working on the Heartbrunch website, and as we were writing the About section, Iulia came out with couch climbers. When this heartbrunch idea popped into my mind, I didn’t want it to be exclusively focused on the mind matters – whatever that might translate to – so I slipped a timid spiritual in there. Now, just like the father, the son and the holy spirit, Our Heartbrunch who art in heaven, cannot be expressed in one sentence. It is about the body, the mind and a bunch of other important stuff like gender and diary-style love thoughts. Something like the unfinished Reveries of the Solitary Walker that Rousseau started in 1776, in Paris (and never got to end).
Better yet, if we were living in the 18th century, our blog would definitely have had a Mesmerizing section, because we would most certainly have been followers of Mesmer. Born May 23, 1734, Mesmer was also a patron of the arts, supporting the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when he wasn’t too busy curing women of hysteria with his animal magnetism. What a good subject to write about! And maybe later, at the dawn of the 19th century, we would have been Madame Benvenisti, one of Freud’s grateful Viennese patients. But not everyone knows that she was the one who gifted Freud with a Victorian day-bed, in around 1890. The sofa covered in a multi-colored, Iranian rug and garnished with cushions was so dear to Freud that he brought it to his new house in Hampstead, fleeing the war. This was the couch that later became a pop culture reference to psychoanalysis.
So, let’s climb it together.
One thing I would really want to explore more is the panic attack room. That’s why we are launching an invitation to talk about what’s in our mental health first aid kit, survival kit, secret box, whatever you want to call it.
Personally, I like the concept of paraphernalia.
The term originates in Roman law, but comes from the Greek parapherna, "beyond (para) the dowry (phernē)". Paraphernalia were the separate property of a married woman, such as clothing and jewellery, but excluding the assets that may have been included in her dowry. For example, a partner "could not sell, appropriate, or convey good title to his wife's assets considered paraphernalia without her separate consent" (source).
What's in your mental health first aid kit?
If the dowry represents your relationship with the ancestors, your heritage, your background, your social existence, then what you have apart might be serving another you through a collection of tools, safe spaces and all sorts of mechanisms for whenever your feelings and emotions are too much to handle. Some time ago, I wrote about my to do list in case of panic attacks, but if I were to put together a mental health emergency kit, this would probably change every other day. Luisa Omielan's show What would Beyonce do? saved my life about a year ago, five days in a row; later I discovered her follow up show - a true manifesto "about depression, self worth, fighting for your career and deserving of love"- which I absolutely adore. E. Tolle's voice reading, Allan Watts, Tash Sultana's notions of heartbreak and freedom, having a clean, organized, kitchen with lots of light and space (not necessarily for cooking), a good handful of essential oils, my notebooks and blogs, books I haven’t finished, Virginia Wolf, books on Iulia’s list, a letter I wrote to myself a few years ago. Hugs, sleeping in the other's arms. Sex, lots of it, and sometimes cigarettes. Meditation. Being in a park in London (and I could carry on with the list).
Since May is the mental health awareness month, we’d love to read your stories on what's in your mental health first aid kit, or if you have one. Spread the word and don’t be shy! I mean, look at us. We’re climbing our imaginary couch laughing out loud, hungry to explore the world around us. It does get easier when you have an emergency kit, we promise!
photo from the author's family collection
by Diana Rusu
I had this thought the other day, why am I running in the underground when I could enjoy the sunshine somewhere?! Sure, people have suffered for centuries and they still do and it's a mad house back home. But am I just supposed to hide in one place until things get better somewhere else? They might not even get better. Ever. Does that really affect me?
I have been in a bubble since the day I was born, a spiritual, crazy, sci-fi world that surrounds my body. I was never afraid to show it off, to be honest. Always felt like my chest was a clear glass box where one could see through a sometimes-overwhelming bunch of emotions, colours, shapes and all that.
The funny thing is, everything else happens and had always happened by mere accident.
Falling in love, having a home, geting fantastic jobs. And I suppose it's only fair to lose all of that, by accident, one by one: loves, homes, careers; the bakery I was getting my bread and morning pastries from; the coffee shop that I religiously went to for an in-house roasted specialty coffee, perfectly brewed in a V60 filter; the green grocery that sold ten types of cherry tomatoes; I guess what I'm trying to underline here is maybe the need I had for all of those things to happen to me, ignoring the bubble that only had room for myself. I was so much already, I was everything. I just didn't know it yet.
And then the rollercoaster hit me in the face and I had to start all over from scratch.
I scratched my skin, I cried my eyes out and struggled with the "change", unaware of the simple fact that I had nothing to change. I was still in my bubble everywhere I'd go. Perhaps the only difference was that with time passing, I accumulated words to write down The Story. Sure, sometimes I’m broke, heartbroken and questioning whether London is of any use to me still, and not a vampire that sucks all life & possessions that I work for every day.
I once read that Capricorns are creatures of two worlds, they are goats with fish tails, they can climb the highest mountains, but they can also dive into the deepest waters.
I understand why I've spent ten months running in the underground, each and every single time visioning something or someone from the past coming towards me, instead of just enjoying the sunshine somewhere else. I needed to go there, I needed to lose and I needed to be challenged in a way I never thought it was possible: I was no longer in my twenties, I still didn’t know where the I don’t give a fuck feeling ended and where the panic attacks started; eventually, it all made sense in a way I still have no words to describe. I can only feel it.
No, I didn't move to London to make money. I didn't move to "improve" myself or exchange one world for a "better" one. But I did look for questions and answers, realizing that there's nothing else out there except the present time.
I always dreamed of being Amelie Poulain, but what I didn’t know all this time is that I was exactly Amelie Poulain. My dream came true, or better yet, it came through. I've never been more fascinated with life before. And that's something that I'll take with me, wherever I go.
by Diana Rusu
Did you notice that facebook has now got a setting that lets you choose a legacy contact just in case you die?
“A legacy contact is someone who you choose to manage your account after you pass away. They'll be able to do things like pin a post on your Timeline, respond to new friend requests and update your profile picture.” (Facebook settings)
Oh wow, I didn’t see that coming. I mean, from now on, it will be possible to make friends AFTER YOU DIED. Which reminds me, tomorrow is a big day! Tomorrow the 3rd series of Black Mirror is out!!! #bingewatching
Over the years I’ve developed an acute sense of control, although I’m still the most flexible and adaptable person you’ll ever meet. Looking back though, I’m sure as hell that sometimes I looked like a control freak. Having everything prepared, coming to a party with all of the food, making everyone smile. Never smoking that spliff.
And rarely, maybe once in a few years, I would do something over the top: with a most dramatic feeling taking over my body OR quite the opposite – with no feelings at all, that’s how I ended up deleting my first serious blog. It was going really good, I was getting plenty of attention, followers and comments. And back then, I didn’t use any other social media. Later, after a while of having my first fb profile, I deleted that as well, but couldn’t keep my hands out of the internet and got another one instead. I was using my teddy bear as a cover for me searching through ex-lovers’ pictures and status updates. But that’s another story for another time, because my teddy bear was a traveler, so he actually needed this facebook profile.
I think the time has come to loosen up a little bit and do what the voices in my head are saying: delete it delete it delete it
So, I started with the teddy bear and making my way up to the main one. Thing is, I barely use it anymore, but I can’t stop thinking of all the people sharing awesome things and how easy it is to get inspired or learn things. It’s ok, it’s also easy to get hurt. It’s ok, the voices are saying, you’ll find inspiration in nature and people that are present and in yourself and you know, there’s always Instagram, Don’t you dare delete that!!
Riiiight, so, it’s time to go outside. The sun’s out, finally, Mercury is no longer retrograde, we lived through the longest night of the year and I don’t think I wanna be a likes-fed guinea pig anymore, although I still need “all those daily molecules of proof that we, as people, are meant to bond together and change each other’s lives, with or without filter.”
by Iulia Gheorghe
I find myself once again in the panic attack room, sitting as still as I can with an angel on the right shoulder and with a devil on the left one. This scene is familiar to everybody, I guess. (Unless you are the Dalai Lama or somebody very wise and stoic). Every time those two inner, yet outer voices collide into a stormy chorus, I roll my eyes defeated: searching for balance is transforming me again in a casualty of compromise. This time, I decided to write about it because I clearly couldn’t stop the continuous ping-pong mode debate I was witnessing. Yes, even now while I’m typing the world “typing” my two barking buddies are still trapped in a little dust-up.
The heart of the matter?
Documenting our lives on social media : to do or not to do?
I know, this is a tricky one. Somehow, social media is part of my identity as I’m a digital native millennial. When I open my feed, there is a lot of noise, some crap, a bit of overthought content, a scoop of neverthought content, but also wildly inspiring stuff, collective intelligence, glimpses of genius, talent galore, showers of courage and entrepreneurial spirit, artistic touches and droplets of pure wisdom. Swipping up and down in my social networks makes me feel like Peeping Tom lost in the microcosm of instagrammable breakfasts, quotable resolutions, relatable rants and everything in between.
Falling in like
I remember a few lines of Jonathan Franzen from his commencement address at Kenyon College:
“Alongside the eagerness to be liked is a build-in eagerness to reflect well on us. Our lives look a lot more interesting when they’re filtered through the sexy Facebook interface. We star in our own movies, we photograph ourselves incessantly, we click the mouse and a machine confirms our sense of mastery. We like the mirror and the mirror likes us. To friend a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of flattering mirrors”.
Maybe it’s more than a Narcissus effect. He fell in love with his reflection in the water, but we fell in like with our distorted-by-technology reflection - a new persona, radiant, flourishing and clinging stubbornly on the network. Maybe, through all of these filters, hashtags, mentions, profile photos, cover photos, selfies, posts, tweets, snaps, instastories, we are constructing some kind of parallel dimension; maybe it's not as frightening as the upside-down one from Stranger Things, but still artificial and toxic, inhabited with our embellished, and in the same time, disembowelled selves. We gain in attractiveness and magnetism, we can be more easily desired, appreciated, hired or admired, but we also lose in authenticity by throwing up a burka-like filter on our more unstable attributes, those beautifully entangled threads of vulnerability and glimpses of mistakes, regrets and struggles that attended the ballroom of our daily lives.
Are we all likes-fed guinea pigs?
Undermining our authentic self is perhaps the consequence of our addiction to approval and praise. Tech giants understood the crazy dance of dopamine and how they can use it in their own interest. Numbers speak for themselves: for example, as of the third quarter of 2017, Facebook had 2.07 billion monthly active users and daily social media usage of global internet users amounted to 135 minutes per day (thank you statista.org). We are all in the loop, but the background may vary. Some feeds are all about personal moods, family and friends, others are work and career oriented, some of them are a potpourri of all that. If we were to do a street interview about the motivations before hitting ”publish”, we would hear the need to express oneself, peer pressure, helping others, draw attention to a cause, be in the spotlight.
Perhaps you just want to show your dumb classmate from secondary school who bullied you that your life is so incredibly appealing or to your ex-partner that you are better without his/her fartsy pants in your washing-machine. Or we may do it for the five-seconds firework show in our brain which happens when we update the feed and notifications start to pour in. Ramsay Brown, neuroscientist and co-founder of Dopamine Labs, believes that the computer code give us rewards which have no actual value, but trigger your brain to make you want more. For instance, on Instagram, the likes come in a sudden rush. We find ourselves in trance: checking several times per hour if new little hearts are flapping their curvy silhouettes on our screens. However, Brown’s vehemence - “You’re guinea pigs. You are guinea pigs in the box pushing the button and sometimes getting the likes”,– is a little chilling.
Tools to share our story
At this point, one might be asking: “Should we all delete our social media accounts or can we still make something meaningful of it?”. As in a lot of multifaceted situations from the carousel called life, I find myself somehow in limbo. Surprisingly, I don’t feel trapped. I accept that those hearts and thumbs (and their effects on my synapses) are fugacious and unreliable. A lot of posts will fly back to the upside-down world of social media chimeras. And a couple of them will tattoo my inner life, because they are impregnated with inspiring art, honest narratives, memories to learn from, random acts of humanity, all those daily molecules of proof that we, as people, are meant to bond together and change each other’s lives, with or without filter.
Austin Kleon, author of Show Your Work! explains brilliantly the crucial role of sharing stories :
“Story is such a source of nurture that we cannot become really true human beings for ourselves and for each other without story— and without finding ways in which to tell it, to share it, to create it, to encourage younger people to create their own story”.
For the first time in the history of humankind, we have so many tools to transmit, share, compile, re-create stories, accessible to almost everybody, a borderless space for expression and meeting.
I’m hearing the angel admonishing the devil: “You see, documenting daily life on social media is more than bolstering one’s self. It’s about togetherness” and the devil laughing, “I can’t argue with you, ‘cause you’re high on likes”. They are both right and wrong.
We’re facing a crazy bet: building unfeigned connections and encouraging freedom of expression, while wiping off the ego sauce that splattered on our social media constructed mirrors. Do believe me, this ego sauce tastes awfully good, like your all time favorite food melting slowly on your taste buds. But with a little exercise (awareness mode on), you can train yourself to discover other tastes, too. Honesty’s taste, for instance. By showing your honesty you contribute to writing a sentence in the Big Story: the story of being unquestionably human and likable thanks to all of the flaws, gaps and scrapes and not in spite of them. They are instagrammable too!
Of course, when you are honest on social media, you expose yourself to rejection, indifference, even misunderstandings. This is why it can be painful and difficult to do it, especially at the beginning. But there is something stupendously liberating about it. Honesty tastes likes umami. #TryItOnYourOwn *wink*.
by Diana Rusu
“But I will not be ignored. The soul that lives inside this body will not be ignored. I am here to stay.”― RuPaul, Lettin it All Hang Out: An Autobiography
Finding out that your Ego has not developed since childhood because you grew up surrounded by strong personalities is kind of life changing. Poor Ego, I imagine it being a little crippled old-baby man ☹. Still, I sometimes feel its tiny hands crawling all over my body and scaring the shit out of me. It’s ok, I know I’m having panic attacks quite often. To calm myself down, I’m listening to Banks’ Brain. I like her; if you want some inspiring talks on depression, intimacy and confronting herself, listen close, she’s absolutely amazing. Right, here’s a list of what I do when I feel like I'm about to crack up.
1. It’s hard, but I still try to listen to my inner self, eyes wide open, observing the surroundings as if I would see everything for the first time. Sometimes it’s like having a deja-vu while seeing yourself experiencing it. #psychedelic
2. When I read, I try and let go of all identities: I’m no longer a writer (sometimes, of course, the Ego kicks in with stupid comments like “whoa I wish I wrote that”, “wtf”, “can I possibly use this expression in one of my poems”), I’m no longer 30+, I’m no longer female. I’m no longer Diana.
3. I make things I have absolutely no idea how to (or even why): painting, cooking, photography, DIY toothpaste. What?
4. I observe myself struggling and I try not to judge myself. #checkmate
5. I feel my body. UNHhhhhhh! and / or I connect with others. Wait, what?
6. I am aware of my pain-body and I know when she’s hungry for tears, I let her have it. So she cries.
7. And if I don’t smile right after, it’s absolutely ok, for fuck’s sake.
8. I meditate, sometimes. I’ve built a safe space and use it as a hiding for when I feel I might go down swinging.
9. When I get applause (applause, applause - never standing ovations, tho) the little beast is smiling back at the person who complimented me and I’m like “yeah, that’s right, we did it!”
10. Because eventually, it’s all about being aware of your Ego and giving it a big high five, no matter its shape, color, gender or age, no matter if it’s not developed or if it grew five times more than your inner being. Well that might be a problem actually, but you get what I mean. It’s all about teamwork.
photo by author