An Introduction

Recently, a dear friend  of mine, Jam Gamble – aka Slayer of the Mic, sent me a reminder via IG saying “WHY ON EARTH ARE WE STRUGGLING TO INTRODUCE OURSELVES?”

Oh does she know me well!

I can talk, a lot. But when it comes to introducing me I pause and I feel awkward and I struggle to find what I want to say. I usually end up giving a very surface, stock answer.  Usually how I’m a mom, and a teacher…  things I’m very proud of but not exactly what I want to say.  It’s part of it but I always stop short.

But I’m changing this and this is the intro I will  proudly use going forward.  So here I go.

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“My name is Shivonne Lewis and I am a tattooed teacher, bipolar single mama of 2. I’m not sure some days how I’ll do it but I’m always figuring it out with grace and confidence.

I am a mental health advocate.  Because it’s 2019 and not “getting it” or having a frame of reference for it or believing in it are not excuses. It’s time to fucking figure it out. Check your bias and figure it out.

I’m a mental health advocate because I have Bipolar Disorder Type I not because I am Bipolar. My disorder doesn’t define who I am. It’s caused me to act outside of my moral values, do to some things that may seem harmful and shameful. It became larger than what I could handle but it isn’t me.

I’m a mental health advocate because the supports and systems in place are shockingly bad. Like so bad.

I’m a mental health advocate because I want women, young women to see that you can have a disorder and manage it with support and have a great life. You can have a career, a house, kids if you want to. It doesn’t get to take away your life goals and dreams!

Oh yeah, I’m not blonde anymore 😉

I wanted to share some of the simple, low or no cost activities that I do that help me feel grounded and balanced.  Many of these things have become part of my regular routine, so I save for tricky, stuck moments and some are interchangable.

Feeling or getting stuck, spinning and spinning isn’t a very good feeling. I suspect all of us, whether you struggle with mental health or not, have felt this before.

I use to ruminate on the feeling. Replay situations or outcomes I wanted to force over and over. I would “vent” to friends but  not in a healthy way, I was actually trying to unload my stuck feelings onto them – to release it and pass it on, or have them solve it for me. This put a strain on relationships.  Many of those friends love me and have supported me as I’ve worked through challenges but it feels good to be growing healthier relationships with them.

So here’s my list of things I do to avoid getting stuck, or help me get unstuck.

Skin care routine – regardless of age and gender if you haven’t adopted a skin care routine I highly recommend it. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a premium product either.  A cleanser, a toner, and a moisturizer.  I practice my skin care routine in the morning and again when I go to bed.  Sometimes if I’m stuck or upset I just go and wash my face and moisturize.  The practice of the cool water splashing my face, the circular motion of my fingertips on my face, the soft scent of the moisturizer is often enough to ground me.  Let’s not forget the added benefit of nicer skin.

Chewing strong mint gum or candy – This one I use in the moment. The strong mint and the chewing I feel in my jaw is just the right amount of sensory stimulation to calm my sense so I can focus on what I need to.

Meditation I know, I know you’re going to tell me that you can’t meditate. That you’ve tried it before and it doesn’t work. That your mind wanders, that you giggle, that your body hurts and you feel uncomfortable. Guess what I felt that way too, everyone feels that way when they start meditating. In fact, isn’t that how we feel when we start ANY new activity. I’ve been meditating consistently for over a year now and it’s brought a calm and balance to my life that I’ve never thought possible.  I started with the Calm app and used the guided meditation but now I find guided distracting. I use music, sometimes a triangle and focus my breathing on the ringing sounds. I have a meditation corner in my room, I meditate on my couch, in my classroom, in my car .  I meditate with my students and if I can get pre-adolescent kids to buy into meditation I’m pretty sure you can do it.

Run/Walk/Bike/Lift – do something that puts strain on your body, lungs and heart. I run (okay I’m just getting back to it after coming off a long break which was caused by a mental block holding me back) but I run. The feeling of my feet hitting the ground, the sweat dripping down, the sounds of nature, traffic, people.  Knowing that I’m mentally challenging myself keeps me grounded. I can’t always just go for a run when I’m feeling stuck so that’s why keeping a consistent running schedule is key for me.  I urge you to find your version of running.

Hot or Cold Shower – this one works wonders to snap me back out of place where I am ruminating about something. It’s so sensory in many ways and I stay in and breathe deeply until I feel that sense of calm. If I can’t shower I wash my face.  If I can’t wash my face I wash my hands or stick them in cold water.

Loud Happy Music – I put on my favourite music. Not music that reflects how I am feeling but rather how I want to feel. Recently my friend played me Yoga Beats and it was just so uplifting so next time when I’m feeling off I’m definitely going to use that to help ground me.

Mascara and Lip Gloss – What is something you love to put on that makes you feel like a super star?  Is it a certain tie, a silk scarf?  Maybe a favourite scent, special socks? Your best pair of jeans?  For me it’s mascara and lip gloss.  I can be having the worst day but those two things make me feel like “damn girl you got this.”

Essential Oil – When I am feeling off I apply a few drops of peppermint oil to the inside of my wrists and behind my ears. It’s instantly soothing. I take a few deep, slow breaths and the scent carries me through a few hours.  When I’m at home I diffuse essentials oils. Often peppermint or lavender but sometimes I’m fancy and I use pinterest to find combinations to reflect the mood I want to bring about.

I’m sure there’s more subtle things I do regularly that I’m not mentioning but the point is you can bring yourself back to a grounded reality in a very low or no cost way. It’s being deliberate and intentional and practicing them when you are balanced so they become automatic when you aren’t.

Share, what works for you, what have you tried or might like to try?

 

 

 

 

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