It has been a short while since I have been in a situation entirely beyond my control, and yet last week, I was stood in Ibiza airport being told I couldn’t fly home. Being unable to board a plane may sound like a small first world problem, ok it is - but I know myself and what tests my resolve. Or I thought I did until that moment.
There were no tears. My heart rate remained the same, and I was breathing normally.
I would also be late to collect my beloved son from school the next day, miss a valued client appointment, out of pocket, miss the test I had booked for the following day and unable to take my son away on our annual school camping trip. Quite the cluster fuck.
All of the above incoming situations, legitimate reasons to create disharmony, for my fight or flight to kick in and send me breathless, completely dizzy with anxiety.
Only that didn’t happen. There was no BIG emotional response; there was no BIG drama. There was an acknowledgement of the situation and surprising ease and efficiency to resolve it.
Despite knowing I’m ‘in check,’ it felt like a massive moment for me. I get tested all the time, but this was different - this was a green listed green light to throw me off course, and it didn’t.
Outside of my Instagram grid, I have been reminded this week through tragedy, conflict, emergency and betrayal that life is short. These pivotal moments have also gently highlighted my flaws.
If I let them direct my energy to the places it doesn’t need to go, my longstanding flaws can quickly sabotage situations and create time wasting moments. The time-wasting moments where we don’t liberate ourselves by addressing a problem correctly, where we don’t quite catch ourselves.
The thing is, I don’t care that much about my flaws because, for the most part, I can control them. I can create values out of them, which form the makeup of my self-respect. I know who I am and who I am not, and my self-respect now radiates so high that I won’t accept anything less than I deserve.
And I surround myself with people that will kick me into touch should my flaws create issues, should they hold me back from experiences and opportunities.
That’s how I know that this mental health shit works because years ago, my self-esteem wasn’t where it sits today. So saying I have an ego out loud is in some ways a good thing because there was a time when I didn’t have any sense of self-esteem or worth.
I will, however, be the first to admit that there have been at least two situations this week that would have created an insatiable desire to fulfil my rage in previous years.
I was thrown back to a time where I would allow a red mist to descend and combine it with an incapacity to accept responsibility for my actions, words, etc.
How do I know that this mental health shit works? There was no red mist. Ooof it wanted to surface. It tried to come but then, nothing.
Last night I spoke with a friend I haven’t connected with in 10 years. We’ve known each other since I was 19. We lived together, and he’s seen me - really seen me at my best and worse. My hedonistic days, my ill-tempered days. We talked about the new versions of ourselves, the mature, refined and self-aware versions of ourselves—our best selves.
So how do I know all this mental health shit works? I can share my flaws with the world without wincing or feeling ashamed. I know because I didn’t have a panic attack last week at the airport, and trust me, I had a panic attack at an airport 15 years ago, and it was terrifying.
I know because of late I have been put through my paces.
I know because at the peak of long covid I was flirting with a depression I haven’t experienced since I was 16 - the illness sent me descending into a chasm of isolation and weakness at great speed.
My body failing, my speech slurred, my brain foggy and with barely enough energy to do the simplest things. I resisted the illness. I ignored the advice from my Doctor to stop and recover. I pushed and pushed myself to the point of no return. Being so ill, feeling so weak, I had neglected the very thing I am passionate about getting right.
Depression and anxiety were reaching out their hands to me like an old friend, the comfort of feeling bad seducing me into giving into the darkness. But I didn’t. I called it, saw it, and chose to get better. I decided to invest in whatever I had to to get physically better. I decided to do one thing a day for my mental health.
I remembered the discipline I bestow to others. I did the work.
'The work’ is different for us all.
Self-care is a personal responsibility. For most of us, self-care is a choice we are in a luxurious position of making.
I say this as the niece of a schizophrenic who didn’t have the same choices I do. The options that we do.
Everything is a choice. If you do something that you know will hurt someone, know and own that you have chosen to inflict pain on another person with absolutely no barometer for how deeply they feel.
If you choose to push someone’s buttons, you will get a reaction. You know that, at your deepest level, you know that.
If you choose to reflect and understand your role in situations of conflict, you will create harmony.
If you choose to pick up a book to better understand yourself and the people around you - well thats exactly what will happen.
If you choose to listen to people, you will hear, learn, and become better not bitter.
If you choose to wake up every day and do the work, you will become your salvation.
Harmony is created by focussing on solutions, not problems.
Understand that love in all its forms is acceptance, distance and support.
We shouldn’t settle for those that bring disharmony into our lives.
We shouldn’t settle for ourselves, creating a catastrophe.
We shouldn’t settle for speaking to ourselves poorly.
We shouldn’t settle for not trying every day to be better at life, a little bit better at ourselves.
We shouldn’t settle.
- Ellie Talebian