Shades in Between

Within the realms of a mind that has not been diagnosed with a clinical disorder, what does a healthy mind look like day-to-day?

At 47, I feel as though I manage most of my demons fairly well. I consider myself to be mentally well. Which does not mean I am happy all of the time.

Thanks to Facebook Memories, and my penchant for oversharing online (but not in real life – the sign of an extroverted introvert?), I can see that my “bad days”, the days where I feel inexplicably irritable, are not a new thing. It may seem they are related to hormones or a frustrating day at the office or too many encounters with self-absorbed humans on the way to work. But the evidence is clear. I am prone to some “bad days” here and there.

I have had my fair share of therapy over the years. I have taught myself how to: turn negative thoughts into positive ones; to exercise regularly for the undeniable mental benefits; to just accept my emotions, not try to change them, but not feed them; to be more careful with others when I recognize I am in that mood; to know that what I think others are thinking of me isn’t necessarily true (and not always important).

Not only have I taught myself how to manage my mind. My experience has made me the “therapist” to those close to me. I provide good advice about how to manage uncomfortable emotions.

The list of major topics that have caused me angst over the years are not unique: heartache, loneliness, academic failures, career discontentment. The way I have dealt with some of my angst has not always been healthy (see a number of uncompleted degrees).

There was a time not that long ago when I thought if I had a couple good days in a row, it was inevitable that a bad day was coming. More often now, I notice that the bad day is really more of a bad morning or a bad afternoon and I am able to infuse the bad day with a lot of good.

And I am able to recognize all the good in my life very deeply. I recognize the small things. The sights and sounds that give me comfort on my way to work (a city I love, the different seasonal delights, a perfectly made americano misto). I am incredibly grateful for the big things that create joy in my life. My husband, my family, friends, dogs, a safe place to live in the world. I also try to put my shit into perspective in comparison to real problems people have on a day to day basis. But I’ve also learned guilt for ones feelings doesn’t make one feel better either.

I am a big believer that people tend to look at things as black or white and that is a mistake. For example, in the media, it seems to me that people are good, until they do something bad, and then they are bad. People are not all good and not all bad. Even the evil people have a sliver of good in them.

Similarly, I think a healthy mind is not black or white. It has many shades in between and many healthy states of being. Some of us absorb a lot of the energy and emotions around us all the time. This can make us incredibly happy, sad, angry, anxious. And well adjusted at the same time.

I am writing this to celebrate all those shades in between.

Note: if you are struggling with feeling happy and you are not sure what to do, please speak to your doctor or mental health professional.

Nicole Plotkin on one of her especially grateful days.

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