Hi everyone, I hope March has been treating you well! Last time I mentioned my ‘Mental Health Spring Cleaning’ project. The first exercise was a positivity tree, and I’ve added quite a bit to mine. I hope some of you have made one of your own to add to. My next exercise is inspired by my difficult weekend, marking the ‘one year anniversary’ of a suicide attempt. It was extremely emotional but I did something symbolic to act as a cleanse. It’s not an end all be all, but the ideology is nonetheless powerful. It truly gave me a bit of relief!
Today our exercise is very simple and only requires a pen and a piece of paper. To enhance our spring cleaning I had the idea of making a list of things we want to leave in the past and move on from. Bad memories and experiences, emotions and thoughts we wish to be rid of, anything we want! Write down what you don’t want to have in your life anymore and anything that you want to create some distance from. Let out the bad in a writing waterfall, visualizing it all leaving your mind out through your hand and onto the paper.
The next step is simple: Destroy the paper. Rip it apart, burn it (safely of course), shred it…whatever works for you. Instead of pushing away your emotions regarding the content of your paper, embrace and allow yourself to really feel them. Tell yourself that since it’s the last time you’ll allow them to hold so much power you’ll ‘bite the bullet’ and ‘face the music’. It will be painful – actually if it’s not painful it probably won’t be as effective a cleanse. Face everything head on and accept the presence of it all; no turning away to avoid the discomfort.
Once you’ve allowed yourself to fully experience the moment, give yourself free-reign to get angry. Do your best to see everything on your paper as outside of yourself and no longer wielding power over you. Concentrate your anger permitting it to reach a crescendo and then finally destroy the paper.
Some phrases to keep in mind as you do this exercise:
- I am no longer defined by what is on this paper.
- I allow myself to move on and leave this in the past.
- I release the old and embrace the new.
- I am starting fresh and what I wrote no longer controls me.
- I am separate from the content of this page; I am safely at a distance and am now only an observer. I am not in the rough rapids but on a rock of rationality and objectivity.
- I’m taking back my control!
- F*CK everything on this paper…I’m DONE with it! This is NOT who I am anymore. Moving forward I will fight like hell to boot out whatever parts remain in my consciousness! ENOUGH!
Where to go From There
Once you’ve destroyed your paper there are some options for you to consider. If you haven’t burned the paper to indistinguishable ash you may want to keep the remains of your list to showcase your decisive decision to move on. It can serve as a powerful reminder of what you can overcome, and symbolize your ability to separate yourself from future hated emotions, events, etc. Alternatively you could bury the remains as yet another symbolic gesture of letting go. Bottom line, do whatever seems the most powerful and significant for you. That’s all that matters.
What I Did
I made a list of the main ‘events’ that still haunt me like suicide attempts and the self-harm that I was hospitalized for. All of my terrible decisions. Well…not all but quite a few. The main ones. It was less a list of emotions for me and more of a gesture to rid myself of guilt, remind me that what’s done is done and of course to create metaphorical distance. I hope that the gesture will help me overcome the flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, triggers, etc.
Seeing as I love archery, instead of ripping or burning the paper I taped it to my target and shot it with arrows 7 times. (7 is a lucky number for us.) I can read the writing to remember what I’m trying to leave behind and it has punctures. I hunted and shot down the past. It’s now secured to a cardboard backing and available for me to use as a reminder. I do feel a bit better and time will tell if this creates a really meaningful freedom and departure from the things I most want to get away from.
I send you courage for this exercise if you should attempt it. It truly feels good so I hope you give it a shot! If you missed my first ‘Mental Health Spring Cleaning’ article you can find it here.
I just want to say that while making it to one year past my March suicide attempt is really troubling and painful to think about, I’m truly grateful. I’m immensely grateful for my parents, for Aaron, Piko, Tempest and meeting Mia 11 days after that horrible day. I’m also very grateful for my biggest passion, ‘I Will Not BE My Mental Illness’, and I thank everyone who supports my project. You give me meaning and purpose, and I can never repay that adequately!
Take care everyone, and keep faith! The sun is shining brighter and warmer, and so can we!