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A Piece For World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day is very important. If you are unsure about the day, it's a day for education and awareness of mental health and to bring advocacy against social stigma. To be 100% honest, I'm not sure what else I can say on the topic. The best that I can do is tell a story.

I have had my own issues with mental health for as long as I can remember now. I don't feel there is a need to get too into the specifics, but I have had fought similar fights and be treated by doctors the same as anyone else who is diagnosed with these issues. It isn't always easy, which is one of the points World Mental Health Day tried to get across.

For me personally, however, there has always been one time and place that I have been able to focus, or center myself, maybe? For me, looking down from the top of the mountain about to ski down it is a place that is almost zen for me.

It's not easy to come up with why that moment works for me. The first and most obvious reason is the group of people that I'm with at those times. Each one of those folks, typically, are some of my closest friends and have been for more than half of my life for one or two of them. Anytime one is surrounded by those who are closest to them, it can make almost any moment seem better. I could list off the reasons for this...trust, safety, or just the ability to have unjudged, unbridled good times. But, let's just say, for now, that having a group of tight-knit heads can be a good thing, no matter the time or the place. But, what about those times when one is riding solo?

Again, it might not be that easy to put into words, but as a storyteller, I'll give it my best shot. For me, like being with a group of people I connect with, I like being able to connect with the world. In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda teaches Luke Skywalker about the way the Force binds the living world together. 


"Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.”

Granted, that is fiction, but those are good words. I feel that each and every time I look down from the summit, no matter the difficulty of the trail that I'm about to ride. I can feel the snow beneath my feet and the ground below that. I feel the wind, no matter if it's a small breeze or a large gust, on my face. I can hear all the sounds of the surrounding wilderness and the other people out enjoying the day.  At that moment I truly feel connected to the world around me. I feel as if I do have a place in this world and it's right where I happen to be standing. It's at that moment, at times, that I feel truly alive.

Beyond those examples, it could very well be that I'm participating in very physical activity. It's been known for a long time that exercise and physical activity do have positive effects on mood and go a long way in the treatment of mental health, as well as physical health. I'll say this...if a person tells you that skiing or snowboarding is not that physical of an activity or sport, that person has never tried it. Believe me when I tell you that you will burn calories, that your muscles will burn, and you will be winded and tired and sleep well that night. In fact, if you'd like to burn your muscles a little differently the next day, switch from downhill to cross-country skis. You'll know what I'm talking about when you feel it.

I'm sure that I could go on about how it feels for me to be skiing, but I'm thinking the point is made. In any case, each person who reads this could take something different, though positive, away from this piece. For you, maybe the take away is the connection with friends or the world that keeps us here. Maybe it's any one person finding a place where they feel safe or calm. Maybe it's something I haven't talked about here, like the wonderful comfort food option of a base lodge cafeteria burger and fries. who knows?

The point is, each of us can find our own to stay centered, stay focused, and keep working through the things that might be the most damaging. Also, we don't have to do it alone. For some, it's fear of embarrassment or judgment. For others, it's just being too damn stubborn. For even more, it's that they have given up. But, you don't have to worry about any of those things. Ask for help if you need it. If someone judges, bullies, or just straight hates on you for asking, walk away and ask someone else.

Again, from a personal standpoint, I know what it's like. If you ask me for help, I'll do my best to point you in the right direction. Shoot, I'll even go for a few ski runs with you to see if skiing or snowboarding could help you like it does for me.

In any case, you're not alone and you don't have to feel that way. Like Sully Erna said through The Scars Foundation;
"We Are All Imperfectly Perfect"

Thumbnail Credit: gdstream/Flickr [CC BY 2.0]


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