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COVID-19 might have kept us home during this pandemic, but photography allowed me to safely go outside. Just me and my camera capturing nature, walking through trees, finding streams, and allowing peace to settle on my soul, if only for a little while.
It allowed me to hike, to feel the earth under my feet, and to hear the hoot of the owls. It kept me yearning to be outside when all I wanted to do was hide under my bed.
Nature is the balm that my soul craves at all times. Sitting in the woods, listening to the birds, a stream bubbling by, and feeling the dirt under my feet allow me to be part of nature. I feel grounded. I feel whole. I feel safe from Covid among the trees.
When I am hiking in the woods, my heartbeat relaxes. I walk slowly through the trees and take in the light. I look for signs animals have been through the path. I look at paw prints and try to decipher what animal has been here before. I follow streams off the path and see where they lead. I sit in total silence in the middle of the woods and just listen.
In a world that is so chaotic right now, the woods help my mental health. Being among the magical woods lets my soul be soothed. It allows my depression to settle and not rattle around in my head. It allows a quiet hush to descend upon me as the air settles upon me. I feel the wind in my hair, I connect to the dirt under my feet. I feel I have control of my life, even if it is fleeting. When I am in the woods, I feel settled.
Throughout this pandemic, I have written many times about my mental health. I have talked about my depression without sugar-coating anything.
Mental health, for so many of us, has deteriorated during these trying times. So I want to advocate for myself and speak out about my depression.
Mental health issues have been stigmatized for so many. I know others who feel like it is a weakness to speak about what they are going through. They equate strong mental health with being whole. However, dealing with depression does not make you less than whole; it makes you stronger. It empowers you to take control of your life, your mental wellness, and to make the changes you need, like hiking in the woods in peace.
As we move through this time, I realized that not only was I speaking out more about mental health, I was also writing about it for others to read.
Do you judge me for dealing with my mental health issues or do you stand tall alongside me with your own issues?
I have stopped pushing my emotions and feelings down. I have sat with my depression and felt the fog lifting, but without taking care of myself, without my alone time in nature, I know the fog will settle in again. So I am loving myself through this journey.
If you are dealing with any mental health issues, seek help if you need to, talk to friends who will listen, place yourself in your own happy place as often as you can, but advocate for your mental health, too. You are the best person to do it.
There is no shame in dealing with any mental health issues. Talking about it may even make you stronger. You would be surprised by what others will say about mental health, too.
There might be some things you will agree upon, others you will not, and that is okay, too. It is our mental health, and judgment should not be a part of it.
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