Commentary – Know thyself for harmony

Pearl Lorentzen

Years ago, I went out for dim sum with a group of Vancouverites of Chinese descent in Vancouver’s Chinatown. It was fun, but if I had poor emotional well-being going into it, I would have felt worse afterward.

However, I remember hearing a Vancouver artist [or writer] of Chinese descent speaking about her experience with counselling. The counsellor suggested yoga, but all she could think about was cultural appropriation. For her, going to Chinatown to eat dim sum with family and friends was the best way to improve her emotional well-being.

Our different experiences are likely both cultural and personal. I’m an introvert. I like people, but if I’m stressed I need to be alone to recharge.

I enjoy being involved in the community and juggle various hats from reporter to hobby gardener to writers’ group leader. I also struggle to maintain harmony between my various roles and emotional, mental, and physical needs.

One hat is being the Slave Lake animator for the Rural Mental Health Network [Project] with the goal to facilitate a grassroots movement to increase the positive community mental health in Slave Lake. I recently contacted the High Prairie/Grouard animator just to talk. My hat juggling was out of harmony.

Talking to her helped me put things into focus. Talking about things helps me work through negative and positive emotions. Until I took a personality test, I didn’t realize why I would sometimes become a chatterbox or why I talked to myself. On the test, I scored very high as an introvert, except this one extrovert tendency needing to talk things through. This helped me understand myself which has helped my mental well-being flourish.

Reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, was the first time that I considered the difference between shyness [which I had as a child] and introversion. I started to think of my tendency to listen, mull things over, and need time alone as positive attributes, not distractions from appearing happy and sociable all the time.

The theme of the 2021 Mental Health Week is “Get Real -Name it. Don’t numb it.” This acknowledges that flourishing mental health does not mean being happy all of the time.

I find acknowledging an emotion and searching for the root cause helpful to my well-being.

This brings me back to counselling. Over my life, I have had various struggles. For the most part, my natural supports such as family, church, friends, coworkers, and knowing my need for time alone have been enough to get me through.

However, when I was in England, I had a crisis. I was in my first month of my one-year masters program and worried about what to do afterward. I was incredibly lonely. One of my cousins killed himself, and I couldn’t attend the funeral.

I sought professional counselling. I was blessed to be on a campus with free counselling across the creek from my dorm with no waitlist. I was languishing, not flourishing. I don’t think I had a mental illness, but if I had there is no shame in that. Not all emotional struggles are a mental illness, but all are valid and need addressing.

There is also no shame in asking for help. This doesn’t have to be from a professional, but Lesser Slave Lake area does have professional mental health supports.

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