@ah_flow Takes Over Insta Stories for #freeyourmindfriday

It’s #freeyourmindfriday, and Amanda Hirth, the warrior behind @ah_flow, took over our Insta stories to talk all things mental health! Read her story below, and check out our Insta to see what she has to say!

I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depressive episodes for as long as I can remember, but for years of my life never put a label on it or really even knew how to identify it. I recall so many moments as a kid and especially in high school spiraling into panic attacks where I wouldn’t be able to breathe and felt an overwhelming sense of worthlessness. It started to become more clear once I was in college and began to see the effects of activities in my life in correlation to my mental state. However, even though my awareness of it was slowly developing, it wasn’t anything I ever talked about or took action on because I had the mindset that anything internal/mental is to stay behind closed doors. Fast forward to August 31, 2015 when I received a phone call that one of my good friends and brightest lights in this world died by suicide. It absolutely collapsed me, for many reasons, but a large one being that on a really deep level I understood, even though she was the last person anyone ever suspected to be suffering in that way. I understood because I had been there in my head multiple times and not a soul on this Earth knew that. My world, and so many others, turned upside down and sideways from the loss of Becky. After the stages of grief started to become my norm (I could write an entire other post just about that!), I thought to myself that I need to do something for her, for myself, and for all the other “Becky’s” of the world. I started to open up more about my own mind and listen even harder to those around me. As I started to let my vulnerability show, I had more people divulging their own struggles/experiences to me. While taking all of that in can feel incredibly heavy, it was in these moments that the world actually started to feel a bit lighter as I recognized how we are all truly spending our visit on this Earth just trying to figure it all out as we go and wanting nothing more than to be seen and loved unconditionally while we’re here. How simple, yet how complex in a society that is constantly trying to tell us who we should be, how we should and shouldn’t act, what we can and can’t do to be “accepted”.

Oof, societal expectations.

Can we all just pause and take a deep breath together right here?

As I became more aware of my own mental health, I recognized just how important and imperative it is for me to stick to a fitness routine. Granted, my entire life I’ve been involved in sports and have been a fitness lover in so many different forms, but I never truly took the time to acknowledge the strong impact it had on my mental well-being. I identified just how much of an outlet and form of therapy the gym/fitness is for me and the times that I get out of routine are right in line with the times I’m mentally at my worst. So many times in my life when something traumatic happened, without thinking, I found myself turning to yoga, hiking trails, or weights not only as a way to release energy, but allow myself to gain more clarity and process what was happening. Yoga especially is something that has always allowed me space to just be as I am and breathe. Like most people, I started doing yoga for the physical aspects and to “get more flexible”. The more I practiced, the more I realized yoga offered me so much more than just physical poses. Getting on my mat became my therapy, my church, my escape. Nearly 11 years after taking my first yoga class, I immersed myself in a teaching training to become a certified 200 hour yoga teacher. That teacher training changed my life in so many ways and is really the reason I’m at a point in life that I can share all of this about myself publicly. Because I know I’m not alone, and I know the impact vulnerability has on our own growth and the support of others. Throughout training, I brought some of my deepest rooted struggles to the surface. It was one of the hardest things to do, but so incredibly freeing once it was all said and done. I cried (a lot and really hard) in front of people I barely knew, I talked about how I’ve never felt good enough in anything that I do and all of the stories I tell myself about not being “enough”, I talked about how my entire life I’ve refused to ask for help or be helped in any way, and most importantly I took some drastic actions to enact POSITIVE change in my life. I walked away from people in my life that were not healthy for my mental well-being, I started seeing a therapist regularly, I put boundaries in place in order to protect my own peace, and so much more.

Am I “healed”? Of course not! But do I have more awareness, more good days than bad, a better sense of control when things start to spiral, and the tools to continue being a work in progress? Absolutely! Here is the thing with mental health, there is no one fix or an overall cure if you will. We are all constantly going to be a work in progress if we choose to. We’re going to have amazing days followed by dark days. We’re going to question different things about ourselves at different stages of our lives. We’re going to be constantly battling and trying to quiet the stories we tell ourselves about not being ‘enough’. But if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that none of us are alone in this and every single one of our stories and struggles matters.

My advice to you: find your tribe and call on them in times of need. Think you don’t have a tribe? Well guess what, I just initiated myself as your first member; I’ve got you. Identify your outlets. Fitness, writing, crafting, building, whatever it may be for you; recognize the importance of it for your mental health and prioritize it. Seek help (even if you’re as stubborn as I am). Finally seeing a therapist was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. Know that the dark clouds will pass, as they always do. When all else fails, give yourself grace and rest. Most importantly, b r e a t h e.

You are seen. You are appreciated. Your soul is needed here.

All my love and light,

Amanda Hirth

@ah_flow