Tapestry: Mental Well-Being Is…

Readers responded to our May 2024 Mental Health issue prompt: Mental well-being is __.

Stayci Bell

Mental well-being is the ability to deal with everything life throws at you. It is exercising one’s thinking like one does their physical body; one day lifting 150 lbs., the next only five.

It is thinking it doesn’t matter if one never knew one’s dad, and that after being molested as a teenager by one’s step-dad, I am alright. It is figuring out one’s way after becoming a young parent without marriage or money. It is the ability to see butterflies after one’s baby’s Sid’s death. It is the ability to tell others what one is going through. It is figuring out how to tell your grandchild, whose dad died of an opioid overdose when she was two, he is with her in nature; he is still alive.

It is making up one’s mind to get up or lay down, and with that decision, being okay. It means forcing one’s self to see something else after witnessing one’s daughter’s grandma dying and having to leave her alone in the hospital to do just that because it is 8:00 pm and visiting hours are over.

It is is being able to deal with life.

Through all of the strife.

It is getting through the itching that makes one crazy.

And laying down without caring if others think one is lazy.

Mental Well-Being is feeling up, or feeling down

And all that is in the middle.

It means getting up to write this paper

Even if it reads like a riddle.

Cassondra Cavegn

Mental well-being is trusting the flow of the river with the full awareness that you are simply an individual bead of rainwater. There are countless meandering streams, but they all eventually make their way to the ocean. Mental well-being is feeling the tension of the innumerable droplets around you, pulling you with them every which way, because of the inevitable and invisible mutual natural attraction occurring between each of you. It’s sensing the stickiness of those around you without feeling stuck. It’s the ability to choose the direction you travel in at natural breaks, or even when you just feel like making a splash. It’s autonomy, it’s choice, it’s safety, it’s inclusion.

It’s not keeping up with the rate of a piston, because you’re solid and metal and bolted into a machine you have no control over.

It’s the faith that when you sink to the bottom of the deepest and darkest lake, the forces of the surrounding waters will propel you back to the surface. Mental well-being is fluidity and change. It is the comfort that when it’s cold and the winter is harsh, you will take an angular and sharp form, impossible to replicate and beautiful to any who dare pay attention.  It’s individuality without conformity. It’s uniqueness without isolation. Mental well-being is the belief that regardless of the path you choose to flow, you never are truly traveling alone.

Caroline Mannheimer

Mental well-being is… everything. I once injured my back. I couldn’t function because every movement hurt. All limbs connect to the back. That’s how I summarize mental health: it’s the spine to which all is attached. When emotionally healthy, you’re resilient, resourceful. You project energies others want around. The fuckery of mental well-being is how deceptively simple the overarching concept is: like attracts like. I’m not selling any big “Secret.” I’m talking Hermetic Teachings and quantum physics. Like energies resonate. Are inherently magnetic. Positive attitudes produce positive outcomes. Alternatively, misery loves company. It’s often a cycle without brakes. Crushing anxiety? Broke? Health failing? Messy relationships? Maybe there’s addiction, homelessness, disabilities, loneliness. It can overwhelm. Spiral into an abyss. If allowed. I’ve experienced monumental tragedies. Made terrible decisions navigating to what helps. The “don’ts” are obvious — but common. Disassociation, overdoing and under-thinking, reliance on others for self-worth, substances — these tactics are short term survival, long term fails. Instead, try building resilience. Purge negative people. Develop abilities to roll with change. Foster routines. De-stress in nature. Eat better. Help others. Pet animals. Find absurdities. Humor has saved me countless times. I’m a writer, artist, theater maker, and introvert. I need alone time to decompress. But when alone becomes isolation, I push myself to socialize, be in the moment. Move. Life’s pain is unavoidable. However, with practice, we can choose our reactions. Mostly, find others who support you even when you falter. They just may carry you to the finish line.

Cari Michaels

Mental well-being is about functioning well. You can experience struggle or even have a diagnosis and still do your day and manage the challenges you face. Mental well-being includes feeling well and also functioning well as a person (for example, you like yourself or you strive to be a better person). It also includes how you function with other people. Social connection is so important for mental well-being. Human beings are meant to be in relationship with one another. We learn, heal, and grow in connection with other people.

The mental health of an individual is not based on just their own grit or ability to overcome obstacles. It depends on many things far beyond their control. Our genes or our personal experiences matter, but so does being in supportive relationships, having enough food to eat, living in affordable housing, having a safe community, and being treated with dignity and respect. This means that there are many things we can do to promote mental well-being. It’s so much more than managing illness. It also calls out the importance of addressing societal inequities and big-picture issues such as disparities and discrimination.

Fear and stigma have prevented many people from taking the steps that people need to promote mental wellbeing, but a first step is to start the conversation and focusing on wellness helps us do this. We all have a state of mental health, and this is about all of us.

Josefina Geronimo

I am a 37-year-old woman of color with a disability. Mental well-being means feeling safe and supported in a world that has often marginalized and silenced me. It means having the space to process the trauma I have faced — including wrongful termination to medical racism, emotional abuse, and child abuse — without being tokenized or dismissed. It means being able to trust that I am cared about and valued, without being exploited or used for my accomplishments. It means finding peace in my identity and experiences, despite the bias and discrimination I have faced. It means being able to heal and grow, without being held back by systemic barriers or stereotypes. And it means being able to define my own success and happiness, beyond the expectations of others. Ultimately, mental well-being means being able to live a life that is authentic, fulfilling, and free from oppression.