Welcome to The Self-Care Series, a new Loyolan series where I speak with LMU students about what they have been doing to look after themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. During these challenging times we are living in, it is important to not only acknowledge, but also actively take care of our mental health. I hope this series will leave readers inspired to incorporate self-care into their everyday routines.
In the second interview of The Self-Care Series, I spoke with Tommy Mix, a sophomore studio arts major on the road to recovery. Though the pandemic has brought changes in his life — including moving into a sober living home — his strong sense of faith has kept him going. Mix’s story is a shining example of maintaining an attitude of gratitude even in dark times.
Francesca Bermudez (F.B.): Can you tell me a little bit about your relationship with mental health and what it means to you?
Tommy Mix (T.M.): I mean, at a young age I started going to therapy. I realized that [the way I felt] wasn't the way I was supposed to feel, so I reached out for help. Since I was 15, I've been doing therapy and things of that nature, but in the recent years I've really come to take it seriously and take steps to better myself.
F.B.: Is there anything you learned in therapy that was a game changer for you?
T.M.: The biggest thing for me is that there's always support and there's always a way to make things better. I mean, up until I was at LMU when I met [Bradley Smith, director of LMU’s Center for Student Collegiate Recovery] … I kind of always felt like things were going to end in me dying. I basically took away the fact that things can always get better.
F.B.: That is a great message. What are some of the most common emotions you have felt during the pandemic?
T.M.: I felt obviously a ton of isolation. I was very, very lonely and that made me feel really upset and sad. I need connection and I need to be around people who understand the things I’m going through because they go through them as well. The Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are on Zoom right now, but it's still a really amazing thing either way.
F.B.: How have you been trying to maintain human connection throughout this time?
T.M.: I do daily Zoom Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and that's been huge for me. There are people who have been through the things that I have and there's a lot of older guys there who … are deeper in their recovery and they have a lot of amazing things to say. I definitely take refuge in those things … like that daily exhale of “Ah, I can say anything and these people will get it and they're not going to judge me.”
F.B.: Besides attending your meetings, what have you been doing to take care of your mental health?
T.M.: Just daily prayer, meditation and maintaining a routine throughout the day. I wake up in the morning and I go outside and I make a to-do list on one page of a journal. On the other page, I write 10 affirmations like, “The way I love people is an amazing thing” or “I'm so strong for going through the things that I've gone through and wanting to face them.” I can be in my head and I can be really mean to myself, so doing those things … is a really big thing for me.
F.B.: I know you said you were a studio arts major, so is there a specific medium you focus on?
T.M.: I haven't committed to one, but my interest is in photography and multimedia design.
F.B.: Is creating therapeutic for you in any way?
T.M.: Absolutely, yeah. I find it very meditative just to walk around and look around and take photos of things. Honestly, sometimes I'll just sit down and I'll just doodle for a long time. I just like to let my hand go on the paper and then go back into it and see if I see faces or eyes or anything. It’s definitely something that I like to do that helps me get out of my head.
F.B.: Do you have a go-to self-care activity that picks you up when you are feeling down?
T.M.: I like to do face masks. I'm painting my nails [and] dyeing my hair … just something expressive. Like I'm worth just taking this moment to make myself feel good.
F.B.: Are there any specific hobbies or workouts that have kept you sane during this time?
T.M.: As far as working out in the morning, I do as many push-ups and sit-ups as I can do. I don't have a specific number or anything, but I just wake up and try to get that energy out. Then I do a plank for as long as I can and I time it with prayer. Prayer is something that I need daily, so that's something I weave into a lot of aspects [of my life]. When I'm driving, I have a rosary in my car that I'm constantly touching.
F.B.: Have you always been a spiritual person or is this something you have gained recently?
T.M.: It’s something that I've gained in the past couple of years probably. I've only been to Catholic school and things weren't always easy. I kind of thought for a second, “God doesn't care about me [and] he wants me to feel this way” — but I've put that attitude of victimhood aside and I've come to realize the things that have happened to me have happened to me for a reason. If I didn't have them, I wouldn't be able to cultivate the relationships that I have with other people.
F.B.: In one word, how do you feel about the future?
T.M.: I'm very hopeful. I definitely think this spiritual path I'm on right now is something that gives me tons of hope each and every day. I just want to share that with other people … there's a lot of addict stigma in our world where people feel like you're a bum if you have substance abuse issues. I was given so much hope by God and by people in my life like Bradley Smith. [I am] trying to pass that hope on to other people and kids my age. You don't have to feel the way that you think you're going to feel forever. You don't have to wallow in that shame — there is hope.
F.B.: Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know that takes a lot of courage. Do you have any advice to anyone who may be experiencing something similar?
T.M.: Put aside all of the judgment of our world and just think about what you need to do to better yourself today. Something that's helped me so much is realizing that today and this present moment is literally all that exists. Yesterday just exists in my mind, and tomorrow just exists in my mind and literally today is all that exists. That makes it easier for me to handle my life because I don't have to worry about two weeks from now or anything.