MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
From shame to empowerment
Have you ever been happy? Excited? Overjoyed? Felt sad? Angry? Overwhelmed?
Guess what…. those experiences, sensations, and feelings are your MENTAL HEALTH.
Do you feel embarrassed when you’re happy?
Do you make excuses when you’re feeling excited?
Do you feel shameful when you’re joyful?
I bet the answer is no. Because it’s okay to be okay.
Yes, our more upbeat emotions and positive mental state feel good and are easier to experience. But, what about when you’re not feeling so peppy and elevated. What then? What makes that ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘scary’? Why is it not okay to not be okay?
It’s not realistic that we are going to be content, or glad, or hopeful 100%. And it’s certainly not realistic that our lives are going to be perfect and free from hardships.
My last 24 hours have been a mix of emotions and mental states. We chose to have a leisurely start the day (peaceful) but then rushed around to get out the door late (frustrating). My preschooler was mad when we couldn't go to the park the moment the idea came in to his head (annoyed). I felt (anxious) running errands against the clock in the morning but then I was energized by a break through with multiple clients that afternoon (happy and affirmed). My toddler excitedly came to show me a toy but tripped and stubbed her toe on the way and cried (sad). We were (thankful) for the sunshine and warm weather. By dinner time we all felt tired.
My mental and emotional health went through a variety of states just yesterday, and all that is not to mention the grief I’ve experienced in the last few months due to multiple death losses. Highs and lows. Isn't that life? Isn’t that being human?
But what if someone shared with you they struggle with depression? Or had been struck by a panic attack yesterday? Or have fed an addiction for years? What then?
Why is there judgment and ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ when it comes to mental and emotional experiences and states we find ourselves in? Why do people cringe and become uncomfortable when they hear ‘mental health’ or ‘mental illness’?
Every one of us has mental health. Every one of us has emotional health. If we are alive we are able to think and feel and act (pretty cool fact). Mental health is a part of every moment of every one of our days, just like our physical health. So why are we often unaccepting of what goes on in your minds? Why not welcome our thoughts, feelings, and actions - and learn from them- rather than shy away and pretend they doesn't exist?
Mental and emotional challenges are rising at an alarming rate in this day and age. The world around us is moving as quickly as it ever has and stress rates are the highest they've ever been. Around 20% or 1 in 5 adults in the US have a diagnosable mental illness including: mood disorders, phobia disorders, personality disorders, and substance-abuse disorders. Approximately 1 in 25 adults has a severe mental health disorder that interferes with life activities. Serious mental illness is reported to result in a loss of $192 billion of earnings each year. (American Journal of Psychiatry)
Mental and emotional issues are serious.
While we all have mental health not all of us will suffer from a disorder. That doesn't mean the way we feel and the way we have internalized our experiences doesn't matter. If you are struggling for any reason, big or small, you do not need to feel bad or ashamed about it. You do not need to suffer in silence because society or someone you know says it isn't okay.
Mental health is an imminently important, pertinent and imperative topic.
The stigma needs to stop. We do not always have a choice about our mental state or condition, however, a choice can be made to stop perpetuating the stigma and shame around mental health for ourselves and for everyone else.
Think about this….
From the moment you are born you begin to input the world around you. Interactions, observations, messages, experiences. The second a baby comes into the world he or she is affected by the world at large. His or her mental and physical health progresses beyond the womb.
Attachment theory explains that an infant who receives direct care and comfort begins to attach to its caregiver and experiences sensations of love and safety, among others. An infant who does not receive direct care may begin to internalize the world as unsafe- a place where its needs cannot be met- and those feelings of love and well-being are not the same. From the start, each of our paths are different and have an impact on our lifelong path.
Whatever your story, whatever your path, whatever your experiences, and however you internalized the happenings in the world around you, your suffering doesn't make you inferior. There is help and healing available should you choose that path for yourself.
It is irrefutable that mental health is essential to over-all health. Mental and emotional challenges affect other parts of your wellbeing. We all have bodily reactions to our thoughts and to our emotions (some of which are not in conscious awareness). Do you remember the last time you got a stomach ache or headache for no apparent reason? What about a time you had difficultly breathing? Have you ever had that sense that you just can't catch your breath? How about a time when your shoulders and neck felt heavy but you couldn't pinpoint why? That’s all likely due to your mental health (assuming it’s not directly known to be the result of a physical health challenge).
People who suffer from mental illness are at an increased risk of developing a physical illnesses, and vise vera. It's all interconnected. We are complex beings. Mental and emotional issues can be isolating, but it should not be this way. Society needs to know that mental health problems are highly treatable, just like physical health problems.
If you break your leg, you treat it. If you fall and cut your arm, you treat it. If you are in an accident you get help. If someone else gets physically hurt or is in an accident, you assist and provide care for that person.
When your child, family member, friend, neighbor goes to school, work, or is out in the world, he or she is subject to any number of experiences, good and bad. Perhaps one will learn, be encouraged, receive a boost in self-confidence and self-esteem. Perhaps one will be subject to being reprimanded, bullied, guilted, shamed, put down, or have something traumatic happen. (Even if one doesn’t leave their house the same things can happen.) Simply being alive exposes us to any number of experiences.
How is a person, young and old, supposed to be able to juggle the highs and lows of life? Why is it looked down upon when we struggle? Why is it largely scary to have feelings and feel them?
Life happens. And it's how we respond to it that matters.
Pause for a moment and think about yourself and your life. What hard times have you been through in the past? What might you be holding onto from those hard times? What struggles are you in the midst of right now? What causes you distress in general? What are you pushing through and doing right now because you’re ‘supposed to do it’?
- Maybe your employer is demanding you to work more
- Perhaps you’re struggling with the choice to stop breastfeeding
- People around you are critical of you and your life
- Your relationships with your family and friends are strained
- You’ve endured abuse
- A family member has an addiction that affects the entire family
- A loved one recently died
- You’ve been laid off or are in between contracts and finances are tight
- You have a biological predisposition to a chemical imbalance
- The world isn't safe and you don’t trust people
- You’ve been traumatized by something and have flashbacks
- You desperately want a child but cannot conceive
- You struggle with a lack of self-confidence/self-esteem and the list goes on
Not one of us is perfect. Not one of us is woundless. Each of us has struggles that came from somewhere that affect who we are and how we live in the world. What opportunities are present for you to change and overcome?
It’s so easy to judge and be afraid of what we don't understand. It is so easy to point fingers and to believe that our way is the best way (or the only way). It’s easy to be egocentric and glad ‘those problems’ aren't ‘our problems’.
Mental health matters whether it is your mental health or someone else’s mental health. We all count. We all matter. We are all important. We all deserve to take care of our whole-being and live full lives.
What if, instead, we acknowledged and respected our wounds and the wounds around us?
What if we came alongside other people with an open mind and were open to understanding their pain?
What if we only pointed out the good in ourselves, our children, and in others?
What if we stated and focused on what we appreciate and are doing well?
What if we asked questions to better understand someone or something different rather than automatically assume?
What if we built ourselves and one another up in our words and our actions?
What if we extended compassion to ourselves and to others?
What if empathy and curiosity lead the way?
What if we changed our mindset and it become okay to not be okay?
What if we supported the totality of people- including their mental health- and exuded love and care instead of judgement and fear?
What if we were more intentionally about our well-being and the well-being of others?
What if we made it a point to take care of ourselves, ask for help, and seek support when needed?
What if you knew someone cared for you and you were not alone (someone does care, and you are not alone)?
What if it was okay and encouraged to find relief and inner peace?