People seem to think that the health of our brains is very different from the health of other physical parts of our body. For some reason, somewhere along the way, we decided that it’s bad to have mental health struggles and it means something bad about you.
Maybe if we didn’t put so much shame around mental illness, people would feel accepted and supported enough to get help. Maybe (and I can bet you) suicide rates would go way down. Maybe the quality of many peoples’ lives would improve – and not just those with the condition or illness. Maybe people would feel safe enough to get help, which is not a shameful thing to need. It’s a privilege to have a health care system with the ability to help. It’s a privilege to have a diagnosis. And it’s a waste to create an environment where people feel ashamed and scared to utilize it.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to get mentally healthier. Deciding to get health and help is a brave and courageous act of love.
There is no shame around having a broken leg. People don’t whisper when explaining that they or someone they know has one. Why do we whisper when we talk about depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, OCD, bipolar disorder, or other mental illnesses and conditions? Why do we sometimes never even talk about it? Kinda crazy don’t you think? When you really start to think about it?
Everything starts with the mind, literally. Our perceptions create our reality, and that all starts right there. Why do we shun and taboo a topic where, in some ways, the genesis of reality literally exists? Again, a bit nonsensical when you think about it.
Having been through the process of suffering and struggling with OCD and anxiety, to getting really healthy, I no longer feel ANY shame, but it’s still sometimes hard for me to bring up and talk about because the topics are so packed and misunderstood. People and our society carry so much baggage and unhelpful perceptions and beliefs around these terms and topics, yet if someone had diabetes or anemia, there would be no shame in talking about it and no hesitation to get the help and information needed. When someone has a mental illness or condition, we define them by it – They are OCD, they are bipolar, they are schizophrenic. Yet no one is a broken leg. No one is diabetes.
I am not OCD. It’s something I struggled with and moved through. It’s something I had. But it is not me. Who I am is expansive far beyond that. ❤ I’m grateful that I felt safe, supported, and loved enough to talk about it and get the help I need. Not everyone is being given this opportunity.
Why are we creating an environment for people to feel defective? We are all the same – human beings with varying levels of mental health. No one has perfect physical health just like no one has perfect mental health. In fact, mental health in some ways should be included in the term physical health – it’s all related and the brain is absolutely a part of our physical body. The main difference is that mental health involves the mind in different ways than it’s involved in the health of other organs and other parts of the body.
We need to start looking at it differently. In some ways, people’s lives depend on it. We need to start talking about it, and changing the dialogue, perceptions, and unhelpful beliefs. It should be as simple and easy to talk about as talking about if you were having car issues or a cold. It doesn’t need to be a big deal, and when you have car issues or a cold, you figure out what you need to do to take care. It’s just one part of your life at that time, but it doesn’t define you or mean anything about you.
There is no debate or fight to have. (I know some people want to “fight for OCD awareness” for example.) I understand this and agree with wanting more awareness rather than ignorance and avoidance. However in my opinion, there shouldn’t be a need for a fight to exist. This is simply a matter of opening up and seeing things for what they are, because there is nothing wrong or bad here. Health is a part of life. It doesn’t need to be such a packed issue. In accepting this, old unhelpful perceptions and limiting beliefs can easily melt away. People can feel safe, more understood, and accepted, and potentially get the exact help they need.
I think this chart I’ve created can be helpful in explaining my point, and hopefully help the misunderstandings and unhelpful beliefs and perceptions to begin to shift, so that more people can start to find the help they need, and start to live more free, meaningful, joyful, expansive, and empowered lives.
My headspace app (a meditation tool) sends me daily notifications twice a day. They’re little reminders about why we meditate, perceptions, and our relationship to thoughts, emotions, and to life. This one popped up literally while I was in the middle of a conversation with a new friend, talking about her journey to mental health. I loved the synchronicity and wanted to share:
So why do we assume that you can have mental health without taking care of your mental health? When did we decide that the topic of mental health, which is so vital to life, should be talked about quietly or not at all? Where does all the shame come from? It no longer makes sense to me. How you take care and what you need is different for everyone, but changing our perceptions and the dialogue on mental health can not only allow for more acceptance, but can pave the way for people to feel free to embrace where they’re at and get the help they might need, so that they can live a life of health and happiness… and get on with their lives! It can potentially and likely save lives too.
It is not small, but rather a mighty thing, to be willing to change in this way and embrace these new perceptions and possibilities.
I encourage you to be that change, and if you already are, keep on keepin’ on. 🙂