She sat on my couch in tears. She told me she was certain she was the only one who could ever think such horrible and awful things. This woman was so filled with shame. If shame were a color it would pour out of her eyes, staining her cheeks. I sat across from her letting my eyes fill as well.
I could normalize her experience — not just because I am a trained therapist — but because I have thought those very same things too. If you are reading this, please help me to NORMALIZE MENTAL HEALTH.
The Numbers Don’t Lie.
Earlier this month we observed World Mental Health Day. This day that shines a light on mental health and helps decrease stigmas. It’s during this day that we see statistics that highlight how normal mental illness is. The statistics share 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness each year (NAMI, 2019). We are told 56.8 million visits to physicians offices each year occur due to a mental health concern (CDC, 2020). And we learn that suicide is the second leading cause of death in 10 to 34-year-olds (U.S. News, 2019).
The numbers are staggering, but what is even more significant is that these numbers are real people with real lives. NORMALIZE MENTAL HEALTH to take mental health issues out of the shadows.
Are you 1 in 5? How about someone you love?
Maybe it’s your father who fears COVID and won’t leave the house because it is the only place he feels safe. Perhaps it is your neighbor who just lost her child after trying to conceive for five years only to have it end in another miscarriage. Or your co-worker who is going through a divorce and crying quietly in her office just to wipe her tears and get back to work. Maybe it is your child who is bullied and no amount of intervention can stop it while you worry that he won’t be able to keep enduring it. Perhaps it is you sitting with your bills, overwhelmed with the growing numbers and thinking you’ve let your family down. Or it’s your sister hiding in her closet and drinking another glass of wine knowing the headache will follow her in the morning, but she just can’t seem to put it down.
Everyone feeling and struggling alone. All feeling that they are the only one going through such a unique and painful struggle because it’s “taboo” to talk about mental health issues. NORMALIZE MENTAL HEALTH to make it ok to not be ok.
Your Story is Unique, Struggling with Mental Health Issues is Not.
While the battles we face may be unique, the emotions we go through are not. Happiness are joy are more prized than sadness and hurt. We idolize “perfect” and “put together” and feel “less than” when we see ourselves with mistakes and mess ups.
We want try to match ourselves to the version of perfect that we see in our minds. “I want to look just like her,” we say. “I want our family to be just like his.” We want to compare our behind the scenes with the other person’s highlight reel, which convinces us we will never be good enough so why even try. The human experience is complex, and every experience impacts our mental and emotional health because every experience solidifies a belief we hold. NORMALIZE MENTAL HEALTH so that we don’t feel the need to compare ourselves to airbrushed versions of reality.
You are Good Enough. You are Not Alone.
Maybe the belief is that we are not good enough, so when we get fired we say “I guess I was right about that.” Our core programming, our core messaging pulls from our experience and keeps us in a habit of feeling bad about ourselves. We hate ourselves for the very thing that makes us human. We ridicule ourselves for the shaping of the evolution of the brain. And we beat up on ourselves because we feel angry that we can’t find another way.
But can I stop you right there? Can I sit with you in this space for a minute? Can I take your hand and remind you that this is normal? That you are okay? And that there is some hope? Can I normalize that you are not the only who who has felt this way while telling you it is okay to have your feelings, to question, and to worry.
You are human, having a human experience and you are not alone. So today and every day I will say NORMALIZE MENTAL HEALTH. And know we are here for you.