There’s a lot of talk these days about mental illness. And in an effort to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, many organizations have even implemented ad campaigns to bring light to this formerly taboo subject.
While the intentions are noble, I can’t help but feel these ads further isolate individuals struggling with mental illness by creating an “us vs. them” mentality => healthy vs. unhealthy/sound vs. unsound.
As a woman whose life was once defined by mental illness, I have learned several things over the years:
1. Mental wellness is LEARNED. [Mental wellness is a positive concept relating to attributes that are present in a person’s life, including emotional well being, the capacity to live a full and creative life, and the flexibility to deal with life’s inevitable challenges. Breaking it down further, the components of mental wellness are a sense of self-worth, a sense of control over one’s life, the ability to acknowledge and accept the limits of one’s control, emotional awareness and coping, problem solving and creativity, and a sense of humor about one’s self and life in general. See Peak Mental Wellness & Counseling for more information.]
2. In my years of working closely with others in small group settings, having authentic relationships with women of all ages, lifestyles, and backgrounds one thing is certain: ALL OF US struggle to cope at times, ALL OF US have a tendency to revert to learned patterns of behavior when under stress, and MOST OF US haven’t a clue as to what “healthy” even looks like let alone know how to attain/maintain it.
3. Mental illness is not a disease to be cured or an infection to be erased with a magic pill. It isn’t something we wipe our hands of and move on from when symptoms subside. When we come to the realization that our way of life is not working and choose to seek help, mental wellness becomes a lifelong endeavor.
4. Mental wellness is a beneficial pursuit for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US. We are all works in progress.
So where do we begin? By seeking help from a sound therapist, going in with an open heart and mind, by being bravely REAL about struggles, and resisting the urge to blame anyone for the circumstances/feelings/difficulties faced. Know that you are not alone, you are not unfixable – you are a work in progress.
Never finished. Always becoming.
Messy and imperfect; one-of-a-kind. Beautiful.