One of the more positive aspects of our society today is the message of being strong in the face of adversity. We share a worldwide idea that no matter what happens, you can be strong and come out more fearless in the face of tragedies/struggles in your life. While this is an incredibly encouraging state of mind that I do support to an extent, I’m afraid it, in many cases, does more harm than good with regard to our mental health.
This idea – this mindset – is so widespread, well-known, and automatic to us that it truly causes people who may have reached out for help in desperate times to stay quiet, because they’re expected to stay strong. A lot of mental health issues have been overlooked or ignored for this reason.
This is why I’m writing today. I want to tell you – whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever has happened in your life- it’s ok not to be ok. It’s ok to ask for help when you need it. It doesn’t make you weak or broken to reach out.
As a matter of fact, it’s completely normal not to feel OK or to feel broken. It’s human nature. It’s your mind and body telling you there’s only so much you can withstand before you need to release it.
I’ve been blessed to meet many people, both online and in person, who have shared their experiences with me on the topic of mental health. One story shared by a friend last night really resonated with me, as I’ve recently gone through something similar. This is her story, names withheld for privacy reasons:
My teenage daughter has been experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts. She wrote me a note on March 7, 2018, asking for help. She’d been hiding her depression and anxiety from us for about a year. Since she told us, we have been active and trying to find her the help she needs. Medications are not a fun experiment during this hormonal phase of her life, but we fight the fight.
Fortunately for her, she doesn’t have to fight alone.
Reading this made me realize a couple of different things. One, I commended my friend’s parenting because her daughter felt safe enough to be open about what she was struggling with. Now they can make sure she gets the help she needs, and she has the full support of her family behind her. Because of the way this friend handled her daughter being open with her, she will feel comfortable doing that in the future if she needs to.
Another heartbreaking aspect, though, is one of the things that really prompted this post. She had been struggling for a year before feeling able to ask for help. I struggled for 8 years before feeling comfortable enough to be vocal about my struggles with depression and anxiety before asking for help. In both of our cases, once we were vocal and brave enough to be honest, our worlds were opened up to an entirely new way to deal with these mental health issues, and while there is still an element of self-guilt (we should know how to handle this ourselves without asking for help), our families have consistently let us know it’s ok to talk about this.
That being said, I want to take a minute to say it’s definitely normal to want to hold feelings in. In some situations, it’s healthy too. Hold it in if you need to. Have that alone time. Listen to music that makes you feel better. Draw, paint, sing, play hashtag games on Twitter – whatever you normally use to cope. But when it all starts feeling like too much, like you’re caught in a riptide and hit the surface for even one breath – when it feels too heavy to even move – find the strength within to say something. It’s there – believe me.
Even if your saying something is like my friend’s daughter above, who wrote her parents a note explaining what she was feeling. However you’re able to reach out and talk to that trusted someone, I can guarantee you it’s worth it. There is no wrong way to ask someone for help or support.
What I want to resonate with you today are these things.
Honor your limitations.
Instead of adopting the mindset that no matter what happens or what we feel, we always have to have this unwavering strength to save face, let’s change the way you think about it: If you’re able to be honest about how you feel and what you’re struggling with, you’re much more strong than someone trying to hold everything in always to appear strong. The problem with trying to appear strong to everyone else by holding everything in is that we’re all human, and eventually, we will break. Someone I met recently online said it best: honor your limitations.
Be stronger together.
Being truly strong starts with honesty. Honesty with yourself, and honesty with the people you trust and/or a mental health professional. In my experience, it’s usually easier to find someone you trust to talk with first. If you need someone to talk to or don’t know where to start, please contact me. I’m here for you.
Lift each other up.
I’m very familiar with the use of satire, sarcasm, and cynicism we use daily in real life and on social media. It is a fun and quirky way to express your feelings and gain likes/comments/RTs/followers, but this is not the tone we want to use when talking with those we care about.
For no reason today, or without looking for anything in return, say something genuinely kind to someone you care about. Say something kind to a stranger. Lift them up for no reason. In a world filled with communication at the tap of a screen, you’d be amazed how many people crave that kind of personal interaction with others and/or people who feel like they’re fighting the fight alone.
Offer support where it’s needed.
If someone you know comes to you looking for support, listen with purpose. Offer them your support and if you’re not able to help them, look into getting help together. If you know someone who needs help but doesn’t know where to start, or you don’t know how to help them, contact me. I’ll help point you in the right direction.
Check in with a friend just because.
All of us have a friend or two (or more) we know struggles or has seemed off lately. Reach out to them today just to see if everything’s ok. It could be a call, a text, a PM/DM, an email… Just be sincere. Let them know you’re here for them if they ever need to talk and that they’re not alone. You’d be amazed what difference a message/call like that will make in a person’s life.
Instead of giving off this bogus facade that we’re always strong, happy, healthy, funny, and otherwise always OK, let’s honor our limitations – honor ourselves. And let’s show this world what we’re really made of. We are stronger together.