The Root of Negative Mental Health Perceptions

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It is simply a part of being human. With the amazing gift of the human mind, comes the ups and downs of mental health. When dealing with general health it is widely accepted that we all deal with times of balance, often considered good health or wellness. As well as times of imbalance, being bad health, disease, or illness. Just as our bodies change, so do our minds. Perhaps, even more so, as we are still very naive as to inner workings of the brain, mind, and soul. With vastly varying beliefs, I doubt we’ll ever be able to come to an agreement on how the brain and mind are connected to the concept of soul. However, it boils down to the fact that everyone has challenging life events, overwhelming stress, or an illness that disrupts their inner balance. Just like a virus can disrupt the balance of your body. Or malignancy can disrupt the balance of your cells. For some it’s more impactful or intense than for others. Yet we do not judge someone if they struggle harder with cancer than someone else with the same form. But looking at mental illness there is such harsh judgement. People are looked at as “crazy” like it is somehow within their control, or they are just lacking the will and strength to overcome the challenge. Thankfully, we don’t do this to someone who is sick. Imagine have the flu and someone judging you for it.

For many, mental illness is more impactful than they will ever admit, because horrible stigmas cling to mental health and those who seek care during challenging times. For all of us, I’ll bet we all have gone through moments of mental illness or dis-ease. And how many suffered alone unnecessarily because of the connotations associated with mental health? Judgement follows watchful and weary of anyone admitting to mental illness. Preventing many from seeking help, or even truly realizing the need to seek the care they need. Which is horrible because for we all know that catching an illness or issue early can prevent it from lasting longer or getting worse. How many would have been able to return to balance with simple treatments, yet left neglected it spiraled into something much worse? But why is this? What has created such a stigma around mental health? In my humble opinion, it is fear.

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Mental health is the only aspect of health that is fused with the aspect of the core self, be it personality or just purely the soul. The ever powerful “I am”. While many physical illnesses or injuries can shake us to our core, there’s this resounding faith in inner strength that it “will pull you through it.” That you can fall back on your sense of self during illness or injury. Yet with mental health we have to take this cold hard look at how easily our idea of identity can be changed. It is a sobering thought to think that the aspects of “I am” can be shaken with simple changes in the chemistry of your brain. That the imbalance can cause someone who was happy to be miserable. Not caring for the people or things that once greatly defined them. It makes you question if your soul is merely a chemical interactions, but really this is letting fear run wild.

When we look at someone with mental illness it scares us. For who wants to really look inside and think that the normal inner dialogue inside your head, can suddenly switch to a deafening roar or dark twisted voices. That these changes can cause the person to seem a stranger to those to know them best. Acknowledge that it can change habits, inhibitions, and fortitude. While most will never experience the dramatic shifts in mental wellness, the fact that it is still largely unknown and even worse, misunderstood. Leaves it this looming pit of terrifying possibilities. Just like our ancestors gave into paranoia of demons and witches causing events they simply didn’t understand. So too are we basically giving into superstitions that mental illness is different from any other form of illness. It is much easier to look at someone with mental illness and place the blame on them, that they have somehow failed, are broken, or weak. Rather than looking at someone who is going through this horrible health challenge and showing them empathy. Because empathy requires you to take on that moment of “what if it was me”. It’s an aspect of our mortality that we have a hard time accepting, because we often tie our personality to our soul. Which I think does very little justice to how amaranthine the soul truly is. The soul doesn’t shatter over the experiences of a lifetime.

Mental illness doesn’t mean that the soul is weak, it’s just going through an experience. I feel that often we look at identity and sense of self in this concrete and stagnant way. Yet throughout our lives our identity has to change. It is just hardest when we have no feeling of control. But we only truly lose control when we allow fear to dictate our action, or in some cases inaction. If we could only take a breath and realize that mental health, as well as our concept of identity, works on a spectrum. As one of my favorite writers says:

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Just as we cannot step into the same river twice, never can we step into ourselves the same as another time in our life. Who would want to? Stagnant water isn’t inviting. In fact humanity chases the white water rapids. And sits in awe of the waterfall. The ever-changing, and sometimes chaotic, beauty that sits within nature dwells too within the human experience. Though some would say “Oh, what then should we seek mental illness?”, and the answer is, of course not. We are already learning to be weary of intentionally messing with the balance of nature, for it can cause far greater ramifications. But we don’t judge nature for the bends in a river. If only we could sit with this acceptance for each other, to practice setting aside our judgments and fears; the journey would be far easier to navigate. Yet, we tend to put so much pressure on ourselves to be in control at all times. With the main goal of simply feeling secure enough so that we may go out and test our limits in daring ways. The suffering we self-impose, and then project onto each other, is exhausting. Imagine what we’d be capable of if we tried to practice letting go of fear and judgement. To set aside shame and instead uphold the journey to seek wellness in all aspects of who and what we are. It won’t be easy, nor will it happen over night. But it begins with just trying.

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If you are either in a rough patch, or have been facing the challenges of long therm mental illness. Know that you are not a broken person. You are not unworthy. You are not weak. You are not a failure. You are just human… And you deserve (w)holistic wellness.

Know that for at least this one human, I do not judge you. I meet you where you are, with an open heart and an empathetic soul. I cheer for your accomplishments, and am open to listen to your heartaches. For we all have our challenges, and I go through this journey ever in awe at the diverse and complex beauty of the human spirit. It is #mentalhealthawarerness month. If you feel inclined to share, I’d love to know what experiences you’ve had or are going through!

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