The Healing Journey | Mental Health Awareness
Today is a new day. Today is a beautiful day. As we move more into summer, leaving behind the month of may – mental health awareness month, let us not leave behind the awareness of those of us for whom mental health awareness month is every month because it is an illness that we wake up and face every new day. As I write this, one of my dear friends remains in the hospital following a recent mental health crisis. If this sounds scary to you, or you find yourself passing sudden, even unintentional judgement, I challenge you to consider that this treatment, this hospitalization, like any other health concern, is normal and necessary.
I recently attended a training which introduced me to the Make It OK! campaign spurred by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Minnesota to reduce stigma around mental illness. Did you know that at least one in every four people will experience a mental illness at some point in their lifetime? That’s at least one person in almost every household. That’s your mother, your father, your grandparent, your brother or sister, your child, your friend, your co-worker, your neighbor – you. Those people…WE ARE those people. It’s not about US and THEM, it’s about WE. Mental illness, just like cancer, diabetes, or asthma, is just that – an illness. If you had cancer, if your blood sugar was out of control, if you were having an asthma attack, all acute crises, you would go to the hospital to seek immediate care, right?!
Mental illness can be life threatening and scary not only to the person experiencing the crisis, but to those those around them, too. This is not unlike any other healthcare concern. Why do we treat mental illness so differently? Addressing both mental and emotional health is part of holistic wellness. It goes hand-in-hand with physical health; we cannot have one without the other. So how is it so that we are freely able to speak about one and not the other? Why is one ‘normal’ and the other taboo? It’s the secret-keeping that keeps us sick.
Some of us practice putting on a mask everyday and try to convince ourselves that smiling will make the inner pain go away. Others can’t see the emotional wounds, so they don’t witness us bleeding from our heart. That’s why we speak up and talk about it; make it normal conversation. Someone is not going to get sicker just because you talk about their depression, thoughts of self-harm, or eating disorder. They will, however, likely experience a reduction in shame and guilt and fear. Did you know that you can help make your friends, family, and community members get well and stay well just by stopping the secret-keeping?
We all have battles that we fight. Most of us wake up everyday and must face some challenge during our day in order maintain balance and find joy. Some days are better than others. It’s ok to have a bad day. Today might be a bad day. Today you might, once again, wake up in the fog of depression or sleepless nights. Today you might also notice how good it feels to hold someone’s hand – to feel human connection, to be reminded that you have a pulse. Tomorrow might be a better day; tomorrow you might remember the glimpse of comfort you felt yesterday when you held that person’s hand or laughed authentically, if even just for a few moments.
Healing is a journey, not an end goal. Healing is a path walked by many. We appreciate when others walk with us and talk about the miles we tread. Each day, if we can practice being present, in the moment, without judgement, noticing our body and our senses, we can take a step towards recovery. We can choose a new day; maybe even find beauty in today – not yesterday, not tomorrow, JUST TODAY.
For more information about Make It OK! Click HERE.
Written by Lauren Robbins, MS, LPCC, LADC