People who know me, and know me well, know that I’m fairly open about my mental health issues and struggles. I’ll often blurt out things in casual conversation and generally it takes them by surprise. One thing that I’ve come to realize over the past couple years is that people really don’t talk about mental health at all. And yet it’s just as important as physical health. If you see someone limping down the street, you feel bad for them. But I’m willing to bet that if you saw someone looking really solemn and depressed you wouldn’t give it a second thought.
My goal here certainly isn’t to chastise anyone or make them feel bad. But it’s also important to remember that mental health isn’t always something visible. There always seems to be this misconception that people who are struggling have this literal black cloud hanging over their heads. Whereas in some cases that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I attend a group focused on interpersonal relationships on a weekly basis. In total there’s 8 of us, and if you were to walk by any one of us on the street you’d never know that each one of us has some serious mental health issues. We are what would be considered “high functioning” individuals. Meaning that we can hold down steady jobs, maintain significant relationships, and lead relatively normal lives. But we still have days where any of those three things can seem like impossible tasks.
Poor mental health doesn’t necessarily have a face. But I really believe that it’s something important that needs to be discussed more. The idea of someone who is mentally unwell being a damaged or broken individual is not true. Every one of the people in my group is an incredible person in their own right. And they deserve just as much respect as anyone else. We’re doing our absolute best.
The point I’m trying to make is simply talk to one another. Be open – not only to speaking but to listening as well. Let’s shift the conversation a little bit and make mental health more of a priority. Let’s stop making it shameful to have bad days where we don’t quite feel like ourselves. And let’s stop making everyone feel like they have to hide their illness and try to appear “normal” to everyone else. Let everyone know that it’s okay to not be okay.