I’ve been thinking a lot lately about society’s need for us to be “happy” and “doing okay.” Of course, we all want those things. We want to be happy and fulfilled and successful. We don’t want to be depressed or sad or stressed out. But at the end of the day, what’s wrong with not being okay?
What’s Okay to Talk About?
I got together with a few friends recently who are open about their mental health challenges and we had a frank and refreshing conversation about the challenges we all face. However, it felt a little wrong to be talking so openly about self-harm and specific mental health diagnoses in a crowded restaurant. It felt like we were breaking the rules.
And that’s a big part of the problem. This idea that it’s not okay to talk about not being okay and needing help. The three of us are in therapy and dealing with mental health diagnoses. And while it’s nice to connect with other women who have gone through similar situations to me and have the same diagnoses as me, it’s still hard to talk about.
Let me rephrase that. It’s easy to talk about it. It’s harder to be okay with talking about it. I’ve chosen to be very open about my mental health challenges and hope to use that in whatever my next endeavor is in writing and mental health advocacy. But that doesn’t make it feel any better or less wrong. In fact, as I write this I am debating whether I want to make this post public because I worry what other people will think of me. And I’m making my own point by worrying about that. It’s okay that sometimes I’m not okay. It doesn’t make me any less of a writer, therapist, friend, or person who exists and succeeds in this world.
In graduate school as I was studying to be a therapist, I was very open with the fact that I have a mental health diagnosis. I even wrote about it in my admissions essay. And every time I talked about my experience as related to my diagnosis I was told how brave I was. This incensed me. It shouldn’t be brave to talk about mental health.
Everyone Needs Help
As someone who is both a therapist and a patron of therapy, I strongly believe that every person should be in therapy at some point in their lives. We all need support, whether you have a diagnosed mental illness or are struggling with the loss of a loved one or mourning a breakup/divorce or are trying to manage the everyday stress of work and life.
There have been times when my mood is less stable and I have thoughts of hurting myself. In those times I feel like a failure and like I’ve let my loved ones down. And yet I’ve been met with nothing but love and support. Everyone just wants me to be okay. I want that too.
But sometimes I also want it to be okay if I’m not okay. I want my loved ones to understand that when I’m not okay all we can do is weather the storm together and work hard to use the skills I have to manage my mood and self-harm urges. I don’t want my mom to feel bad that bringing up how down I’m feeling makes me cry. I want her to know that it’s okay for me to cry and feel what I’m feeling. I want her to know that it’s okay that I’m sad and frustrated.
Surround yourself with people who support you and lift you up and who let you know that it’s okay to not be okay.