Mental Wellness Challenge – Feb 13, 2020
WOW – that week just screamed by for me! How was it for you?
Last week my challenge to you was:
- Be grateful. Be as grateful as you can for as many things as you can. Gratitude helps to build perspective. Be grateful for things like – living in Canada, having food in the larder, having friends, little birds that chirp and sing their songs… be grateful. Maybe even write some of these things you are grateful for down… but take time to be intentionally grateful.
I wasn’t as good with this as I like to be. I’m not certain why – but I tried. Maybe I was too busy or to scattered. I didn’t take time to really think about the good things that I have in my life as much as I should have. I know I feel better when I do it – I don’t get on the victim side too much… I just wasn’t there.
- Have a meaningful conversation with a friend about – love, or family, or wellness. We spend time in conversation – but a bunch of it is just noise. Take some time to have a touching conversation with someone in your life.
I did well with this piece of my challenge. I was able to have a few really meaningful conversations. They were rewarding and connecting. More than just idle chatting, and I felt – um – “stronger” or “more supported” for having had them. I hope you were able to connect with someone too!
- Be intentionally kind. For the whole week – do your very best to be intentionally kind. We CAN be the change that the world needs. It starts with each and every one of use. Be an instrument of change by exercising kindness.
I worked hard at this. I was as intentional as possible. I had a couple of instances where I could have been very, very contrary and in choosing to be kind instead, I had a better experience and I am pretty certain that the folks I was dealing with had a better experience too.
I found that in being intentionally kind – I was more aware of the buttons that I can sometimes push in others that don’t need their buttons pressed. I hope you were successful in this piece of the challenge as well.
This week I was all set to start sharing about this thing I call my wellness model and my thinking behind it – what it does for me and where it came from… but – I got derailed on that thinking a bit. You see, I was asked the same or similar questions by a couple of different people… and in thinking about their questions – I want to share the answers.
The questions I got asked a couple of times went something like this: “Why on earth would you put yourself out there? Isn’t it so risky to talk about all that stuff with strangers? What do you get out of it and who do you think you are to be talking about this stuff?” I paraphrased the questions a bit. Cleaned them up a little and am parroting the original somewhat. I would have just left this as it is, but there were a couple of people asking and their questions are fair – so I thought – if there are two people wondering, there are likely more.
Here goes with my responses to the questions.
Why on earth would you put yourself out there?
I put myself out here because I sincerely believe that there is only one way to lift the veil from mental illness. Exposure. Talking about it. Listening to the journeys of others. Sharing my journey. My experience in life is that I fear most, the things I do not understand. The boogey man under the bed, the shadows. When I bring light, education, awareness, acceptance into the equation, that BIG FEAR is diminished.
I have gone around and around and around with depression, anxiety, PTSD, some OCD, and on and on for most of my life. I have faced the very real, very “IN YOUR FACE” stigma that exists in society regarding mental health. Some of the very worst stigma came from those that I sought support from – yup – health care providers, mental health workers, and doctors. I know firsthand what it’s like to desperately, profoundly NEED HELP, only to be humiliated by ignorance – or at the very least an ignorant, complacent attitude. I know first had the issues that exist for folks with mental health challenges and I know that “NOTHING OUT THERE CHANGES”. So, I know that if I want to see change in the places I live, I must be an agent for change – and that change starts with me.
What does that mean? It means that I can’t let myself “EAT” the stigma that society feeds its members. I have to stand up to that stigma and say NO! Not me. I am not ashamed to talk about an illness. Something that I DID NOT CHOOSE TO HAVE.
I put myself out here so that through sharing my journey, others might not face the same darkness that I have had to experience. I put myself out here so that folks might think a little about the challenges of others before they cast a pall. I put myself out here to do what I can to bring mental health and the issues that surround out from a place of shame into a place of understanding and acceptance.
Isn’t it so risky to talk about all that stuff with strangers?
Yes, I suppose it is a risk to talk about my struggles in an open forum. Then again, how much more risk would I face for my own wellness if I kept on doing what I was doing? I share my experiences. FOR SURE – there are limits to what I will share.
I share what I have lived. I share the pieces of my life that nobody would know about unless I opened up a bit. Nothing that I share is anything that could be taken as “immoral” or “bad”. I do not believe that one iota of what I share is anything to have shame over, and in that – the risk is acceptable.
Someone could say – “Kevin shared that he has depression.” – OK, yup, I have depression – so what? It’s a condition that I have to live with. Someone could try to say “He’s crazy, he posts about all kinds of crazy things.” To that, I’d have to encourage them to have a discussion about what crazy is… because I have been assured by some of the best health professionals going, that I’m not crazy.
What do you get out of it and who do you think you are to be talking about this stuff?
This one has two parts – so I’ll answer each part.
What do you get out of it? The rewards I get from doing what I do are many. I get connections with people that I have never met. I learn so very much about myself, my prejudices, my strengths and my weaknesses. I learn hope. Hope in the folks that I reach when I share my journey. I experience a strength that I didn’t know I had when I support others. I “get better”. I will 100% agree that a significant component of what I do is strictly for me. No doubt. So – yes, I get a bunch out of this work.
A piece of this work for me is the commitment that I have made to a number of people to “Keep doing what I am doing.” This is the keeping of a promise. This is the keeping of my word. I have made those commitments and I intend to honor them.
A piece of this work is the continuity of the mindfulness that I have to exercise. Take, for instance, this weekly piece. Sure – I know that I’m not literary genius… that’s not the important part anyway. The important part of this weekly piece is checking in with my own self. That’s a huge piece. The side benefit for this is that some folks that read it, connect with something I have shared and it helps make their lives less burdensome.
I will honestly share that one of the biggest “things” I get out doing this is the reward I sense when someone shares that something I said helped them get help, something I shared made something click for them or maybe was just a message and a challenge that they needed to hear that day. When I was first asked to do this, I struggled with this why piece… and the answer that I sincerely came up with was this; “If I can help just one person, it’s worth it.” And honestly – it’s been worth it many times over.
Who do you think you are to be talking about this stuff?
Fair enough. I’m not a doctor, a nurse, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a clergyman or any sort of councilor or mental health practitioner. I don’t ever suggest that I am and I make a real point of never, ever, ever, ever offering any sort of advice – other than to seek the support of a trained professional. EVER.
That said…. I have struggled with mental health issues my whole life. I have decades of experience dealing with what it’s like to feel like I am unworthy of the space I take up. I’ve been called useless, stupid, lazy, worthless – etc so many times by people that were supposed to love me that I have permanent scars in my being that will likely take the rest of my life to work through. I’ve been hit, punched, kicked, strapped, slapped and more from parents and others that were supposed to protect me. I have struggled with, defeated and continue to master my addictions. I have experienced the ‘dismissiveness’ of healthcare providers who were supposed to be caring for me. I have endured the uneducated, big wide paintbrush that too many bureaucrats wield around mental health (not all mental health disorders are the same). I have lived through all of this and I have survived my journey through some profoundly crappy places in my life.
I have my life of experiences that I can share. Some of what I have experienced could be relatable to someone else – it might help them navigate a piece of their journey, so I do it.
I share only what I have experienced. I can’t and wouldn’t want to try to share some others journey… you see – even if I walked along the same road – I can’t take their footsteps or their breaths…
When I was asked this question – I was at first defensive. I am less so now… I am just me. I am just an old traveler making my own way. Sharing my learning, my understanding, my “story”. My sharing is there for the taking – or the leaving. If what I share is not your cup of tea, don’t take it.
If what I share sparks a fire inside “the you” – maybe that’s a good thing.. if its not a good thing… don’t feed it and the spark and fire will die out… if it is a good thing, I can’t fan “the you’s” flames… that is up to the receiver “the you”…
I do know this… if I get a spark inside me that keeps glowing and starts a fire… I have a look at what it is that’s burning and why… for me, it’s a learning thing. This reminds me of a saying that a men’s group I used to belong to uses… “If you spot it, you got it.” The idea being that I won’t recognize that what I don’t identify with…. Anyway, enough said.
There are the answers to those questions… I sincerely appreciate the individuals that asked them. While both folks weren’t coming from the same perspective – as far as I can tell – they did provide me with questions that were really worth thinking about. It might very well be that my responses to the questions won’t be sufficient answers for them – but they are for me…. And I’m OK with that.
My mental wellness challenge for the week come from the book – the 4 agreements… and my challenge is the four agreements. For the next week:
- Be impeccable with your word. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
- Do not make assumptions. Ask clarifying questions.
- Do not take anything personally.
- Always do your best.
This sounds easy, simple, logical… my experience is… its far more difficult that it seems.
That’s it – I challenge you!