Mental Wellness Challenge – 2020, February 20

Mental Wellness Challenge – 2020, February 20

My mental wellness challenge last week came from the book – the 4 agreements… my challenge to you was to exercise the four agreements throughout the week.  The four agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
  2. Do not make assumptions. Ask clarifying questions.
  3. Do not take anything personally.
  4. Always do your best.

Checking in with how I did for the week, I want to say that I did OK on some, and not well on others.  Being “ON” with these four agreements isn’t new for me – but its new for me… if that makes sense.

On being impeccable with my word – I work at this one quite a bit – so I feel that I did well.  The impeachable “words” I used were mostly negativities towards myself or my success.

I have to say that on making assumptions – I didn’t do very well.  This is a mental habit of mine that runs deep, is pervasive and is tenacious.  I jump to conclusions or assume the worst – very consistently.  This is a piece of my upbringing too… I was always taught to “expect the worst and prepare for it – if the good comes along, that’s a blessing”, and I don’t think that my experience growing up with this was unique.  While this was an “ism” that my parents taught – I think it was a pretty common one.

I TAKE EVERYTHING PERSONALLY.  I do, I know I do… I am trying to learn to let things flow away from me.  I understand that this too is a learned thing – not a specific lesson taught by one person– but something that I do as a result of my life as child and growing up.  My ADHD as a kid is part of it, but so is the abuse, name calling, bullying and the other things I experienced as a child.  This is a “thing” for me that I have to focus more of my energy on.

On always doing my best – I try.  I try too hard sometimes.  My “best” often feels “not good enough” and that’s a reality in my life.  Then – well – I’ll end up in a space where “If I can’t do the thing perfectly, I don’t want to do it all.” – I end up in a kind of stuck place.  I am learning that the concept of good enough is better than not at all and to not let perfection be the enemy of progress.

This week I’d like to share a bit about stigma.  Stigma around mental wellness is so very real – and it’s one of the reasons that I do what I do with my mental health presentations and with my blog etc.  In doing a presentation this week and with speaking with some others about mental health, mental illness, mental wellness – this whole STIGMA issue keeps poking through.

I really liked what a colleague of mine said about mental illness.  We need to work more towards NORMALIZING the discussion.  This isn’t a new concept at all…  but I like the reality of the word.

NORMALIZING MENTAL HEALTH – what a concept, what a dream, what a goal!

In the discussion after a presentation this week, the topic of “It’s an uncomfortable word.”  Is there maybe a different word that could be used to discuss mental illness?  Are there different ways we can bring the subject up that doesn’t use the words “mental illness”?  This is a truth – 100% – it is an uncomfortable subject.  That’s STIGMA at work.

In the moment of the discussion, I wanted to bellow out loud – “THAT’S THE EXACT THING I AM TALKING ABOUT!”  but I didn’t.  I did speak up and say that – the whole concept of the level of openness and comfort we have regarding mental wellness, mental health, is part of the reason that we don’t discuss the topic enough.  We haven’t accepted that 20 to 25 percent of us will be directly affected by mental health issues in our lifetimes and that each and every person that reads these words will, at some point in their lives – be affected indirectly by mental health.  EVERY SINGLE ONE!

So if that’s the case – and it is – something needs to happen in our culture.  Something needs to change.

I have shared many times that I never, ever chose to have depression, ADHD, or any of my other “Ds”.  Yes, there were maladaptive behaviours that were the results of choices I made in the course of my life with depression and the rest – and I own those choices.  BUT I DIDN’T MAKE A DECISION TO HAVE A MENTAL HEALTH DIS-ORDER… no more than someone would choose to have cancer or diabetes or any of the other myriad of tragic things that happen to people.

Another piece of this discussion has to be: I AM NOT MY DEPRESSION – OR MY ADHD!  My depression, my ADHD and all my other “Ds” have made my life what it is, but I am not them!  Depression isn’t contagious, mental health disorders don’t spread!  I am working so very hard to NOT define myself because I have mental health disorders – I really don’t need the rest of the world turning their backs or a blind eye to/on me, only because I do have a disorder.

So – this then comes around to the whole concept of normalizing the concept of mental health.  Mental health is only one facet of my well being as a human – and I would posit that this would be congruent amongst all of us!  I have mental health, physical health and spiritual health.  All three are a MUST for a healthy existence.

We talk about specific women’s health issues.

We talk about specific men’s health issues.

We talk about sexual health issues.

We talk about appropriate behaviors in regards to dating and sexual consent.

We talk about diabetes, cancer, AIDS, MS.

We talk about spirituality.

WE DON’T TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH.  We don’t talk about it because we don’t know anything about it and its scary.  I’m not going to trivialize this by saying its movies and books that make us afraid of mental health disorders… cuz that’s bull.  FOR SURE – there are some mental health disorders that can be scary to see – but ONLY BECAUSE OF OUR IGNORANCE!.

I apologize if my frustration is coming through here – but I am so very frustrated in this regard.  I get so frustrated when folks are afraid to simply use the words “mental health”, “mental wellness” or oh my goodness “mental illness”.  FOLKS – That’s that it is… using a different name isn’t going to change the reality of it… That’s societies STIGMA alive and well.  People with mental illness are just people!  They aren’t purple people or green people… Mental Illness is just that – mental illness – and using some different word to try to put a bow on it – doesn’t make it any easier for the individuals that struggle with… in fact putting a bow on it doesn’t normalize anything – it brings more stigma…

So, ignorance can be cured.  Education, understanding and acceptance can flow from one person to another.  It’s going to take an intentional effort.

This is my challenge for the week!

  1. Think about your life to this point. Look to see where mental health issues have touched your life.
  2. Learn something about the mental health issue that touched your life. Be intentional about this.  Actually take some time and do some research – not hours and hours – you don’t need to write a thesis.
  3. Share what you have learned with 5 people. Be mindful to not share intimate details or break any confidences.  SHARE HOW MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES have touched your life.  Share your understanding.  EVEN IF YOUR UNDERSTANDING ISN’T 100% correct – if you are coming from a place of sincerity and authentic caring – you will be doing something to help educate the folks in your circle.

LETS REALLY GET TO WORK NORMALIZING MENTAL HEALTH.  Lets work at making it something that we are comfortable talking about in any circle.  Mental illness affects all of us.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE – Lets start talking about it – sharing our journeys – spreading light, understanding and acceptance into the dark spaces that we are afraid to look into.

That’s it – I challenge you!