Our interpretation of the word ‘mental health’ is negative. We immediately put our defences up, get fidgety about it and don’t want to talk about it due to the fear of letting something slip that we carefully and expertly hid earlier.
Why this stigma?
As long as we can remember, we have either seen in the media or seen with our own eyes, those relatives or friends that had some mental problem being ostracized or discussed with strange undertones. Mad, unstable, crazy or possessed has been historically the legacy mental health has had and this has carried forward today in our current attitude towards anything to do with mental health.
We want science to improve, technology to innovate every 6 months, journey to space and back but why then in this area are we deliberately willing to be in the dark ages?
Why have we not tried to educate ourselves about what mental health means and what impact it can have on our lives?
The meaning that comes first to our minds about mental health – is that there is a diagnosis of Depression, Bipolar, Eating or Multiple Personality Disorders. And what will we do if we have it? Our current comfort zone of dealing with ourselves and having lived with not knowing – is better.
But that is where the thinking is wrong.
The attitude must be about health. The health of our mind too needs tender loving care. But we give it harsh avoidance instead. Treat it like an illness as the starting point.
So, mental health is not about illness – it is about health. When you take steps to understand your emotions and behaviour in order to maximize your output in every area of your life, your efficiency and productivity are greatly improved.
There isn’t a disorder lurking in the dark alley to get you!
On the other hand, when individuals do have a diagnosis of some disorder, even then, the constructive goal of your therapy is not just dealing with the diagnosis rather it is working in synergy with the diagnosis to extract your inherent resources and provide you with pre-emptive ways to support and make adjustments of behaviour to direct your emotions to a place of greater calm and understanding.
The reality of your emotions might be loud and palpable, the history of your life might have stories or their might be certain patterns of self-belief that prevent you from being joyful and full of life – but understand, that these are not cast in stone. The feelings and behaviours and thoughts you are currently experiencing are not final. There is a silent, under the radar way of how you have come to be stuck here – in this pattern of thinking and being – and that way is changeable – it is not permanent and you can then see – that what you thought of as ‘this is me’ or ‘I’m messed up’ is not the truth about you.
Don’t let the stigma of mental health stop you from getting the support you need. You are not the diagnosis and cannot let that control nor define you!
Stigma to mental health prevents people from getting help and leads to a self-directed trial and error way that leads to, as one of my clients aptly put it, ‘a hamster-wheel syndrome of negative emotions.’
The pandemic has thrown people into the grip and grief of loss and isolation – mental and physical – as they try to do it alone. This is a time when all triggers are at their highest for everyone – and because of this stigma to mental health, it leads to a further spiral of hopelessness and helplessness, as though stuck with no way out.
Hungarian Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term ‘flow’ which he said is a deep sense of exhilaration when immersed in a life which is a goal in itself. He found that the main component of flow is control – over our own choices – our own decisions. I urge you all – rather than letting ourselves be ‘passive’ and ‘receptive’ – let us be “stretched to [our] limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” as he put it.
Csikszentmihalyi also states that “Happiness is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated and defended privately by each person.”
You own your mental health journey and are not damaged. Do not let others’ attitude towards mental health affect you. In fact, you have the power to reach the best moments of your life when you decide to ‘stretch yourself to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.’
You are precious beyond belief and my healing is for you to take control – to make the decisions that lead you to discover your own ‘flow’ and for you to actively ‘stretch’ to cultivate and defend your own happiness.
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” (M Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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