One of my readers left a comment on one of my recent posts essentially stating that there is a difference between mental health and mental illness and how we choose to talk about said topics need to vary differently.
I think the U.S. and most modern day societies have a pretty good grasp at mental health as a concept. “If we feel burned out, take a mental health day; do meditation or yoga or take a bubble bath.” I think there is a lot more to mental health besides burnout and mental health days such as “Why do I hold so much grief over losing someone I love?” or “My resentment toward this one person has turned into a new low. What’s the change about?” or “I feel like I have more energy than I know what to do with. I haven’t slept in 36 hours.”
One of these phrases trigger a mental illness response whereas the other two are examples of mental health. The last statement resembles someone with bipolar disorder experiencing a manic episode and admitting some shame with that, which shame is a mental health response, but since it focuses on mental illness therefore it is an example of mental illness.
With that being said, how do we redirect a society who thinks bubble baths and meditation are the answer to mental illness?
The answer is: you don’t.
You create a new conversation. We need to become advocates for ourselves and for others because the reality is, most people are not interested in your mental well being. They may ask how you are, but if the answer isn’t “I’m fine/great, how are you?”, they shut down.
In our society, it has become shameful to address emotions and feelings because men are supposed to be hyper masculine and not display any emotions whereas women are supposed to mask all their feelings and do everything in their power to take care of their significant other, balance the kids, sex life, work life, and wear these different hats.
To say that these stereotypes are fair is insane. But we are so instilled to act a certain way to fulfill societal norms, that it seems more insane to break away from said norms.
That is why it’s pivotal to get these mental illness conversations started because in all honesty, people’s lives are at stake. But what do we do when we want to talk about mental illness and want to avoid the mental health day bit?
I personally think honesty is the best policy. Opening up to a dear friend or family member and saying, “Hey we need to talk about my mental illness.” is a great conversation opener. Doing regular check ins regarding the status of our mental illness is huge. For me, about once a week, I check in with my mom and it gives us both the chance to talk about both mental health and mental illness and what we are doing to combat our symptoms.
Not everybody has a good support system though and even writing in a journal your symptoms, how you feel and if you create a drawing of a scale to rate where your mental illness is at, that can be helpful in determining where you are at and patterns that are happening. If we can’t be honest with ourselves, who can we truly be honest with?
As always, I welcome comments and feedback whether it is in my comments section or directed toward my email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Much love to you and yours!