Today, my friend, blogger and former babysitter Ruth Zaryski Jackson sent me Roger Cohen’s column in today’s Sunday New York Times titled The Happynomics of Life. Fascinating piece.

He opined about The Brits and their approach or lack thereof to our so-called happiness industry.

Ruth’s email was no coincidence…

Yesterday morning, we sat next to each other at the monthly meeting of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region, (WCDR) where I spoke last month about blogging. Remember? (Now, Marty and I are full-fledged members.) Yes, it’s been a while. But I don’t want to discuss where I’ve been right now. That’s for another post.

Here’s why Ruth’s email and Roger Cohen’s column clicked for me. Why she sent it.

You see, as we were schmoozing over breakfast, I handed her my new business card and explained that I’ve changed my title. My whole approach to my life’s work. The way I think about myself.

No longer am I a “Mental Health Advocate”… no, way.

I am an Emotional Health Advocate

That doesn’t mean I haven’t had or do not now have Mental Health issues. I do. I also have problems with time management. I’m a bit of a workaholic. And I have an eating disorder. Have had for years.

So what. Who doesn’t have these and/or other problems? We are human after all. We all have problems. But that’s not what I said to Ruth.

Here’s what I said…

“If you want to understand why I’m now an ‘Emotional’ Health Advocate,” I said, “you can google the BBC Health website and you’ll see that Health is divided into Physical Health and Emotional Health. And “Emotional Health” is divided into four categories… Mental Health, Addictions, Bereavement and Work life balance.

“The Brits have been in this business for a long time. They opened their first asylum in 1247. It was run by the Sisters of The Order of the Star of Bethlehem, now Bethlem Royal Hospital. But for years and years it’s been known as Bedlam.”

I like history. I like to know where things come from. I’m curious about words and how they develop. Language. A living thing that changes all the time.

Language and the power of specifics…

My whole life is about language and the power of words, labels. Even though I didn’t go into the specifics ~ and the specifics are really what drive effective communication ~ I told Ruth that for weeks, my psychiatrist Dr. Bob and I have been grappling with the relationship between my emotional life and my mental life. My “mental health.” My feelings and how they colour my thoughts. This battle is exhausting. It’s consuming too much of my energy.

And furthermore, I have never liked that word, “mental.” As an adjective. I don’t like being called “mental”… I was called “mental” from the time I first started going to a psychiatrist at the age of 12. Along with a number of fruits. But being “bananas” or “nuts” doesn’t bother me. The word “mental” and the way the kids who really weren’t my friends “spit” it at me, still stings a bit.

Paired with the “health” doesn’t really de-toxify that word for me. Or to a lot of people.

Why do you think people with psychiatric histories call themselves “Consumer Survivors”… a totally meaningless term, linguistically, though highly political.

Emotions versus Thoughts…

So, Dr. Bob and I have been dealing with the roots of my problems. The Gut Issues. We keep digging deeper and deeper. Those roots are not in my ability or inability to think. In fact, I believe I can think rather well. Most of the time. When I’m not emotional.

That’s the point. Emotions are what really mess up one’s thoughts. And emotions and thoughts are related, intertwined, deeply.

But emotions and thoughts are far from the same. They’re not even equal.

Emotions are far more powerful, I believe, than thoughts…

(If they weren’t, I wonder, would we need psychologists and social workers and counsellors? All the people who help us unravel the two? I don’t know, but that’s another post.)

The best metaphor I can think of is that if we’re trees, our roots are our emotions and are trunks are our thoughts.

And at this very moment, this little tree is really tired. It’s been a very long day. I’ve not had any Internet connection since Wednesday and I’m currently “tethered” to my iPhone. It’s no fun. So I’m going to sign off and continue this discussion next time.

My new “Emotional Health” dictum is shorter posts.

Hugs and I think happiness lies in “Emotional Health.” Think about it. Let me know what you think.

Speak soon.

sln