One of the most difficult things for people to do is give voice to their own personal struggle with a mental health issue.
Here, I am talking about conditions like PTSD, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and so forth. Part of the problem can be traced to the harmful stigmas surrounding mental health, which for many can fuel great shame.
Today, on World Mental Health Day, I am hoping all of us will take a moment to become more aware of our own mental health challenges and do in a mindful, loving way.
I have lived with OCD for as long as I can remember. I am not ashamed of my OCD. In fact, I have learned to accept my OCD as a gift. I am sharing this with you and all who read this post to help demonstrate this simple precept:
That which we are ashamed of controls us. That which we embrace becomes powerless
What follows are 5 loving ways to embrace your mental health issue, whatever it might be, right now.
1. Your condition does not define you
Look up in the sky and pick out a star – any star. Afterwards, gaze upon the nighttime heavens and see if other stars are dancing around nearby. Chances are that star you picked is part of a larger constellation. Your mental health should be thought of in the same manner.
In other words, there is more to you than your mental health issue. Do not let it define you. Ask yourself what other things make up your personal constellation? Are you a mom? How about a son? Are you a loyal lover? Make a list. All of those things need to be factored into your total self-concept.
2. Refer to your condition by name
If you have depression, call it by its name. If you have bipolar disorder, give voice to its existence. If you have schizophrenia, acknowledge its presence in your life. Doing this will not only help to remove stigmas but also dis-empower the cycle of shame you may be carrying around.
By referring to your mental health issue by name, you also help others by attaching a human face to the issue. This empowers and liberates others who may be living in deep shame, which is often cloaked by fear.
3. Adopt a wellness model
Sadly, many in our society still operate on an illness based model when discussing mental health issues. Example: He’s sick OR She’s mentally ill. While these remarks may at times be well intentioned, they can also add to stigmas. It is for this reason you should be mindful of your own internal dialogue.
When you think of your personal mental health issues, are you repeating illness based words? Do you think of yourself as sick? If so, what would it be like to switch to a wellness based approach?
4. Respect the power of your mental health issue
Never minimize your mental health issue. For example, if you live with depression, it is important you engage in regular self-care. It means making sure physical activity is built into your daily schedule.
5. Educate yourself and others on mental health
The final way you can lovingly embrace your mental health issue is to educate yourself and others. This goes back to points 1 and 2. Stigmas can only exist when we let them. Learn all you can about your health situation and then make a commitment to share this information with everyone you know. In the words attributed to Gandhi, You must be the change you want to see in the world.
You are a beautiful person – meaning all of you. Never be ashamed of who you are. Love yourself and others as if today is your last day on this planet. Be mindful of what you think about yourself. Most important, do something to love yourself each day – starting right now!
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