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The Birds & The Bees
Let’s talk about mental health. Stop cringing. At least we’re not talking about sex with our prepubescent child. In fact, this topic is far more important. Don’t get me wrong. The opioid epidemic is dangerous. But I believe mental health affects a larger population with longer-lasting effects. This is a population that hides in the shadows of a culture that praises perfection and admonishes the abnormal.
As one of the abnormal, I am here to swing the door of this topic wide open for a myriad of reasons. First, the stigma must be removed. We are all human beings and not a single one of us is perfect or perfectly sane. Second, by removing the stigma, individuals will be more inclined to seek professional help or the safe haven of friends or family. And third, this world needs a whole lot more love and a lot less judging. I am sick and tired of the judging.
How many of you have ever felt alone? Like a loser or failure? Like a burden? How many have had periods in your life where you didn’t want to get out of bed, so you didn’t? Now, how many of you have never told your family or friends what you’ve just admitted to me? My gut tells me it is innumerable. My next question to you is why not?
There is a reason places like Bedlam and Bellevue existed. The public did not want to be exposed to the behaviors displayed by the “people” who were abnormal. “People” is in quotations marks because these individuals were not viewed as part of society—they needed to be removed from society. Granted, some were definitely in need of some serious mental health intervention and separation. But most simply displayed intermittent melancholia or weren’t subservient or perhaps were a little too feisty for their own good.
And here we are back to groupthink, right? This sentiment of separation spread like wildfire. Some individuals actually thought you could catch it. It? What exactly is “it”? This is a rhetorical question only you can answer. My point is, people did not want to deal with “it” and went about their daily lives knowing these “people” were under lock and key.
Along came Elizabeth Jane Cochran—Nellie Bly—to expose inhumane treatment of the “people” found to be unfit for society. Fast-forward to today and movements like Project Semicolon or organizations like National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) who work diligently to provide support and education. The overarching theme is awareness, which means sharing what mental health really looks like and whom it affects.
Statistics show seven to eight (7 – 8) out of every 100 persons will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Now, nearly each time the letters “PTSD” are spoken I think of the military. But let us not forget the traumas that occur surrounding physical or sexual abuse or other equally traumatic life events. Imagine that number decreasing to 1 in 100 or even 1 in 1000. I believe it is possible. Through revelation, conversation, and reconciliation. And I’m not suggesting reconciliation with the person who abused you or friend who died in front of you on the battlefield or in a car accident. I mean with yourself—that you are not to blame—to allow yourself to move forward.
When you stay stuck, healing cannot occur. As one who struggles with mental health, I understand. WHO could I possibly open up to about the thoughts racing through my head? WHO can I trust with the deepest darkness within my mind? Well, I was surprised. When I began to trust and share some of my innermost introspection, I was not shunned. I was not judged. Instead, I was embraced in the arms of my friends and family members. Then they began telling me about their demons and the battles they fought.
Wow. I was not alone. I was not an ogre. I was not a loser. I was and am able to reconcile why I have moments of anxiety, underlying streams of depression, and feelings I am not enough. I am uncovering and recovering myself but I know it will not happen overnight. There is no magic pill to take that will wash away weighted feelings. However, I am now armed and empowered with tools to assist my fight.
This fight is not just within me. There are millions like me (hallelujah in an I’m not alone way). And I firmly believe the more we reveal, converse, and reconcile, the easier it will become to love ourselves and one another. When the mask is removed we can have conversations about how we actually are, not how we want people to think we are. And the domino effect is in motion. Our family and friends know we are a safe place to admit how they really are. Because guess what? We do not have rainbows and puppy dogs in our hearts and minds. We are not all magically happy every waking hour of every day.
See how that works? Love is a circle. Love is like sunshine. I am not a schmaltzy person. What I am conveying is life is too short to feel like we can’t be who we are, including our struggles. Let us stand arm in arm against the naysayers of what they view as abnormal. Let us give permission to feel and talk and connect. Let us remove judgment from the equation.
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Creator: That makes me sound all powerful. I suppose I am in many ways. Hi! My name's Amy and I've been practicing HR for twelve years now. No big deal. I am here to offer fresh perspective on HR topics and topics about the world we live in and life in general.