In this world where we want everyone to only see our best, prettiest, most perfect side, we have made it hard to talk about the the real stuff, the ugly stuff, the messy stuff, out of a fear that others might see us as anything less than Pinterest-perfect. The thing is, though, I don’t want to be Pintetest-perfect. My house isn’t spotless and always clean, and neither is my life. And I am willing to bet a lot of money that neither is yours. Or your friends’ or neighbours’ lives.
But yet we still don’t talk about it.
Why is that? Why are we embarassed at the thought that people might actually see us as we really are? That they might see us as, gasp, human? We are flawed, and different and messy, every one of us, and all in our own way. There are still so many things that we don’t talk about, pieces of ourselves that we hide from the world, when in reality, those are often, ironically, the things that bring us together. You know what though? These things, these weird, tough, gross parts of our experience, the parts that usually make us feel the most alone?
They often end up being the ones that bring us back together.
Recently, I opened up about my recent struggles with depression. Almost instantly, the outpouring of love and support began. People, some I knew in real life and others I didn’t know at all, began to share their experiences and stories with me. They shared their journey, their experiences with medication, what worked and what didn’t. There was no stigma, no judgement, just care and concern and support. I was, and still am, overwhelmed by the outpouring I experienced. People said I was brave for sharing my story. I don’t see it that way at all.
I was just tired of hiding.
I think that I just didn’t want to keep up the shine, the veneer, the appearance of okay any more. I wanted to feel free to be who I was at that moment in time, to be seen and heard in my current experience. I wanted to feel like I wasn’t alone, or crazy. I wanted to know that although no one else can or will ever experience or live my exact story, there were stories that read similar to my own and that people had made it through.
Deep down though, isn’t that what we all want?
To be heard, and understood. To be known and loved not for your perfectly staged pictures or your spotlessly clean house, but for you. You, in all of your messy, imperfect, amazing, honest glory.
Let’s stop all the small, overly polite and never very genuine talk.
Ask how someone is and listen, really listen to the answer. Let’s be real. An answer of “I’m okay thanks, how are you?” says nothing. Nothing at all. You know how when we have a cold, or strep throat or an infection? A broken arm or finger or ankle? A sprained wrist or a tweaked back? A sore knee? We don’t feel scared or awkward telling people about it. Instead, we say “I’m feeling crappy. I’m stuffed up and my throat hurts and my body aches.” and all of our friends jump in and suggest Vitamin C, hot soup, Neti pots and tea with honey and lemon. Or we say that our back is all seized up and people suggest massage, or chiro or acupuncture? You don’t give even a millisecond of a thought that someone might judge you because you have said those things, right? Why would you? Everyone gets sick, or puts their back out, or gets hurt at sometime in their lives. We all have bodies and they can’t be in perfect shape all the time.
So why don’t we treat our mental health the same way?
We are more than willing to shell out a couple hundred dollars to go to the spa for a massage when our bodies are sore, but heaven forbid we spend that same money seeing a counsellor or psychologist for a tune up of our minds. I came to this realization as I was getting dressed at the spa a few weeks ago. My husband had surprised me with an afternoon there for a body scrub treatment, and as I looked at the price list, I realized that a lot of the longer treatment were about the same price as a session with my psychologist. I always have a hard time at the thought of $185 for a one hour session, but in the past have spent the same for a massage or body treatment. Why is that? It’s because we don’t make our mental health a priority. We don’t say things to each other like “Oh man, my anxiety has been really bad lately and I’ve been having a hard time sleeping, so I booked myself into the psychologist”. We do, however, say “Oh, my back has really been bugging me and I’ve had a hard time sleeping, so I booked myself in for an afternoon at the spa”. Why?
Honestly, I think it comes down to a stigma. Still.
I really believe that the more we talk about it, the easier it will become. I hope that one day talking about issues like anxiety and depression will be as common as talking about muscle soreness or the flu. I figure we have started this conversation, so why not keep it going? Maybe one day we will feel comfortable sharing strategies that have helped during anxirty attacks, talk about side effects of medications or just how hard it can be when you feel like you are in a constant battle with your brain without even a second thought or worry about judgement. You guys, whether you deal with mental health issues yourself or not, this affects us all. According to the Canadian Mental Health Assiciation, 20% of people will experience a mental illness in their lifetimes. That is 1/5 of our population.
As a mum, I want to make the world my son is growing up in better.
I want our kids to feel comfortable talking about this stuff. I want my son and his friends to be able to tell us if or when they start to experience things like anxiety or depression without beings scared that people will think they are just a “weird, moody kid” or scared of everything. I want them, and all, of us really, to feel comfortable putting words to those feelings and knowing that they are not crazy for feeling that way. I want us all to stop being afraid of being seen in anything other than a perfectly crafted, perfectly fake way.
I want us to open up to each other.
Have those conversations with people that make your heart ache, that make you cry, that make you think, and laugh and feel like you have connected on a level deeper than “hey, how’s it going”. Ask people about their stories. Tell yours. Don’t be scared to push the envelope a bit. Say “I want to know, really know, how you are doing.” Listen. Share. Don’t be afraid. I know that it is easier said than done, but allowing yourself to connect and trust will be worth it in the end.
Please, let’s not suffer alone anymore okay?
Let’s do better for ourselves and for each other. I know we can. I will offer up my shoulder to listen anytime, whether we have met in person or not. I know first hand how hard and isolating this is. I dream of the day we can stop judging each other and just love, share and support. No judgement, no shame.