I’ve recently been wondering why we tend to hide away when we are struggling in life. Is it that we are ashamed of these feelings? Is it that we think being sad is a sign of weakness? Is it that we feel vulnerable and don’t want to open ourselves to any possible additional hurt? Is it that we are struggling to see a way out of it and would hate anyone to know this? Or perhaps that we feel we have nothing positive to offer?
I can say, hand on heart that all of the above have related to me at one time or another. I would also say that it most probably has applied to a good percentage of the population too.
I think that this is possibly one of the contributing factors toward the stigma of mental illness without us even realising it. We already hide our normal low feelings, and that is before we introduce any kind of mental illness. There seems to be great shame attached to low emotions. Its crazy really because we are all only human, and these are perfect human feelings.
Lets say I paint a picture. A stay at home Mum, outwardly loves her children to pieces. She participates in every area of their life, and loves every second of it. From sports games to gymnastics to french lessons, she beams at driving them from activity to activity. Her home is superstar spotless, her washing basket empty, delicious healthy meals cooked every night, and her kids eat ALL of their vegetables. They have at least one mid winter getaway to escape the cold, usually to somewhere like Tahiti or the Maldives, and has many trips with just her husband to “keep the love alive”. She has beautiful happy pictures slathered all over Facebook, portraying her perfect happy life with her perfect happy family. I forgot to mention she is drop dead gorgeous. Fit, slim, gorgeous hair, impeccable makeup and a wardrobe to die for. But the stella thing about this woman is how she is ALWAYS happy and upbeat.
How many of you can read that and think, what a crock of shit! For starters no Mum is happy playing taxi week in week out! There are so many flaws to that picture, but this picture is one we see again and again on Facebook and Instagram. We can pretty much guess a person is going through a tough time if we haven’t seen them on social media recently because most of us only share the good stuff.
What if we posted “Today I feel like crap. I’ve had to punish my child for something I never thought I’d have to punish them for, and I hate the fact that I am the person in charge of making a decent person out of them.”
Or “I woke up depressed. Got up and was welcomed to my day by having to clean up cat sick off the carpet and then discover someone has spilt sugar all over the kitchen floor and the ants are marching in!!”
Or “I hate myself so much. I just binged on a whole packet of lollies and half a block of chocolate.”
What do you think would happen? I’m picking there would be some people who would be petty enough to say “oh god, what an attention seeker”. BUT…………
I will tell you what I think there would be a lot more of than you would think, is empathy. Tonnes of empathy. Because we are all human, and we all experience those days that are plain old negative. The person who speaks up, is the person we can relate to and reply and say “oh man, I had a day like that yesterday” or “You free for a coffee some time today?” People then know of your struggle with that NORMAL feeling, and they can then support you better. Even just knowing you aren’t the most evil person on earth and others also have felt like this, is sometimes enough to take the edge off.
I challenge you to have a go at posting something on fb when you’re having a crap time and see the response you get, or even just speak up to one more person than you normally would do. You would be surprised by how many people “rate” hard up honest truth. I know I do!
I’m thinking this could be a good start in the right direction toward lowering the stigma of mental illness. Lets knock down the barriers we put up when we are feeling low and start talking about those feelings.