Broken and Yet Beautifully Whole
I often find myself wondering why mental health scares people. Perhaps it’s because they don’t understand it and find themselves falling into the trap of believing the many stigmas that exist around mental health. Mental health disorders are a reminder of just how fragile our mind can become. All it takes is a devastating or traumatic experience and we could find ourselves spiraling into a space that can often be scary and overwhelming. And sometimes we may not be sure exactly what triggered us to feel depressed, out of sorts, confused or disoriented. Why is it that we can take care of a person who has a physical ailment and yet we struggle with caring for a person who displays an emotional “ailment” if you will?
Let’s flip the script and think about what it might be like to live with a mental illness. I often hear people saying that these individuals are exaggerating their problems, or that they’re lazy and even worse that they are dangerous to those around them. The truth is that many individuals, if they receive proper treatment, whether it’s therapy, medication or both, can do well in their environment. And many of those who have had a bout with mental illness have only experienced it for a brief episode in their life. But the other harsh truth is that for many, mental health treatment is either too costly or is not readily available.
What if we were to open our mind, heart and soul and attempt to see the strengths that individuals with a mental disorder have? I recall going to an art exhibit in Chicago where the individual channeled her “manic episodes” and created powerful imagery of what she was experiencing, as well as artwork that depicted the pain of individuals who were disenfranchised and marginalized. I remember thinking how powerful and brave she was for first, sharing with a group of strangers that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and second, that she allowed us to take a glimpse into her mind when she was struggling.
For many individuals who experience a mental health challenge, it can take years before they understand, let alone know why it is that they are experiencing the world as they do. In my work with children, I see the struggles and challenges that children and their families experience. And so many feel as if nothing or no one can fix their situation. Mental illness affects not only the individual who has been diagnosed, but also affects their community and environment. I challenge individuals, families, and communities at large to look at mental illness as a variant degree of mental wellness.
If you or someone is experiencing a diminishing degree of mental wellness, I encourage you to:
Seek treatment. If we understand what ails us, we are more likely to accept and work on ourselves.
Remind yourself that you are not your diagnosis. We are so much more than the challenges that we face as someone with a mental illness. We are soulful, creative and vibrant individuals that can offer the world so much.
Don’t give shame a place to live in. Think of it this way. We can and should receive care for our emotional challenges the same way that we receive care for a physical ailment.
Reach out to people you trust. Surround yourself with people who care, love and support you. Find individuals who are understanding and show you compassion. This could be a friend, teacher, family member, religious, or spiritual person, who is not judgmental.
For some, it is not so easy to talk face-to-face with someone about how they are feeling. Encourage them to use one of the many resources available 24/7:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Crisis Text Line
Veterans Crisis Line
1-800-273-8255 (press 1)
Remember. We are powerful souls in our own right, if we try to honor and respect who and what we are at any given moment and understand that we have the capacity to change. And that within itself is powerful. Help is out there. The journey will not be any easy one, but one worth exploring.
“We are all a little broken. But the last time I checked, broken crayons still color the same.”