Yesterday was World Mental Health Day, a day established to create awareness and advocacy to help remove the social stigma of mental health issues. I grew up around mental illness and people who didn’t think that mental illness was a thing. Physical symptoms were required in order for something to be called an “illness.” Instead, you were labeled as just being “difficult.” Super helpful, I know.
So discussions around mental health have long been a part of my life and it’s something that I’ve always been comfortable talking about. But as I’ve gotten older and been around more and more people, it’s become apparent to me that many people are really uncomfortable talking about it — often to a point that makes those experiencing mental health issues feel isolated and shut-out.
Look, I’m all for cultivating a brighter outlook and reframing struggle in a positive light. But we are all human and each of us will face pain and suffering in this life. And the moment you start telling people that their humanness is not welcome with you, the more isolation you create. You say “only part of you is welcome here, the part that I choose to let you show me.”
When you put up “good vibes only” walls you miss the opportunities to create real connections and build strong communities. We all draw strength from sharing collective joy AND pain. I know that sitting with someone else in pain is hard and uncomfortable. But people will remember your ability (or inability) to create a safe space for them to show up authentically.
Conversely, by asking people to suck it up and leave their struggles outside your doors, you ask them to abandon and deny their humanness for the sake of “fitting in” and finding acceptance with you. However, in being in the experience of pain and struggle with others, you fortify bonds rather than tearing them down. You build bridges, rather than divides. You help create space for healing rather than harm.
That’s the world I want — one where we can show up with each other as humans with human emotions and struggles and be met with compassion.
So know this — if you are not okay, you can share that with me. Your vulnerability and pain — not just your strength and joy — are safe with me. You do not have to bright-side your feelings and you do not have to bear the weight of your hurt alone.