I have been thinking about common messages that I talk about in session. A huge one is “quit being okay.” People try to put on a brave face, keep it together,or struggle through when facing difficult circumstances. While its admirable and at times necessary, this is a survival mode. It is not what getting better looks like.
Culturally, we hold a little bit of a distorted value. We admire seeing someone who struggling through something and doing it gracefully. We say “she is really doing well with it” or even “she is having such faith in view of this trial”. If our life is in a mess, we should be in a mess. Not continuously hysterical or non-functioning but sad, angry, hurt, lonely. There are certainly times in our life, we must feel these negative feelings. To not feel these is to be unhealthy. (Please note the vast difference between feeling something and acting on the feeling.) You won’t stay in this place forever. If you don’t allow yourself to ever stop here, you will keep carrying these feelings with you.
We will all have times during which we are not okay and we shouldn’t try to be. Yes, in front of our kids, when around acquaintances or on the job, we might need to keep it together. The road to being better always goes through being worse first. Life gets harder so that we rise to the challenge, so that we reach out for help, so that we question ourselves and so that we are shaken enough to let go of good/bad things to reach for something better. If you are currently overwhelmed, give yourself permission to not be okay. To cry. To think irrationally. To be angry. To have no motivation. It is through this season, you come through the other side to something better.
Quit being okay, so you can be better.
I keep hearing a similar story too often. Someone goes to repeated appointments, has multiple tests, sees different doctors until finally someone talks with them about their mental and emotional health. Culturally, we forget or discount that our mental and emotional health impacts our physical health. If you feel sick to your stomach then the problem is in your stomach, right? It’s worth reiterating about what mental health problems feel like physically.
- constantly tired
- no energy
- trouble sleeping
- trouble staying asleep
- physical pain or soreness
- lack of sexual desire, decrease in sexual performance
- weight changes, changes in eating habits
- trouble focusing, poor concentration
- nausea/stomach pain (upset stomach in children)
- IBS symptoms
- sore muscles, back or neck pain
- weight changes, changes in eating habits
- jaw pain, grinding teeth
- heart palpitations, feel like you are having a heart attack
- feel like you are going to die
- light-headed/dizzy, fainting
- can’t catch your breath
It’s important to note that you are not making up your physical symptoms or just not being ‘tough enough’. For example, most people genuinely thought they were having a heart attack or are dying when they have their first panic attack. Physically, your heart is racing, you can’t catch your breath, and you are about to pass out. You aren’t making that up and simply calming down isn’t an option. Mental health issues are medical problems because it effects the whole body.
Certainty these symptoms can have purely physical origins. If the root is emotional or mental though, medications will only treat the symptoms and will not change the underlying condition. Therapy is needed to ultimately resolve these symptoms. Hopefully, we will all get better at recognizing and treating the actual problem.
Here are some book recommendations from my summer reading thus far:
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Development. By Daniel Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson
A common mistake that parents make is not understanding how differently children think than adults. This book helps parents understand how the brain develops, how it communicates across different parts of the brain and how to understand children’s behavior in light of their brain development. Good reading and easily application for parents of elementary age children. My favorite chapters are chapters 2
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace who you are. By Brene Brown
Brene Brown’s work is very popular in the psychology/self help field now. Her primary job as a researcher gives her books support and are not just a packaging of her own personal ideas. The Gifts of Imperfection would be a good read for someone struggling with self-esteem, perfectionism, over-pleasing others or anxiety.
Daring Greatly: How to Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we live, love, parent and lead. By Brene Brown
Most people are not seeking out a book on how to be more vulnerable but Daring Greatly is a good recommendation for those who struggle to connect in relationships. I like chapter 4 the most.