What is mental health? When I typed that question into my iPhone search engine, I quickly realized that there are many definitions and ways of viewing mental health. I decided I would summarize my findings and add a little of my own personal opinion. I want to start what what I believe mental heath is NOT….
Mental Health is NOT just the absence of mental illness.
Mental health is NOT “feeling happy” all the time.
Mental health is NOT something to fear or feel shame about.
If we have a functioning brain and nervous system we have mental health. Because our brain and nervous system connect all the parts of our mind, body, and spirit…mental health effects and affects all aspects of who we are…physically, emotionally, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. I believe taking care of my mental health requires awareness. I believe taking care of my mental health is about learning to integrate all of the individual aspects of who I am. I believe taking care of my mental health requires bravery and vulnerability. It is about practicing acceptance and love, and letting go of judgment and shame.
I grew up in a home that did not talk about any of this. I believe this was more about the culture than about my individual parents. We placed shame and judgment on our thoughts and feelings. We were uncomfortable talking about pain and suffering. We were uncomfortable with big emotions and stuffed our fears and hurts. To ask for help reflected weakness; and vulnerability was not a risk we took often, if ever. While I see culture becoming more aware of mental health, I believe we still have a long way to go.
Thankfully, living life that way became unmanageable for me. And with the support of my husband, I sought help from a therapist who was able to help me see myself and my life differently. But, taking that first step was scary and uncomfortable. It made my family uncomfortable because I was talking about things we had never spoken openly about. I was questioning things that had never been questioned. Sometimes our move towards recovery leaves others behind and that is also painful. Our mental health is ours alone. We can not wait for another to give us permission to take care of ourselves.
This week my guest, Sherry Burkhard, and I discuss the importance of bringing awareness to mental health. Sherry has been in recovery for over 30 years and she proudly tells her story of finding freedom from alcohol and eating disorders. She reminds us that her recovery was not a project she completed, but an ongoing journey that she takes daily.
This conversation is honest and real… and we talk about things like:
How the most well intentioned, loving people can unknowingly cause us to feel shame in our most vulnerable moments
The importance of becoming comfortable in the uncomfortable
Holding space for those who are hurting
My father’s suicide, and more…
While I believe what I said earlier…that we do not need anyone’s permission to begin taking care of ourselves…this episode gives it to you anyway! I hope you are encouraged, inspired and challenged today to become more aware of your own mental health so that you can bravely walk along side others as they are learning to do the same.
DEEPER DOWN THE WELL
Learn more about Sherry’s ministry Mosaics of Mercy https://mosaicsofmercy.com/