I am supposed to be editing right now but I just don’t want to. Another tragedy has occurred, this time even worse than any I can remember and it just makes me want to bring up the topic that has for far too long been brushed under the rug: Mental and Emotional Health.
Does anyone actively teach us about the proper care and feeding of our own minds and emotions in any sort of effective and ongoing way? We go to school and learn math, science and history but does anyone really teach healthy ways to deal with the stresses of life? Sure our parents are supposed to teach us that but can they if they are stressed themselves? And yes, our religions are supposed to teach us, but far too many religions help one while at the same time hurting another by publicly spreading messages of judgement, division and isolationism. We as human beings collectively deal daily with societal pressures, cultural pressures, religious pressures, financial pressures, parental pressures, marriage pressures, political pressures, peer pressures, war pressures, not enough hours in the day pressures and the list goes on and on and yet the topic of how to cope with it hardly comes up at all.
We expect ourselves and everyone else around us to just keep on keeping on 24/7 with a smile on our faces greeting the question of “how are we doing” with the proper “I’m fine” reply. We wouldn’t want to hear the real answer because that would be too taxing to our already stressed lives but when do we stop and say enough is enough?
If we don’t start holding mental and emotional health as an important goal to achieve, if we don’t start talking about it, studying it, pursuing it, practicing it, then how will we ever get good at it? Spiritual and religious goals? Please. We can’t even get being kind to one another down.
I have been working at this my entire life and still feel a sandwich short of a picnic. Take today for example, I have no idea what’s better: do I watch all the coverage and allow myself to get completely down about this tragedy, feeling all their pain as if its my own? Does this somehow help the victims? Is hurting myself helping them? Or do I inform myself just enough to be aware and then set about trying to be the change in the matter? My instincts tell me the latter is correct but there is always that nagging voice that tells me that’s heartless and feels guilty not suffering along with them.
There have many times in my life where I have struggled to be mentally and emotionally healthy and many times where I have struggled with trying to help friends and family who were struggling. I have no clue what the answer is. I don’t know where our responsibility to each other begins or ends. Do we help people? Or do they need to help themselves? Are unhealthy people just lazy or irresponsible? Or do some people have challenges they really can’t deal with on their own? Are chemical imbalances real or just in our heads? Are addictions outside of our ability to handle, or can we conquer them? Should we control our anger or is it better to just let it all out? Do we reach out to unhealthy people? Or is it safer to let the experts deal with it? Is it our most important responsibility to others to get past our own traumas so that we don’t put all that negativity out into the world? Or are we selfish when we focus on ourselves? And what is the true impact of so much negative programming in our media? These are all things I have struggled for years to find answers to and as yet I still can’t answer them, there seems to be a lot of gray area. But I do think we need to try to find these answers and the first step to trying is to admit we don’t know. Nobody has the corner of the market on truth. If we knew then maybe days like these wouldn’t happen.
I’m gonna stop writing for now but I am not done. I hope for this to be the beginning of a long conversation that is way past overdue.
Would love to hear your thoughtful, constructive thoughts. No more fighting and blame, we’ve already heard plenty of that.