About twenty years ago, I shut myself indoors for several months, and avoided contact with as many people as possible.
Except, there wasn’t a viral pandemic going on back then. I was going through an internal depression.
I never thought that anyone else could possibly understand what I was feeling. So I never said a word to anyone. I wore a mask. I was really ‘good’ at it too. So ‘good’ that my depression reached the worst possible depths.
I know what it feels like to have your thoughts and emotions become overwhelming.
We all have thoughts and emotions, and, for the most part, we have not been taught how to deal with them, especially in moments like this.
When you add all of this up: your regular responsibilities, the viral pandemic (lockdown, job or income loss, physical illness, etc.), a lack of mental health ‘tools’, a stigma around asking for help … it can be a recipe for spiraling too far out of balance. (Notice that I didn’t say ‘control’.)
Depending on where you are in your health journey, an extra push in the wrong direction right now could send you farther down a troubled path. That’s a path that, without help, ends up nowhere good.
I have some good news to share with you that I have learned on my own journey:
No matter how far down any path you are, you can turn back.
Firstly, if your normal ability to take good care of yourself, mentally, physically, or spiritually is diminished right now, that’s OK. You might need some help, but, that is perfectly normal.
Remember, we all have brains full of thoughts and emotions, racing around, flowing up and down, all day long. We all went to gym class to learn how to maintain our bodies, but very few of us ever went to cognitive class for taking care of our minds.
There is nothing wrong with you. Not even if you have been diagnosed with a mental illness. That’s just a label, helpful as far as it can be in terms of identifying which treatment you may need, but not helpful at all once it separates ‘you’ from ‘them’.
There is no separation. Why do you think that millions of people have such diagnoses in the first place?
It’s because we are all messed up. I might even say that we are all perfectly imperfect.
Anyone who tells you otherwise, that there’s something wrong with you, but not with them, unless their name is Buddha, you can send them to me.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need help. You might. You probably do.
Seeking help is simple, but that doesn’t make it easy either. It’s not easy.
It’s not comfortable to admit that you’re vulnerable, or to have one or more people become aware of your suffering, or to trust that anyone else will truly understand.
But the truth is that they will understand, and they are vulnerable too. I promise.
Here’s something else that they probably didn’t teach you in school: human beings (that’s you) did not evolve figuring everything out on their own. We evolved to needing each other’s help. We are meant to lift each other up, cooperate, and be there for one another. That’s what we do.
I know that it’s scary to ask for help, and I also know that you’ll be surprised how much of a relief it is once you do.
OK so, who should you ask for help? Firstly, if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, or a similar urgent crisis, you need to call 911 or 1-800-273-8255 (the national suicide hotline).
Short of that, there is a wide range of great options & resources out there, and they are constantly evolving. So the answer depends, but don’t make it complicated.
Start with the person or people who are closest to you. If that’s too hard, a friend or colleague will do. It could be your doctor. It could be anyone who will take the time to listen.
Just start. Once you do, you’ll figure it out together.