“What’s Wrong”: Changing my perspective on Mental Health

I haven’t written on here for a long time, I know. Not because I didn’t want to or because I forgot about my blog, but because I ran out of things to say. I questioned the value of my writing, my thoughts and my expressions. Normally, I try and write positively; to reflect on my experiences in a manner that helps me to see the bright side. But sometimes, we don’t see a bright side.

For a long time, I battled with my mental health. Anxiety, depression, OCD, amongst other things I was labelled with. Therapists and doctors prescribed me medications, CBT sessions and so forth, all in an attempt to try and help. Years I was on these meds and yet nothing seemed to work. My head was cloudy and thoughts were dark, and no matter what I did I couldn’t snap out of it; irrespective of how much I tried.

I thought I would be grounded in the negativity indefinitely. But one conversation changed this perspective. Now, this wasn’t a talk with a medical professional, spiritual individual or motivational guru of any kind (although I’m sure they would like to proclaim they are), this was just a Saturday night sofa chat with my love.

We have been taught that negative thoughts, scary thoughts, dark thoughts are wrong. That it means we’re unwell and we need to get fixed if we are experiencing them. When we feel alone, unwanted, and inadequate we are labelled with medical conditions and judged on the severity of these emotions by surveys. Our emotions become quantifiable and objective, and a lack of consideration is given to how the labels themselves make it harder for people to feel better.

We get asked “what’s wrong” when we’re down as if it’s incorrect or unacceptable to be anything but pleasant, happy and social. “What’s wrong with you? Is something wrong?…” the questions themselves position you to to think there is something not right if you feel negative. It alienates negative emotions, making them problems in themselves in need of fixing and making right. What’s actually wrong is that we aren’t taught that negative emotions are normal and acceptable – they are positioned as problems in need of addressing. We aren’t taught how to deal with them, process them in a healthy way and accept them without judgement as part of daily life. Instead, we are left blaming ourselves for simply feeling these things – why am I feeling this way? Why can’t I make it stop? What’s wrong with me? Yet when we reflect on our experiences to this point, it’s often clear why we feel this way. Why we got here. There is a reason why we feel sad or isolated or not good enough.

The past few years have been tough on most people living through a pandemic, let alone with the personal challenges everyone has undoubtedly faced on top. The pressure to always put on a front in order to appear okay is a weight that we shouldn’t have to carry. People should be allowed to experience negative emotions without it being problematised.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to feel emotions that aren’t pleasant. Feeling negative doesn’t make us broken. It makes us human. Too many people beat themselves up when they’re down, rather than accepting that negative emotions are okay and normal, just as positive feelings are. Like the rise and fall of a tide, our feelings are fluid and change.

I was left feeling inadequate when my medication didn’t work and I would continue to spiral with no signs of improvement. I’d knock myself down further, and the self-deprication only made it harder to see the light. But when I stop and think about all the things I had experienced up to this point, it made sense why I was feeling down. The emotional response I was having was understandable and even, made sense given the context. Even if I was experiencing these feelings longer or more deeply than others might, that is because people are different and we don’t necessarily process things in the same way.

Fundamentally, life is challenging enough without us beating ourselves down for simply feeling things. Whether we criticise ourselves for not understanding why we are feeling this way or we are frustrated with not being able to process emotions at the speed we would like, sometimes we just need to accept that how we are feeling is not okay and that’s okay. Criticising ourselves over these emotions further won’t help anybody.

I understand that medications and therapy can help, this is certainly not to say acceptance is a cure for depression, but rather I wanted to try and highlight the importance of being patient and compassionate with yourself when you are feeling down. Don’t be critical of yourself for being human.

While this conversation helped me, I know that this is only one perspective and this is purely one expression of a woman…

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