For anyone who hasn’t been visiting my site, I have been going to counseling regularly for years. It’s funny that whenever people tell you they are working out or trying to eat better, nobody thinks much of that. The Perfect Body is one of those things that we are all supposed to strive for after all. Whether it is sex appeal and trying to attract a mate or being in peak physical condition and overcoming potential health problems which could shorten our lives, hitting the gym has almost no stigma in this country.
Nobody hardly says anything to someone who is going to church or practicing some sort of spiritual health regimen. People go door to door to convince you that their particular brand of spirituality will get you into shape so you don’t roast in the eternal fires or hell or something.
I have noticed that if you bring up your mental health, people get quiet. They walk wide of you. In my experience, it’s best to not talk openly about going to counseling or group therapy or because it makes people uncomfortable. As though you are some sort of fragile ticking time bomb from the Island of Broken Toys. Admiting you are medicated (or self-medicating) is more accepted. But jeez, what kind of person goes to a therapist and talks about the shit that is bothering them? That’s downright…creepy!
It’s just unnerving to think that someone who is obviously unhappy with their life gets a pass of drinking a couple big ass glasses of wine every night, or popping pills to help them sleep, or being on some kind of prescription. But mention you are talking through your problems and addressing your mental health concerns and all of a sudden they look at you like Riggs in Lethal Weapon. Or Renfeld in Dracula.
Because I have been doing the work, I will argue that if I come across something traumatic, I’m probably going to be more capable of handling it than a lot of folks. Why? Well, I’m building up coping strategies. I’m not weak. I’m someone who has been through some shit, and rather than let it beat me into the dust, I want to know how to deal with it when–yes WHEN–it happens again. Or hopefully how to recognize patterns in the behavior of others and shut that shit down before it becomes my problem.
So, today, one of my musings out loud was how even though I’ve been doing the work, and though I have had plenty of awful things to deal with in my past, my experience is only middle of the road awful compared to some. And those who have been through hell…they haven’t gotten help. They’ve gotten really good at masking their traumas, and unfortunately they just keep repeating old patterns, or stay in their comfort zones and never challenge themselves any further to upset that equilibrium–because change is hard. Challenging yourself is terrifying if you’ve lived your whole life in a foxhole, and if you pop your head up…BOOM.
I have moments where pushing that envelope is very hard and dealing with my shit makes me want to just…not. I can’t imagine what it must be like for someone who has done none of the work to go about their day. I mean, I’ve got tools in my toolbox. It just seems like if I didn’t, it would be like trying to loosen bolts on your car with your teeth instead of using a wrench.
Mental health is stigmatized in this country. It’s more acceptable for someone to have the fat sucked out of their ass and stuck in their lips than it is for someone to see a therapist every couple of weeks. It’s more acceptable to drink a gallon of whiskey every week than it is for someone to admit to a relative stranger that sometimes they are scared.
We wonder why suicide is a problem. Why drug addiction, alcoholism, mental/physical abuse, domestic violence, and all of it happen. Why it’s harder for someone to sit in a waiting room to tell a therapist what is bothering them than it is for someone to walk into a job everyday and answer that ubiquitous question of “How was your weekend?” and answer “Just great!” when they thought of ending their life the entire time.
Does shit rattle me sometimes? Absolutely. But I recover. I eventually find my Zen state of peace. I don’t run from the shadows anymore. I take them on. I’m still here, when a lot of people aren’t for much less than what I’ve been through. It’s no Red Badge of Courage. I wish none of us had to go through crap, but we do. It’s part of life.
I’m doing the damn work. One of my big fears, however, is wondering about the likelihood of meeting someone else who has been doing the work. Logistically speaking, people my age are single for a few reasons: either they were focused on a career and relationships weren’t a priority, or they had someone, they lost them, and either did the work to come to terms with that…or more than likely, they didn’t.
I guess that’s why God created Yellow Labs.
The crazy thing is though I do miss companionship, I don’t miss the games and bullshit people think comes with company. If the price of Peace is not getting a good morning text, it’s one I’m willing to pay. If that sounds bitter, I’m sorry. I’d rather have a deep connection than have my value quantified by whether or not somebody takes four seconds out of their day to text me.
I want the kind of person who I could sit with in silence as we drive and listen to the radio, and just from a squeeze of their hand, I know everything is good. The kind of person who it is a pleasure to go grocery shopping with. The sort of person I don’t feel like I have to hide from to keep the peace.