Why I Talk About My Mental Health Publicly.
I speak and post on a somewhat regular basis about my mental health in public forums. On Dec. 15th I wrote a status update on Facebook, “see it now with its foul stench, oozing black skin, rapacious talons. depression, a dark and vicious wraith, pulls down upon my soul…”
I don’t make these sort of dark and pained posts a daily habit, but you will see them occasionally as my status updates, read blurbs about them in my emails, and even hear me speak of them from the pulpit on a Sunday morning.
I’d like to take a few moments to explain why I have chosen to share these struggles so publicly…
It Isn’t Easy…
It isn’t because it is easier to share my struggles. In fact, the older I grow and the more responsibilities I assume – at work, at church, in the community – the less I want to be open about my struggles with others. I know there are people who judge me weak for my struggles – and that when I share them they question my ability to work or to lead. It would be easier to just clam up and pretend I wasn’t struggling – to keep my struggles silent.
For the Weak…
Yet I recognize that there are many who are weak and struggling who need permission to acknowledge their own weakness. There are many with deep inner turmoils who feel hopeless, lost, isolated, and judged…and unless someone stands up and says, “I will not be ruled by anyone’s judgments of my spirituality and ability” they will remain quiet.
For the Judgmental…
At the same time, I also know that many of those who bring the harshest judgments and incur the most guilt and disdain upon the weak and suffering are those who are most weak and suffering themselves. Oftentimes they are not even cognizant of their own weakness. Everyone else can see the flaws in their character, the weaknesses in their constitution – but they themselves are blinded, unwilling to see weakness within, choosing to highlight that which is without.
So, it is necessary to stand against them. Not against them, but against this idea – this floating conception which we all partake in, this ballroom masquerade We must stop pretending we are superhuman and instead acknowledge and wrestle with our humanity.
In the Moment…
At times I have thought about moving to a past tense form of sharing. It is true I have struggled with x, y, and z in the past and I can share with you my victory over them…but this is only a half-truth. Surely, I have learned much about conquering and resisting and coping with my weaknesses over the years and I have had many victories and many defeats.
Yet, the truth is, I still struggle. Some days are good and some days are bad. Sure, I can act as if everything is okay and you won’t know. Us OCD folks are renowned for that – our ability to perform rituals for hours each day, to suffer extreme internal mental anguish, and yet to go on functioning as if life is normal – with no one knowing any better.
I was not weak in the past – I am weak now. So, I continue to share that I am weak now…and I assume when you hear me preach you know that I speak the truth as best as I am able while recognizing that every truth I am also wrestling to make true in my own life.
[Note: I have written a second page as well which contains a few caveats and delves into some important miscellany. Look below the footnotes below for the link to page 2.]
- I call these weak b/c I am weak. I would suggest we are all weak…and if we don’t recognize it, perhaps we have some self-reflection to do. :)↩
- At the same time, I do not want to portray myself as some hero. I know the difference it made in my life that others spoke openly about their struggles – and so I imitate them. On the other hand, I know also that revelation of my own struggles sometimes secure me understanding and wiggle room that would not be given if I simply kept these struggles internalized. Admitting our weakness provides a certain freedom to fail which can become pathological. I struggle to maintain a balance, to share my weakness for the right reasons, and to recognize when I have walked down the wrong path.↩
- And if you agree with me on this statement, then you must examine your own heart – as I am examining mine – for the truth is as we say these truth we may fall into the same hypocrisy and judgment that we disdain in others.↩
- Thank you Thousand Foot Krutch.↩