RSVP: Maybe Weekly Recap, Silent Suffering.

On this week's episode of RSVP: Maybe

Brooke and I tackled the topic of mental health. With last week being National Suicide Awareness week, we wanted to talk about how there are so many people out there suffering in silence with no clue on how to address the issues they’re facing.

One of the things that Brooke highlighted, which I thought was so important, was the fact that we have a tendency to minimize our discomfort.

I’m sure you’ve been there. You’re having a rough day; you’re exhausted and out of it. Your mental illness is wreaking havoc, making it difficult to even function. Yet when someone asks if you’re ok, you force yourself to smile and reassure them you’re fine.

Your eyes are puffy from crying. Yet, instead of being honest about how you’re feeling, you force yourself to smile and make a half-hearted joke about allergies and it being that time of year.

We know when things are bad. We can usually see when our functionality begins to slip. Yet, instead of being honest with those around us, more often than not, we minimize our struggles or even outright lie about their existence.

We might isolate ourselves and make excuses about being busy with life. We avoid friends and family so they don’t see how bad things really are. We downplay the severity of our condition as if we’re doing other people, or ourselves, an enormous favor by shielding them from the truth.

So many times every day, in virtually every interaction we have with others, we minimize our illness and its effect on our life, supposedly for the comfort of others. We have so many reasons for doing this. Maybe we don’t want to put our drama on anyone else. Maybe we don’t want others to worry. Maybe we don’t want to be a burden. Maybe we don’t want to be accused of being an attention-seeker or throwing a “pity party.” Maybe we don’t have the words to adequately explain what is going on inside us or just plain don’t want to talk about it. Whatever our reasoning, we press our lips into a fake, forced smile, pretending things aren’t all that bad, and we lie.

We say we’re okay even when we know that we’re not. We claim that we’re hanging in there, doing our best to stay positive and keep going, acting as if there’s nothing to worry about even as our world feels like it is crumbling around us.

What good does lying or minimizing our struggles really do? We always wish others understood exactly what we are going through, but how is anyone supposed to ever understand or empathize if we keep hiding the harsh reality of the situation from them?

We aren’t doing ourselves any favors by hiding how we are doing from those who care about us. If they care and are trying to be there, they deserve the truth, and not some watered-down version of it – the whole, unadulterated, ugly truth.

Will our honesty make other people uncomfortable? Probably. But let’s be honest, mental illness isn't usually pretty. It’s often dark and scary. But it’s real. And reality can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow. But the truth is the truth, and as the saying goes, the truth can set you free.

The hardest part of fixing a problem is acknowledging its existence. We have to stop making it seem like it’s not okay to not be okay. You deserve so much more than to suffer quietly and alone. -Anna

Adding onto what Anna was sharing, for me, the important thing this episode highlighted is that none of us are fine, and learning to be ok with that is just the beginning of the healing journey. We are all struggling with something, whether anxiety, trauma, depression, addiction, or all of the above. As humans, we see the exterior of something and perceive that to be the reality when the truth is that’s just the image most people would like us to see. The most important part of stigma and shame that goes along with mental health issues is the toxic positivity portion of our discussion. The idea that you just have to take a deep breath and feel positive about life and it will be so…. Not only does that not work for most of our population it’s downright dangerous to share on platforms with the masses.

Is it a nice thing to want to help others on a large platform, absolutely? Is it a nice thing to want to share some tools that have helped you calm down anxiety or fear or sadness, absolutely? What is not ok is not adding the disclaimer that this worked for me and it’s not intended to cure or help everyone. The idea of sharing helpful tips and thoughtful processes you do to help improve your quality of life is by nature a genuinely nice thing to do, I’m not discussing the intention behind posts like the one Anna discusses in our episode. I’m discussing the reality of the toxicity that comes from them. Not only does this make mentally ill people feel like something is wrong with them because they can’t remind themselves in a panic attack that this is only temporary, but, other people are capable of doing it and it works to calm them down. It adds to the already low self-worth most of the silent suffering feel.

The other part of these posts is people who don’t struggle with mental health see something like that and say to someone suffering, why don't you just do that and it will be better or go for walk and think of that next time your anxiety spikes. It adds fuel to the misinformation and confusion those who don’t suffer from mental illness or love a mentally ill person already display on the daily. Insensitive comments are flung around because it’s an invisible illness that doesn’t have treatment protocol like cancer everyone can see the struggle. I write this not to shame anyone but, to bring an awareness that while we are all suffering from something, the severity at which we are suffering varies greatly and hold space for someone who has the courage to say I’m depressed and my life feels out of control because of it without trying to fix it is the most powerful response any of us can provide. Just sitting in the darkness with someone and letting them know they are not alone costs nothing and allows that person to share with you the pain they have been carrying without diminishing it and that starts the path to set themselves free.

If you are struggling, or know someone struggling please reach out to someone for help, whether a therapist or clergyman, friend, mentor, or hotline. Please don’t continue to bear the burden alone.

If you liked the episode or enjoyed the blog please take a second to leave a review or pass it along to someone who you think it would help!

Until next week,

Brooke & Anna

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