Over the past couple of years writing has become a place where I can self analyze. It is a hub for contemplation, and has helped me reflect on my hopes, plans, process, and thoughts. So far, this form of reflection has assisted in better self alignment, aiding the process of making decisions based on values, and not simply from how I may feel at any given point in time. I’ve found a lot of benefit from being open with myself through writing, and this act alone has helped to present me with a variety of unexpected opportunities to connect with others in a similar way. Quite likely the most unexpected side effect of my blog has been the outpouring of vulnerability that people in my life tend to reciprocate. The more I have chosen to share my stories, the more others have chosen to share theirs with me. I love having the opportunity to engage in deep and meaningful conversations with people in general, and this has quickly become one of my favourite aspects of my website. Vulnerability truly is infectious. Through all the interpersonal learning I have done in recent years, I can compile the material into one simple fact: that everyone experiences their own form of struggle.
2018 is a pretty crazy time to be alive. We are living at the forefront of technology, families are changing everywhere, and humanity as a whole is attempting to adapt to these changes as fast as we can. In truth, we haven’t caught up to the pace of our own creation. We are simultaneously more connected than ever, while being the most lonely generation in history. Social networks and many of these modern forms of association are methods of connection that lack authenticity. We don’t see the good and the bad, or hear the ups and downs of peoples stories. You know, the real stuff. We see and interact with a groomed image, where even words in messages are censored and managed. It is a trick on our human nature to be social, and leaves our brains craving a strange fix of chemicals that do our mind no good. We are small players in a society wide predicament, and the answer sure seems pretty damn obscure. I do not say this with the intention of cynicism, but to illuminate the reality that mental illness is all around us. This truly is a culture wide phenomenon, and nobody is alone.
I was recently speaking to a friend of mine about this topic while he was filling me in on a story of his own. From his perspective, many people who struggle with personal issues possess a complicated relationship with guilt and shame. They are keenly aware of their misdoings and misguidings, and these two forces create tension in their reality. The important thing to note is the significant difference between these two words. It was understanding this distinction that caused him to take massive action to adjust his mindset and behaviour. Guilt is the belief that we have made a bad choice. It is that sick feeling when we know an action is bad, and it is absolutely natural to experience. Shame on the other hand, is the judgement from these actions that we are simply a bad, troubled or inadequate person. Guilt has the potential to inspire change, learning, apology and forgiveness, while shame will inevitably lead to secrecy and escapism. Whether the escape is a person, a substance, a place or an activity, secrecy and escapism are two acts that simply grow and grow as we continue to indulge. They are self sabotaging forces that only serve to inhibit our growth, locking us in the starting gate of progress.
“YOU CAN’T HEAL WHAT YOU WILL NOT REVEAL” — JAY Z
Over the years, I myself have experienced my own set of challenges and deeply personal struggles. Perhaps they are the result of my parents divorce, perhaps they are from a past relationship or my childhood. Regardless of their source, I can admit that at times I have chosen to handle these issues in negative ways, opting for escapes and expedient solutions that I would later learn to be quite temporary. These crutches have and always will be nothing more than band-aid solutions, expanding the distance between myself and situations I would prefer.
Through conversation, observation and personal experience, I no longer believe the debate is about whether or not all people have their own form of personal issues and challenges. Between the topics of mental and physical health, family dynamics, and living conditions, nearly every individual is impacted in one way or another. We live in an era where this is nothing more than a simple reality. What is up for discussion however, is the approach we choose to utilize as we move forward with our lives. Are we going to be the kind of person who hides under the rock of comfort every time our issues flare up or are we going to make the choice to face them head on, with courage and vulnerability guiding our actions. I know this decision is not always easy, but it is an important one to consider. You are the only person who can take full responsibility for your circumstances. Realizing and acting on this is the true expression of self love.
Disclaimer: I was inspired to write this article after seeing a huge amount of people posting their stories during Bell Let’s Talk Day in Canada on January 31st of this year. I wrote this with the simple intention of shining a small light on the fact that mental illness, personal struggle and the like are not rare, unique, or in any way something to be ashamed of. We live in an era of overstimulation and these types of problems are much closer to the mean than to the outliers. In no way am I attempting to take away from the struggles of people with any form of truly debilitating conditions of their own.