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World Mental Health Day…What if there is no Happy Ending?

Today is World Mental Health Day.

If you are like me, you read that statement, and immediately you think of those in your life who live with diagnosable mental health issues, anxiety, depression, bi-polar, or schizophrenia.  But truthfully we all need to be showing up for our mental health each and every day. This isn’t just about recognizing mental health disorders this is about prioritizing the emotional and spiritual experiences in our lives.

Unfortunately, there is so much bias around mental health.

Advice runs rampant on how to FEEL better.

We should:

  • change our thoughts,
  • chose happy,
  • think positive,
  • be grateful,
  • count our blessing,
  • soldier on,
  • pull ourselves up by our bootstraps,
  • get a massage,
  • take a bubble bath,

Basically, snap out of it.

The stigma that exists around mental health is that you SHOULD be able to heal yourself. You SHOULD be able to feel better. And if you can’t you are a weak person.

That is why this day is about MORE than just bringing awareness for those living with a diagnosable mental health disorder. I believe we are in the middle of a reckoning when it comes to mental health.

As I write this post, I keep thinking about a recent interaction with a client. He leaned back in his chair and said to me, “What if there is no happy ending? What if all my life I have been trying to make sure there is a happy ending and there just isn’t one?.”

I paused and took in the enormity of what he had just said. I knew right where he was. I knew that feeling. I could remember having that same dreadful ah-ha while sitting in my therapist’s office.

At the end of the session, I said, “Trust me that realization is so jarring and painful, but I also want you to look at it from another perspective. What if that thought is actually freeing? What if that means you can stop hustling, reframing, pretending, changing your thoughts and changing your vibrations all the time? What if you could just be whatever you are without always trying to find the happy ending?”

What if there is no happy ending?

I believe that our constant chase for the happy ending is at the crux of our stigma around mental health.

The belief is we SHOULD be feeling happy and if we aren’t something is wrong with us, and we had better be trying our hardest to be happy.

And if that doesn’t work well THEN, you can try a therapist or worse medication (gasp!!)  but don’t tell anyone about your struggle. Don’t share it because then THEY will know that you aren’t happy.

Because what we are really saying as a society is we don’t want to see your pain.  We don’t have time for it. We don’t have the patience for it. Pain gets in the way of productivity. Pain is messy. Pain is out of control.

But pain? Real pain? That means you are living life. That means you are risking, feeling, trying, loving and living.

We treat happy as if it is a gold star prize that if we work hard enough, hustle enough or strive enough we will achieve. As if HAPPY was the be all end all for our lives. Happy is just one of many other emotions we feel in a day along with sad, angry, joy, fear, insecurity, and doubt. As we live our day to day lives, we feel ALL of those emotions.

It is when we get stuck on the happy ending than our mental health goes out the window. Depression and anxiety are hard enough but when the world is cramming our minds with the idea that we HAVE to be happy and it is an easy 1-2-3 step to get there we are in trouble.

We judge those who struggle with mental health issues because THEY haven’t found the way to find their permanent happy ending. When in reality we are all deluding ourselves that a happy ending actually exists.

There is no happy ending, but there is a wide range of feelings. Today alone I have felt happiness in talking with a new friend, doubt and insecurity in the issues we talked about, fear in some of the ways she challenged me, sadness over some physical health issues I have been having and joy in finding a new podcast that I can listen to. All of that before noon!!!!

That whole experience and those wide range of emotions allow me to live a more present and connected life because I am present for ALL of those emotions. I am not trying to design and hustle my life to make it look happier or feel happier I am just living my life, and all the messy thoughts and emotions that come with it.

To me world mental health day is more than just bringing awareness to those in our lives who deal with diagnosed mental health issues. It is a day to recognize that mental health is something we all need to take seriously. Feeling our emotions, not running from pain, admitting our fears and doubts, showing our vulnerabilities….those things WILL help us live happier, richer fuller lives. Recognizing that we aren’t just trying to get the gold star of happy but we are trying to build a whole life.

A life that includes: risking, loving, striving, resting, being irrational, crying, laughing, wanting to throw something, needing a hug, not being able to leave the couch, walking through the forest, kissing, picking flowers, seeing a long lost friend, missing a loved one, nursing a broken heart, unexplainably crying, laughing so hard you pee your pants, meeting your best friend for happy hour, sharing a joke with your brother, greeting friends at your parent’s funeral, sending a card to a friend for no reason, swimming on a hot day and on and on and on.

So as I said to my client. There is no happy ending. What there is a rich, vibrant, challenging tapestry of life events and emotions and the only way to experience that is if we take care of our mental health and stop trying to create happy 100% of the time.