But for tonight I will turn to the ever-talented Brene Brown to help me through this post. In Rising Strong she writes, “We’ve all fallen, and we have the skinned knees and bruised hearts to prove it. But scars are easier to talk about than they are to show, with all the remembered feelings laid bare. And rarely do we see wounds that are in the process of healing. I’m not sure if it’s because we feel too much shame to let anyone see a process as intimate as overcoming hurt, or if it’s because even when we muster the courage to share our still-incomplete healing, people reflexively look away.” (pg. xxiv)
Though Brene Brown is more specifically talking of failure at this point, I think it applies beautifully to our societies’ deep-rooted fears of talking about mental health. We all have felt anxiety, panic, mania, depression, stress, being overwhelmed and many other negative emotions to some degree. In fact, while doing my undergrad I learned that the average adult will experience two depressive periods in a normal lifespan. But that is not a fact you hear much about unless you are in an adult development and aging class. Why? Well, we instinctively don’t like feeling negative emotions, perhaps don’t even like being reminded of feeling them. So when someone comes to us wanting to talk about intensely deep, hard, negative emotions our knee-jerk reaction is to pull away and look away. It is a natural habit.
However, I believe it is a habit that can be broken. I believe we can learn to steady ourselves and look. Look that person in the eye, hold that person’s hand or put our arm around them. I believe we can train ourselves to ask questions and gain perspective. I believe with some practice we can even train ourselves to imagine what it must be like and thereby act with more understanding and empathy. And for those of us battling, I believe we can develop the habit of sharing our “still-incomplete healing” -- despite encountering the occasional look-away instinct -- in the hopes that we might be able to help another feel a little less alone. I believe we as a society can learn to “suck it up” and talk about hard things. And most importantly I believe when we develop these new habits, we as a society will witness healing and hope for a brighter tomorrow.