Sometimes everything seems to be going well in our lives… except our mental health. It can stir up all kinds of feelings and thoughts. We might not understand it. Perhaps we feel guilty, disappointed, discouraged, and deeply ashamed. But there is nothing to be ashamed of. Poor mental health and mental illness can happen to anyone at any time.
misconceptions about mental health
There is a big misconception that if we have a ‘good’ life, we cannot experience poor mental health. It’s not like this. Our physical health can be down, even though we just got a new job, are in a stable relationship, and love where we live. So can our mental health.
As is the case with any condition, certain things can increase our risk of experiencing poor mental health, but some of us are diagnosed with a mental illness despite having few or no identifiable risk factors.
how it feels
It can be incredibly frustrating to feel like crap when everything around us seems to be good. We can feel guilty for our naive feelings when life is ‘good’ and others are ‘worse’.
Guilt, self-loathing and self-stigma can keep us from telling someone how we feel. We feel very lonely.
We worry about people judging us because we have no ‘right’ to feel so bad when things are so ‘good’. So we sit in our car until we pull it together on our lunch break. Plaster on smiles in front of our kids. Swallow our tears before a friend can pick up the phone. Usually, we keep our feelings to ourselves, pretending we’re fine when we really feel anything.
Some of us are very effective at the “Squish It” technique… for a while.
If something happens that makes us feel bad, instead of dealing with it, we bury it inside and try to forget it. Unfortunately, when our ability to cope is exceeded, things begin to unfold and we cannot ignore it.
It may seem depressing that there are things affecting our mental health that we thought we’d ‘sorted’ out of. But trying to ignore difficult things usually doesn’t work as a permanent solution. It may work temporarily, but at some point, we may need to work through these tangled things, and we may need support for that.
Mental Health Effects of Delayed Processing
We don’t process everything at the same speed. Some of us react immediately. Others need more time.
We may have processing traffic jams, especially if we have encountered complex and/or many difficult situations in quick succession. It can take time to process everything that has happened to us. What people have said, what we have to do, decisions we have to make, times we have to be brave, and any kind of impact of difficult situations.
Processing can become almost a background buzzword. As this continues, there may be a decline in our mental health that appears to come out of the blue, but is actually related to the point we have reached in our processing traffic jams. Working through this can take time.
reach a safe place
There are times when we go through really tough things and seem totally fine, then get to a place where things are a little less tough, only to have our mental health take a beating. This may sound very sloppy.
We can think of it like being caught on a big hill in an unexpected storm. Each of us will react differently to this imaginary storm, but some of us ‘withstand’. We’ll be the ones motivating our team, creating an action plan, and getting everyone off the big hill into a warm, dry building. Only once safely in the building would we start shaking or crying.
Sometimes when we’re going through a tough time, we don’t feel safe enough to really feel our feelings or admit our situation. We just keep our heads down and work hard to make things better for ourselves. Once we feel safe enough to let our guard down a bit, our mental health tends to falter.
It may seem a bit counterintuitive. Bad times – able to cope, good times – barely prepared. But from an evolutionary point of view it makes complete sense. While we are fighting for the basics, all our energy needs to go into survival. Only once our basic needs are met are we able to focus our attention on our thoughts and feelings.
running on Empty
Some of us get so caught up in being busy and committed, that we rarely stop to check in with ourselves. This means that it isn’t until the faltering begins to affect our ability to function that we begin to falter in our mental health.
When we are completely exhausted, whether we enjoy the things that are exhausting us or not, it is difficult to maintain positive mental health. We may start to feel irritable, cry more often, feel more ‘on edge’ and as though we are less able to cope with small issues than we would like.
To begin to figure it out, it helps to start with a fairly clear picture of where we are. How much are we currently making? how does it look like? Taking it out on a weekly plan can help. We might want to add something to this in a few weeks. When we first write it down, we can forget things because we are so used to doing them.
Seeing a standard week written out in front of us can help us assess whether we are really too busy and, if we are, whether we can start reducing some commitments. Letting go of commitments can seem daunting, but sometimes we don’t have to stop doing things, just adjust how we do them. For example, can we reduce our taxi duties by car sharing to and from our kids’ different clubs? Can we reduce the admin associated with my volunteer role? Could we pay a cleaner to pop by one morning a week, freeing us up to spend time with our families and not elbows deep in soapy water?
Rebalancing our time can sometimes help get our mental health back on track.
“Going Well” Doesn’t Match Our Values
“Running well” is subjective. It means different things to different people.
While one person might define “going well” as having 2.4 kids, a dog, a semi-detached home, and a well-paying job, others define “going well” as consistently meeting our basic needs. Can be defined as being able to do.
None of us grow in a vacuum. We are all taught from an early age the definition of “well run”. It’s often a combination of family expectations, knowledge from friends, things we’ve learned from our education system, and things we’ve learned from our community.
As we grow up, we develop our own opinions, identities, and belief systems. It can take a lot of unpicking and thorough work to shed the weight of expectations and tap into our personal values buried deep below. Our current state of “doing well” may be very far from our personal values. It can leave us feeling disjointed, disconnected, and kind of “off”.
Talking to others, writing, reading, journaling, drawing, contemplating, ‘thinking walks’, listening and tuning into the things that feel ‘okay’ and those that don’t all help us reconnect. can help define who we are, what we want, and what “good” means to us.
depression of poor mental health
One of the particularly difficult aspects of experiencing poor mental health is that it can foster feelings of hopelessness when other areas of our lives are going well.
When things are going wrong, there is something we can blame our poor mental health for. Some we can blame. Something we can point to and say ‘that’s it, that’s why’. The bad stuff is bullshit, but at least it gives us a focus. At least it looks like there’s something concrete we can work on.
When all is going well… where does this leave us?
This can seem depressing, especially if we’ve worked hard to get to where we are and think we’ll feel better once we’ve more or less sorted through all that ‘stuff’. Sometimes, this can spiral to suicidal thoughts, because if we can’t put our finger on a specific issue that we can ‘fix’, it can feel like we’re doomed to feel like crap forever. cursed for.
It is so important that we have support when we feel down. Firstly, because no one should have to face such horrible feelings alone. But secondly, our loved ones or professionals may be able to find things that we do not have. They may have ideas about things we can try. If not, at least they can be with us until things get better.
We deserve support no matter what our situation
Whatever our situation, no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable we have experienced life so far, we deserve support.
There is no discrimination between poor mental health and mental illness. So, neither should we. No one has the right to judge us for struggling, no matter what our situation, and that includes judging ourselves. We deserve to feel supported. We deserve to feel okay. Help is available. we are not alone.
Please help us by helping others and sharing this post, you never know who might need it.