This is an open letter from me to anybody suffering from mental health issues. I know the road is long and lonely, and it is hard to find comfort along the way, but I hope this message will serve as an important reminder of two things.
Firstly, you are never alone and secondly, there is hope of healing and happiness for every single one of us. Here is a list of things I want you to know, and deeply believe.
1. You are NOT a weak person; every single person on this planet is susceptible to the kind of pain you are experiencing. Nobody tells people they are weak if they are hurting because they broke a leg or fractured an arm, this is no different. Just because your pain is less visible, that doesn’t make it less real. It takes immeasurable strength to find optimism, hope and self-belief amidst an ocean of negative thoughts, anxiety and fear. You are really strong, don’t ever forget it.
2. You are a good person, I promise. It’s hard to be our best selves when we feel constant anxiety, stress, fear of the future or anger and frustration at circumstances and emotions which we feel powerless to change. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming that it is hard to be patient, kind or considerate to others because we are having such a hard time being compassionate to the most desperate parts of ourselves.
You are not a bad person – you are going through a hard time and trying to make the best of it. It’s ok that you aren’t perfect all the time, it’s ok if you got angry, it’s ok if you were short-tempered, and it’s ok if you didn’t have the energy to be happy around other people or to sound enthusiastic simply because you felt sad. Offer yourself some compassion and understanding. Good people sometimes make mistakes, so what? That does not make you bad, you are still fundamentally good and everybody who knows you is sure of this.
3. It’s perfectly ok to ask for help or to express your vulnerability. It is ok to accept that you haven’t figured this out; in fact it takes tremendous courage to be so honest. The world has a history of labeling differences as disabilities – don’t give into that stigma – challenge it, confront it, disprove it. Never shy away from seeking out the knowledge and resources that will help you to feel better.
It is your right, and never ever shy away from being vocal about your experiences and your emotions, you make it ok for everybody else around you to do the same. Honesty and vulnerability of two of the greatest gifts we can offer the world, we liberate everybody around us to do the same.
4. Some people (including people you love and who love you very much) will not know how to help you. It is important to accept that. Everybody has different life experiences; everybody has a different threshold for offering emotional support. I honestly and wholeheartedly believe everybody is being as good as they can be with whatever inner resources they have at that moment in time. Some people simply can’t empathize with what you are going through, though they may sympathize. That is ok – let it be and love them anyway. There are other people around you that will get it and will want to support you.
5. You are going to develop an intense appreciation for the good times in life; you’ll know the real value of happiness when it comes because you will have endured the heartache of its long absence. Things in life come in twos, I really believe that. You can’t experience pain without an increased capacity for joy and gratitude. This will be your victory.
6. I know sometimes the battle feels pointless or overwhelming or even lost. Most of all, I want you to know that you are going to win. I promise you. Every difficult experience is an opportunity to redefine yourself. I’m not saying you have to become an acclaimed writer or a world famous artist, or an actress or a motivational speaker or anything. You simply have to commit to building a better you – a stronger you, a more empathetic you, a more loving you, a more grateful you, a more resilient you. The list is endless because you get to write it.
Life is like a sand castle – its destruction is inevitable because no matter how hard you try oceans will have tides, repeatedly. It may sound pessimistic – but it’s’ not.
Once we accept pain is an inevitable part of the human experience we get to decide what we use it for. That is empowering.
You learn that sand castles are knocked down over and over again, but we get to build them a little different every time, we get to build them with different people, or base them on different parts of ourselves. They change as we do. And in time we learn to love the building of sand castles more than we love the admiring of them. You will learn to love the process of building your life up again and again and again and that is winning. Why? – Because you will understand that life is ultimately made up of those moments when we turned pain into art.
You are your artwork, and all the best pieces are never finished.