2020 wasn’t the greatest of years. It’s had its moments, though, such as helping me better understand my vulnerabilities and how they relate to my mental health.
What do I mean by being vulnerable? The Urban Dictionary defines vulnerability as being open about our thoughts and feelings. Some examples of what it means to be vulnerable concerning your mental health?
- How our loved ones will react to us opening up about our mental health challenges and if they’ll still care about us.
- Admitting you feel powerless and reaching your rock bottom or feel hopeless.
- Taking medication for a mental illness or going to therapy for the first time.
I remember the first time I felt like this at my first NA meeting when I said, “My name is Sandy, and I’m an addict.” It was the most challenging moment in my life. What I did not realize at the time was even though it was one of my weakest moments, it was also one of my most defining moments because it put me on a path of discovering myself. I’m going to tell you why our weakest moments have the potential to strengthen you more than you thought possible.
Here are the three hardest but biggest lessons my vulnerabilities have taught me about myself and how I approach my recovery and mental health.
1. Even though it’s scary, acknowledging one’s vulnerabilities is a sign of resilience when you recognize those things.
According to the American psychological association, the definition of resilience is a person’s ability to adapt in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant stress sources.
Things such as family and relationship problems, health problems, and workplace and financial stressors are often seen as a flaw or weakness. In reality, they aren’t a weakness; they are a part of being human.
What makes them scary is when a person wants to open up about their grief, trauma, addiction or anything else related to their mental health. It can feel overwhelming and terrifying because you don’t know how the people around you might react when you need support for your mental health.
I know this is a big reason why I spent so much time choosing to suffer in silence over seeking professional support for my diagnosis and substance abuse issues. After being clean for a few years and going back to school to empower others in their mental health journey, I realized this simple thing.
Getting help for your mental health is one of the most courageous things people can do for their mental health. When you take these steps and learn to see past the stigma and self-loathing, your showing strength even though it may not feel that way.
Being open about your mental health challenges is a vital part of the recovery journey.
2. My vulnerabilities helped me become more confident when speaking about my mental health challenges.
When I first started being honest with myself about how I related to my mental health. I thought of acceptance as giving up and felt powerless over my various struggles and how I relate to my past traumas.
People don’t realize talking about your mental health isn’t easy. I’d be up for nights terrified about how people would respond to my openness.
Opening up about things you’ve experienced or currently experiencing, such as grief, loss, trauma, or a mental health diagnosis, helps you take the proper steps for learning to communicate your emotional and psychological needs.
Taking the time to acknowledge those things helps us cope with them, even though it may take time to understand them. Eventually, you’ll get to a point where you feel uncomfortable not talking about your mental health challenges, and that takes guts.
So be proud and loud and become your most prominent mental health advocate. While keeping the next lesson in mind, I learned about being vulnerable and your mental health.
3. The unfortunate thing is not everyone will get you, so it’s essential to focus on the things and people who matter.
When telling people I’m an addict and in recovery or diagnosed with GAD and ADHD, I’ve had many negative responses.
These past responses have made it difficult to maintain individual relationships because people can be assholes, to be blunt. When I first started to write and advocate for others, one of my so-called closest friends told me it was annoying and people were sick of the changes I’d made in my life.
Did it hurt? Yes, it did, but it didn’t stop me from making my life better, writing, or advocating for others to help them find their voice.
I get how the above example can sound negative. Still, it taught me that I had support from unexpected places and people, and I’ve developed healthier relationships and value those friendships.
Now I have a healthier understanding of what relationships are, and most importantly, I’m able to relate and communicate with myself better and more compassionately.
How do the above things help us take a better approach to this challenging topic?
Acknowledging your vulnerabilities empowers you to choose how you own your grief, traumas, fears, anxieties, and many more things—not by taking away your worries, stress, diagnosis, or other challenging feelings and thoughts or using avoidance and other unhelpful skills.
Instead, acknowledging our vulnerabilities empowers us to understand our thoughts and feelings and even though those things aren’t easy. When we recognize those things, we learn to pick how we define and relate to them, and that may not seem like much, but it’s one of the most empowering things you’ll do for your mental health.
“Courage is born out of vulnerability, not strength.” Brené Brown