Images such as this one (or certainly people seeing this kind of Ostrich behaviour) are probably what gave rise to the saying “Stop burying (or don’t bury) your head in the sand.” and refers to the habit of ignoring oncoming troubles or deliberately not seeing warning or danger signs.
And, as far as I understand it, the saying was first recorded by Pliny the Elder (a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher AD 23 – AD 79) and it is believed that folk saw ostriches burying their head in the sand (or in bushes) and thought they were doing so in order to try and hide from or avoid danger.
Actually it is a myth. Ostriches do not bury their head in the sand (or bushes) for this reason but do so instead in order to find food or to dig a place for their eggs.
But whilst Ostriches burying their head in the sand to avoid or ignore the warning or danger signs may be a myth, the fact is that people doing it is not so much of a myth.
Sometimes hose of us who suffer from mental illness or poor mental health (in terms of that saying) can be the Ostrich can’t we?
And certainly we are not alone in this. The temptation to avoid or to ignore warning or danger signs is not unique to those of us with mental health challenges. But I do wonder if the presence of mental illness or poor mental health can increase our tendency to do this? And from that comes the question, “Do we sometimes wrongly allow our mental health issues, or our mental illnesses, to become a justification for not attempting things or facing things which actually with just a little more effort we really could have faced?”
It is for me an interesting question. In this context – if I am the Ostrich, are there times when my poor mental health or my mental illness becomes the sand?”
And not only is it a very interesting question but I believe that it is also a very difficult question. Because just as I am sure there have been times when I have actually used my mental health issues as an excuse to not attempt or face something which I could have done or faced. There have also been numerous times when I have attempted or faced stuff which I really should not have.
And that is one of the problems with mental illness and poor mental health. Some things can be a veritable minefield one day and a chance for personal victory another day. And knowing which is which can be very difficult. And sometimes we face things believing we are up to the challenge and within a few moments of having done so realise that it really was too much and we really should have avoided it.
And that is also the challenge for those who love us and support us through this. Because if we can’t always know (or tell) the difference, how then can we blame them when they can’t tell either?
But here’s the deal, and there really isn’t any way around this one…
How do we know that Ostriches don’t bury their head in the sand to avoid danger? Because doing so for any prolonged period of time would kill them as they wouldn’t be able to breathe. And the same – metaphorically speaking – is the same for us. We cannot – if we actually want to live, if we actually want to grow and to have any quality of life – afford to bury our heads in the sand.
Yes, we need to watch and to learn and to identify what are potential minefields for us. But we need to do so knowing that minefields are always impenetrable, some can be negotiated with the right approach and with the right care, guidance and support.