“It really is OK to struggle.”
It has been a thought which has been going around – the spaghetti junction thought highway which is – in my brain for some time now.
Well I say that it is a thought, but to be honest it kind of yoyo’s between a thought and a consideration. Leaping into a possible conclusion one minute and then crashing into a deeply serious and concerned question the next. Do you ever notice how such ‘deeply serious and concerned questions often take on the feel – even the familiar vocal tones and inflections of authority figures from your childhood? Or is that just me? LOL.
But I digress. So yes this one has been circling around inside my brain (and if I am totally honest my heart) for some time now.
And I can’t help wondering if poor old Mini Mental Me (pictured left) – he who is the keeper and filing clerk of all my thoughts – isn’t just about frazzled with this one by now.
You see different folk, most of whom really are so very well intentioned, have different ideas about this one, don’t they? Especially if, like me, you are a Christian and especially, like in my case, those ‘folk’ are also Christian.
In which case you tend to get a very specific and peculiar brand of responses and opinions on this particular subject.
“No, struggling means that you are not trusting.” is one response I have heard a number of times.
“You aren’t letting go of something if you are struggling with it.” Is another supposed pearl I have often been offered. And I have to be honest here, I have mixed opinions as to both the validity and the usefulness of such responses – especially when it comes to mental health and mental illness.
And of course the whole “It really is OK to struggle” consideration gives light – well to the observant amongst us at least – to the fact that I really am struggling at the moment. The lesser observant amongst us – along with the too busy or too easily fooled among us – get thrown by the mask I feel the need to apply whenever in public or in company.
But masks get sticky and sweaty and uncomfortable and heavy don’t they? And so behind closed doors, in the solitude of our own homes, we tend to take them off, don’t we? And besides, perhaps keeping the mask on – even though seemingly essential at times – is a dangerous thing to do.
See I understand the concepts and thought processes, even the – often erroneously applied – scriptural instructions behind such opinions that I mentioned above. But where the struggle is – even if only in part – as a result of mental health issues or mental illness they belong on the ‘best not expressed pile’.
You see, on Tuesday last I did something different. I let my guard down (removed the mask a little) whilst at the Psychiatrist. Something which – I have to be honest here – I don’t usually do. And the psychiatrist – who was someone I hadn’t seen before, (Here in Ireland you seldom see the same psychiatrist each time) was really caring and really compassionate. And what is more he actually took time to listen and to communicate – which again is in itself a rare thing here – due to the pressure of demand that they are under.
And that simple act of kindness – that caring and compassion – has made the mask feel somewhat uneasy to reapply. So much so that in a totally unrelated conversation with someone from church I even let my mask down and admitted the fact that I was struggling to them. And now – and again let’s be honest here – here I am sat writing a blog post on my personal blog when I haven’t posted on here for some months now.
You see struggling doesn’t have to demonstrate or to be perceived as a sign of weakness. On the contrary, in fact. Sometimes, and I cannot express this too clearly or too firmly here, it is a sign of strength and of perseverance. Especially when it comes to mental illness and mental health related issues.
Yes I am struggling and yes – when the mask comes off and when the doors are closed and when solitude and I keep each other silent company within the echoes of the thoughts and voices – it is sometimes difficult to see any point in going on, or to actually connect with, take ownership of, feel validated in accepting and assigning to yourself, the reasons to go on. But this is nothing new and this has been the case for a good many years now and this is a part of my mental health and this does demonstrate perseverance.
And yet here’s the deal about perseverance. It is an indicator of what you have been through and in many cases still are going through. It is a guarantee that you have made it this far. BUT – and this really is important here – whilst it may be a guarantee that you have made it this far and may well be an encouragement to go on it is by no means a guarantee that you will go on.
I need to act! To take decisive steps to enable that ‘going on’, that continued perseverance. And yes, to be honest, at this point, continuing perseverance is all I can even imagine being able to achieve, and even that seems a somewhat distant hope.
Over the past few weeks my strength, my resolve, has weakened and even at times – especially just recently – taken a battering. And at the same time those harmful, those sabotaging thoughts and voices have increased and intensified. Even my kids, and those closest to me, have asked if there is something wrong or if I am upset with them.
Old harmful temptations echo from the past yearning to get reacquainted. Exit strategies – how’s that for a nice simple oh-so-modern and socially acceptable term or face for something oh so dangerous and sinister – seem even more appealing.
And yet still I know that I am not intended to face this alone or to struggle alone in all this – except that is the other – often unnoticed – side of masks, isn’t it? They not only fool others and prevent others from getting in and hurting you. They also fool yourself into stopping others from getting in and helping you. And they most definitely add to and at times create a false and negative or harmful perception of yourself.
As the title and my earlier comments tell you. I am convinced that “It really is OK to struggle.” but it is most definitely not OK, most definitely not advisable to struggle alone. And trust me, when it comes to mental illness and mental health issues, even your faith and that absolute belief that God will never let you down is somehow clouded from your view.
And yet can I truly allow myself to allow others to draw me out from what can – if I cut all the sugar frosted coating – only be recognised as the oh so old, oh so familiar “me, myself and die” mindset that has somehow secretly become such a part of me?
Somehow I have to.
So yes, “It really is OK to struggle.” but…