“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.”
Mental wellness includes your self love, your self worth, your well-being, your happiness, your piece of mind, your self-esteem, your inner self-talk, your feelings, your emotions, and your soul, and your being. While your mental wellness is yours and yours alone, you are not alone. There are always resources present to help you if you ever want to improve your mental wellness or think you cannot tackle your problems alone.
MY BACKGROUND. Growing up, I had heard about self-esteem to some degree and was taught it was important to have good self-esteem. While I had heard about “stress,” I wasn’t really taught how to deal with stress or why too much stress can be bad for you. Most importantly, I wasn’t taught about the importance of my mental wellness or the necessity to monitor and preserve it. Up until my early 20s, I was never explicitly taught to take care of my mental wellness.
As a child, I prioritized being well-mannered. Especially in public. I lived primarily in the moment and embraced all of my emotions as they came. Whatever emotion that came my way, I expressed in the moment, as most children do. If I was every angry or upset, I could stifle my words but never my eyes. If I was in public, I was taught proper etiquette over all-else. I was never too argumentative, too pressing, too judgmental, or too much of anything. As a result, I felt as though I grew up without much of a voice and without an understanding of how to handle negative emotions or feelings other than to stifle them. This was one of the factors that drew me to study psychology in undergraduate school. Unfortunately, the theory learned in class was hardly comparable to the practical usage of coping skills during stressful situations. I hadn’t even known about the existence of “coping skills” until after college when I worked with children with autism. I was 21 years old. Even then, I was under the impression that “coping skills” were limited to individuals with disabilities.
Looking back at my childhood, the closest I came to learning about mental wellness was during drug awareness programs in school. However, these programs never addressed a lack of mental wellness or inability to cope. These programs mentioned the importance of staying away from drugs, the harmful effects that occur from taking drugs, and other negative consequences associated to drug usage. These programs failed to explain what led these individuals to the path of drugs or a belief that drugs were their only option. In my adolescent mind, I naively believed people who did drugs did so because they were drug addicts or made wrong decisions. I don’t remember a single person ever referring to a mental impairment that people with drug addiction(s) struggled with, or that they were taking drugs to cope with feelings that they couldn’t deal with themselves or understand. I remember hearing the stories from individuals recovering from drug addiction but the stories were so far removed from own life, I found that I could not relate. Unable to relate to the traumas and hardships these individuals faced, I was unable to understand much of what they were dealing with. From these programs, it was my (mis)understanding that these individuals had the same mental capacity as everyone else, yet chose to take drugs.
OUR SOCIETY. The well-being of our minds, our ability to handle stress, and our entire mental wellness is hinged upon our entire existence and impacts how effectively we can function in our society. Yet mental wellness is so rarely addressed. Even worse, when mental wellness is mentioned, it is typically associated with negative stigma. As a society, we should aim to normalize “mental wellness” and “mental well-being.” It is vital to everyone’s development and self-preservation; it is not merely associated with people who are suffering from mental impairments.
It is crucial that society as a whole continues to accept and promote the significance of our mental wellness. Our self-worth, feelings, and emotions should be embraced openly and not merely disregarded as inappropriate or dramatic. The more we learn to love and respect ourselves, the more we will come to understand others. The key to our humanity has and always will be EMPATHY.