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Friday, November 24, 2017

Monthly Dose of S.H.A.M.E.: It's not that bad

It's not that bad.

How many times have you said that to yourself?

I said some version of that to myself for over 10 years before I finally saw a counselor.

Here's the thing folks, you can probably always find someone (or hear about someone from someone else) who has it worse off than you.

And it is real scary to actually deal with our demons.

But if we scoot away from mental health over to physical health, our lack of rationality in this area might be a little clearer.

You have a paper cut on your knuckle- it's not that bad. But every time you bend your knuckle, it re-opens and takes much longer to get better.

You have a gash from tripping and banging your shin into a sharp piece of metal - it's not that bad.  But if you don't clean it and take care of it, it could get nasty.

You break your arm - it's not that bad.  But if you don't see a doctor and get a cast, it could heal crookedly and cause you pain down the road.

You might look at people who have cancer, who hit their head and have post-concussion syndrome and headaches, who get frequent migraines, who have intestinal issues, who are in a terrible car accident and have to have a leg amputated,  who are paralyzed, who have a neurologic disease, the list goes on.

And you say to yourself: "It's not that bad.  I can handle this.  I should be grateful that xyz didn't happen to me."

And it's all well and good, but it misses the point.  It is.  (Whatever "it" is - be it anxiety, depression, difficulty getting over a breakup, dealing with lack of purpose in your life, not being able to pursue the career you want because you didn't get accepted into the program, etc.)

And, as a person who treats physical problems, I will tell you it is much easier to help someone who comes in when "it's not that bad" compared to the person who comes in and says "It wasn't that bad when I first started feeling the pain 1, 2, 5, 10 years ago."

At the very least, even if you don't seek professional help, try to change the verbiage in how you address yourself and your current problem or situation.  Move away from "It's not that bad" and toward validating your emotions and experience. "This is really hard for me.  I don't understand why I feel so ______, but I do. "

Many times, when we add the "It's not that bad", even if just to ourselves, it is coming from a place where we feel that if we were honest about how we feel, someone might tell us that it's not valid to feel the way we feel.  That someone might tell us that "it's not that bad."  And we don't want to experience that shame.

So let's not shame ourselves.

Let's speak to ourselves in ways that validate and affirm that we are humans.  That we have difficult emotions.  That it is normal to find ourselves at times overwhelmed, anxious and/or depressed by situations and experiences in life.  And it is normal to need help and support and tools to deal with these emotions.

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