Yesterday was World Mental Health Day and as is mandated I read more, engaged more and thought more about mental health yesterday than other days. I am a psychologist and mental health and well-being are always on my mind anyway. I often contemplate this idea of mental health, well being and happiness.
We talk of it often as if it is a state that we arrive in and stay in, like it was a destination. The world we live in today, if we really pay attention, makes it difficult to imagine happiness and well being as a destination. It can only ever be the journey. There is no permanent state of happiness that we can arrive at and stay put. Happiness is a moment defined by its impermanence. It will end and then there will be others.
For some of us struggling with anxiety and depression at various levels and the consequent thoughts and behaviours that they produce in us our brief happy moments too may be clouded by the dark cloud hanging above our heads. Like a friend of mine once said, ‘It’s like a background score in a movie’. You don’t really notice it sometimes but its always there. This is exhausting, makes so many of us toy with the idea of wanting to be done with it all. Despite those few moments where we might momentarily take pleasure in something, it seems almost like distraction from the pain that overwhelms us. When the moment has passed the pain still remains and feels possibly stronger. We lose the battle with ourselves in our heads all the time, I thought art would make me feel better, but it only lasted while I was painting, then its back to darkness. So next time my motivation to even reach out to art or a friend or a book or a movie might be reduced. Fighting this is an everyday battle. Every morning we wake up and make the choice to fight!
The small moments of ‘rest’ we give ourselves rescue us. The getting out of bed and getting into the shower, the smell of your favourite soap, the smell of coffee brewing, the flower in your garden, the little kid running down the street with his older sibling, laughing in glee, the butterfly flying from flower to flower, the sunrise, the way yellow blends with blue to make green, the sunset, a “Hello, How are you today?” from a friend, a rainbow, a long, warm hug, the momentary bliss makes our hearts lighter, reminds us our heart still can feel lighter even for a second, that some things make you forget the pain for a second or more. There are days when we are capable of this. Then there are days when a dark room and the sheets drawn over you are all you want. We need them both and hopefully they both contribute to our survival.
Then there will be days when an earthquake devastated the city you call home, when a partner you love wants to leave you, when a dear one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, when a friend you called soulmate doesn’t want to see you no more, when a school bus accident killed twenty children, when a bomb destroyed a hospital, when a dear friend dies while you’re far away – these are the days for which we build resilience on all other days. We build soul connections, we draw, we paint, we knit, we write, we fold, we sing, we dance, we walk, we run, we swim, we climb, so when days like this are presented us we know something we can do without thinking and keep doing it