Let’s be honest.
We all struggle with stuff.
Life can be tough, unfair, and at times downright overwhelming.
The pace at which things are happening these days, deadlines to meet, kids to pick up and take to ballet; noisy neighbors or a difficult relationship with someone can unravel the strongest of us at times. Things happen that are out of our control and we are left reeling from the consequences of other people’s choices at times. This can take the form of marital tension, domestic violence, rebellious teenagers, betrayal by a friend, workplace conflict, and the list goes on.
Lately, the term ‘Mental Illness’ has been getting a lot of traction throughout the media. This now common term is used to identify people who have difficulty processing their emotions or what is happening around them. It is used to describe those individuals who struggle with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, suicidal thoughts, etc.
Current statistics say 20% of Aussies have a mental illness in any given year. Others say 45% of Aussies will experience it in their lifetime, and 3% will have serious issues of mental illness. Not entirely sure which one to believe, suffice to say it is fairly common.
Whilst media headlines read ‘Mental illness is on the rise’, I don’t really believe this. The reason is very simple – people have struggled with mental issues for a long, long time. It is just gaining more recognition – which is a good thing. However, putting ‘mental illness’ in a category of its own, may be catchy and cool, but simply is not the truth. It denotes a person as having something wrong with them, when in fact most of us, if not all of us, struggle with our thinking and our feeling during times of stress or difficulty.
THE PROBLEM WITH LABELS
Look at the definition of stereotype:
“a set of inaccurate, simplistic generalizations about a group that allows others to categorize them and treat them accordingly.”
People are often labeled with something as an illness, and are told that it is something they need to learn to live with, and in certain situations they will need to be medicated.
Hang on a second! The problem with labels is that there is a belief system behind it. The moment we label ourselves as something, we believe it, think it, behave like it and basically become of prisoner of it. Let that sink in for just a little bit.
I am not making light of the fact that people are indeed having some monumental struggles when it comes to their mental or emotional state. What I am saying is that there is definitely a way out for many. You are not what others think about you. You are what you think about you! And what you think about you can be changed, when it does not line up with the truth of who you really are. This may sound simplistic, but who decides that living is supposed to be so incredibly complicated? In my earlier years, I thought people did not like me and I ‘felt’ rejected. This had to do with how I viewed my upbringing, and how I saw myself – my self-image. How wrong I was about myself.
WE ALL STRUGGLE
We all have difficulty processing certain events, emotions and relationships at times; from the person who finds it hard to find a job, to the highflying CEO of corporate business. It would greatly help those who are currently struggling to know this. You are not alone! So often the things people are struggling with are shoved under the carpet and hidden, when in fact ‘mental illness’ is actually fairly common. It is just labeled wrong. It is not an illness. It is a basic human condition.
I have been a church minister for most of my life, so I have a fair idea about what people go through. The parents who have lost a child, the war veteran with PTSD, the person struggling to keep their business afloat, those kids being bullied at school, that couple considering getting a divorce, and the list goes on. I myself have struggled with:
- Relationship tensions
- Low self esteem
A DEFINING MOMENT
I distinctly remember there was a moment where I realized that labels, past struggles, and my upbringing do not define who I am. Present struggles and challenges do not define me either! Who I am and who you are goes way deeper than the labels you or others may have put on yourself!
Is it possible that those labels, or those that other people have put on us, are not correct? Is it possible I have the potential to do way better than how I am doing now? Is it possible that I am not a victim of my circumstances? Can my life get better? The answer to all is a resounding yes! Like the heavily German accented words of Heimlich (a Bugs Life) “Someday, I will be a beautiful butterfly and then everything will be better!”
Transformation happens when you change the thoughts you think. This is where healing and recovery begins. Who changes the thoughts you think? You do. It is futile to think someone else can do it for you.
The bible puts it this way in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Another version puts it like this: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould.” In other words, don’t allow yourself to be labelled by others. Don’t be squeezed into something that is not you.
I have discovered that there is more to us than meets the eye. The fact that we are as the bible puts it “fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalm 139:14
Life can get tough, and our emotional tanks can get depleted. Get some rest and analyse the kinds of thoughts you are thinking about yourself and others. Take personal responsibility about the quality of your life. Nature itself teaches us that wounds heal. There are new days every time you wake up each morning. In spite of your present situation, or how you are feeling, life goes on. The birds are chirping, the sunsets are still beautiful.
Labels lie. Get up. Get going. Live!