Still, there’s nothing stopping each of us from looking for and acting on these opportunities. They matter. Being connected to each other is better for everyone’s mental health and happiness. It can bring a tiny bit of joy into what otherwise might be a dull day.
As she and her guests shared their stories and the research around how this happens, I kept replacing all of the stories; the pain of giving birth, the struggle to bike up 4,000 feet of incline, and others with trauma and PTSD flashbacks. When we have those kinds of reactions, we become different people. Often we become the child who was being abused instead of the adult we are, and we act accordingly. We lash out, self-protect in unhealthy ways, or try our best to hide from it.
The exact reactions are not the important thing. We need to know that it happens. When in an extreme emotional state, we have the capacity to act like a different person. We all do. The problem comes from the fact that we don’t know that person. We are not good at predicting how we will react. When we are in a cool state, the warm state version of us makes no sense, and how we think we’ll act turns out not to be the reality of what happens at all.
We can’t change society by getting more people mental health treatment, but we can’t treat individuals with anxiety and depression by only making societal change, which is likely to be a long process.
We need to do both.
I recently caught up on some podcasts and came across this idea from game designer and author Jane McGonigal. During an interview on People I (Mostly) Admire, she and Steven Levitt talked more about the idea, but in the most simplistic terms, the idea is this: When you start a conversation, ask someone how their…
So, when I look at a highly successful program like US gymnastics, like Penn State football, like USA Swimming, like English Youth Football, etc. I think we can clearly see this. Why be such a downer, don’t you see how much good this program, and the people in it, are doing? It’s probably nothing, just some misunderstanding by over-imaginative kids. Nothing to worry about, look at the success we are having in the field, gym, or water. That’s what this is all about. That’s the important thing. The rest of this will pass.
Except in the case of US Gymnastics, these ladies, and dozens of others, have not simply let it pass. They have remained steadfast in talking about it, making sure they can do everything they can to make sure it doesn’t happen to the next generation and reminding all of us that winning at all costs, is not worth the damage that is done to children who are sexually abused.
They are truly resilient, like many of us who have survived sexual abuse, and gone on to talk about it, share our own stories, and live our adult lives. But never confuse that resiliency with how hard it really is to do. Never look at a survivor who has appeared to overcome their abuse, and assume that it’s ok to diminish what happened to them. It’s never easy, and for each one who might appear to have overcome, I’ll show you 5 who are still struggling every single day. You’ll find many of them in prison, or mental health care centers. Still dealing with the aftermath of their childhood trauma without access to the same support and resources that we lucky few have had the privilege to have. Yet they are all human beings, and they were all children once, children who had to suffer at the hands of adults who were more interested in their own pleasures, comfort, and place in their society than they were to consider the damage being done to these children.
Don’t be one of those adults. There are many ways to abuse a child. Larry Nassar did and is paying for his crimes, finally. But there were a whole lot of other adults who abused these girls, by not taking it seriously, not investigating, and not caring enough about them as human beings to protect them. Make no mistake about that.
So, the thing I want us to talk about this year is not just encouragement to call a hotline or to reach out to a friend for help, or even to tell our stories and erase the stigma around mental health issues. I want us to consider doing more than that. I want us, as a society, to figure out how to provide hope. As much value as there is in all of those other things if I can’t provide some hope that things will get better, that we are working and advocating for things to get better across all areas of our culture, then I can’t honestly say that there is a reason for someone to hope, and at the end of the day, the thing that truly prevented me from taking my own life when I was at my worst, was the hope that life wouldn’t always be that painful.
As it turned out, my life wasn’t always that painful, and even in times of pain, I can look back and remember that.
How do we provide that hope for others who have been beaten down and worn out with life right now? Where does their hope come from?