Heads-up: The beginning of this piece might have you thinking that you’re about to digest some erotica, but before some of you dismiss this piece on that premise – and before some of you get excited – I might as well let you know, this discourse doesn’t fit within that category. Unless, that is, you consider emotional intimacy to be equivalent to dancing leafless in stilettos.
Today, I was sitting on the floor in my bedroom after practicing some yoga. As my blood circulation improved, I became more introspective. I began talking to God.
As I was talking to God, I felt the neckline of my shirt slide down my left shoulder (whether it voluntarily slipped or I initiated the shoulder slip, I don’t know, but I let it happen).
Somehow, I felt like I was approaching greater authenticity and intimacy.
Feeling mentally awakened by this shoulder-baring thing, I allowed my neckline to drop down the other shoulder as well (the neckline was wide enough to expose both shoulders simultaneously).
It was just me and God (who sees me totally unclad all the time), so I had no fear of judgment.
As I continued to feel more genuinely myself – and entirely free from fear of judgment – my mind awakened. I entered a limitless, unchecked introspective state. I found ideas and observations coming naturally to me. My mind approached a clarity of thought that I hadn’t experienced in a considerable while.
At last, I found my soul reestablishing its connection with my mind. My spiritual and cognitive spheres fusing. The experience was…exhilarating.
But all of this got me thinking. Why is it so wrong – so loathsome – to be emotionally naked in society?
Why – in an age of sexual chutzpah – does the disclosure of one’s raw mental and emotional state remain taboo? Why do we stare at a “professed to be depressed” person as if they’d arrived at work in gossamer intimates?
Our minds and spirits are integral components of our essence. Why, then, is it so unacceptable to discuss emotional and mental health?
Why – when combating mental disease – are we identified as our struggles? Why, when we are fighting a monster, are we characterized as “weak”?
Anyone – even a warrior – when compared to a monster, will appear to be weak!
Why is “Depressed” a label and not a condition, like MS or Lyme or fibromyalgia? Why is it something you are, and not something you’re fighting?
More than ever, as stress in the workplace increases, we must make it a priority to support the emotional health of our colleagues, team, friends, and family.
Where possible, remote work may provide a partial solution to employees’ mental health struggles. Allowing them to complete tasks in a setting detached from workplace drama – and to not have to put so much effort into grooming before work, or to drive in when suffering from a migraine from crying all night and battling insomnia – would make a significant difference for many employees suffering from depression and other mental health struggles. This employee would also likely be more productive by not having to put out extra energy (or time) for unnecessary interactions or chatter with colleagues on a rough day. Providing options like this (when possible) for employees is a win-win situation.
It’s okay to be depressed. But it’s not okay to stay there. ❤ (I don’t mean that in a judgmental way, btw. You may fear that you’ll always stay there. It seems like depression will never leave. You sense that you’ll be fighting this giant for the rest of your life.) Yet, you probably will stay there if you walk the road alone. If you’ve got to constantly conceal your gushing wound (depression, anxiety, other mental health struggles) with a massive bandage (acting fine when you’re not), then who’s going to recognize that you need help?
Maybe you will realize you need to seek help. And maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll just continue to live in denial – because you don’t want anyone, yourself included, to see you as “mentally ill” or “weak”. You’ll pretend you’re not bleeding, because you fear judgment – and the suffering that comes with that – over the suffering of pain endured in silence.
If you sense that you’re being judged (or would be judged) for your mental battles, then you will close off and no longer be your authentic self.
If you put up a mask, you will underperform. You will not be able to give all of yourself, because there will be a part of you that you’re still withholding and ignoring.
I have certainly done this many times. Even when I wanted to be able to share my pain with others, I would just automatically smile and laugh and pretend things were fine. Working in customer service for several years exacerbated this problem, because it taught my brain that we “smile, rain or shine”. I reached a point where I could not cry when I felt like crying. This constant detachment from my “inner self” created a deathly numbness in me, from which I am only now recovering.
How can we encourage emotional rawness in our culture?
As a friend, when you’re hanging out with your buddy, and you sense that something’s a bit off, say something. Ask, “How are you doing, truly?” or “Everything okay?” And be ready to hear the answer, even if it’s ugly.
Even if your friend is smiling and seems fine, ask how things are going. Many depressed individuals have achieved Hollywood-class acting capabilities, just to protect themselves from becoming targets of social stigma.
What if we were free to be emotionally and mentally transparent? To say “I’ve been battling depression” just as readily as we might say “I’ve been battling cancer”?
What heights of emotional and mental health might we reach, if we could simply be authentically ourselves, without fear of judgment? Without fear of being identified and labeled by the things happening to us? What would happen if we shed our emotional and mental clothing?
Might we achieve the clarity of thought and flow of creativity that I enjoyed on my bedroom floor?
What will it take to get there? What will be required to change the cultural perceptions about mental disease? How will we achieve emotional nakedness in ourselves and within our communities?
What do you think it will take to reengineer society’s view on mental illness? Songs by pop artists? More films and dramas that don’t glamorize depression, but that do portray it as a real and very common struggle? Baby steps made within the community and within relationships? All of the above?
© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved