In the Beginning There was a Child with Pointed-In Toes
When I was a little girl I would always stand with my toes pointed in. This was a constant source of frustration to my mother, myself, and my gymnastic teacher. I cannot tell you how many times I heard the words snapped at me, “Don’t stand with your toes in”. After which, I would correct my positioning... only to find myself right back that way after only a minute or two.
I think on that often, and it makes me want to cry. I know my mother was trying to do right by me, fix my posture, keep me from injury. But because of her lack of knowledge - on what was wrong with my legs - she didn’t know better than to assume I was just being an awkward kid by standing incorrectly. She did her best to take care of me, as did coaches and PE teachers, by telling me to straighten out my feet. However, the root of the problem went unidentified until I was an adult. It turned out I needed physical therapy; I needed to get chiropractic adjustments and retrain my muscles. Once that was done— well... I stand and walk with my feet straight now, just fine. I could have avoided years of anxiety-inducing self-consciousness and physical discomfort, had I had the adjustments and therapy earlier in life.
I bring up this story not to complain but rather explain. To me, it’s a perfect analogy for the mental health crisis going on today. For YEARS we’ve considered mental health taboo to talk about, we’ve either been ignorant to, or ignored, the mental parts of wellbeing, and we’ve silenced the voices of self-care and emotional growth. We’ve treated the symptoms of depression and anxiety— fatigue, insomnia, stress, restlessness, lack of concentration, irritability, etc with a concerning mix of drugs and denial, we’ve locked up “crazy” people - patients and convicts, both. We’ve brainwashed children as they come into adulthood into the cultural norms of “men are tough” and “women are emotional”, and tied happiness to monetary success rather than personal success. We’ve spent decades metaphorically telling the population not to stand with their toes in. And yet, until recently we never stopped to ask why the toes keep turning in in the first place.
In the same manner that I needed to go to therapy, so does the world’s population. We need to go through refocusing and rebuilding our understanding of health. We need to admit that the health of our emotions and thoughts is just as important as the health of our bodies. We need to be as willing to go to a psychiatrist as we are a medical doctor; we need to treat mental illnesses as equal to physical illnesses. It’s then that healing can begin.
Every year, over 42 million Americans suffer from some form of mental illness.
It is an epidemic, an epidemic that has gone largely untreated.
I want you to ask yourself what’s something you are often troubled by - maybe even daily - that you’ve been trying to control, deal with, fix, or ignore in the same way over and over again, without getting different results. Stop the cycle. Look for the root of the problem rather than simply addressing the symptoms of it. Be bold and look in that mirror unashamed. Unashamed of scars or fears, accepting every struggle, pain, and negativity as part of who you are today. But not necessarily part of who you will be tomorrow. Be proud of how you’ve coped - you have made it this far, after all! But then allow yourself to change. To get out of denial, to take a different approach, to be inclusive of all aspects of your wellbeing. Start healing.
Someday - sooner than you might think - you’ll be standing straight, pointed in toes a mere memory.
My favorite website (they have an IG too!) for mental health information and support is The Mighty. Check it out at themighty.com. They are “a community that has your back ... no matter what health situation you’re going through.” And they’re very welcoming as a place you can share your own story.
Join me next Saturday for: Being Smart Doesn't Mean Not Doing Dumb Things
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