May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s almost over. On the way out, America got flung into inchoate grief, in the aftermath of a school shooting in Uvalde, Texsas, where an 18-year-old gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults. This came 10 days after another mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, where an 18-year-old gunman murdered 10 people, most of them Black. And it came in the midst of yet another spike in the Covid-19 pandemic, now in its third year.
There’s nothing comforting to say. Any words in that direction would be a lie. The Texas shooting caved us. Beyond the grisly, abhorrent nature of the crime itself, it laid bare our mass unrest, mass vulnerability, interconnected suffering, and political paralysis. The left seeks stronger gun laws. The right blames outside forces. The voters yell but know deep down nothing will ever change (at least not in our lifetimes).
I lost my mind as a teenager: years 18 into 19. My mind broke out in a harsh rash of OCD. I tried psychology, tried psychiatry, cognitive behavioral therapy, homeopathy. Nothing worked ‘til I tried energy healing. I went in a skeptic; I came out better. To this day, I’ll turn to reiki when I need help. Meditation is another invaluable daily tool.
But here’s another, and I recommend it when addressing those of us who suffer mentally. It shouldn’t be that hard to find us, for as of late 2020, half of us (50%) were anxious and almost half of us (44%) were depressed. In my lifetime, those numbers have never been so high. But in truth, the most shocking thing about them is that they’re so low.
Anyway: the tool: I recommend being candid. People with mental health issues (though I can’t speak for all of us) tend to appreciate a candid touch. We see through the lie. We don’t prize bullshit. Platitudes. Well wishes. Hallmark cards. Disney messaging. None of this tends to work within our world.
Reason being, we’re living in ancient times. I don’t mean the mentally unwell; I mean all of us. It’s just that the mentally unwell are more aware of it. Our brains are in turbulence. We’ve been brought down to basics. When the sponge organ in the center of your skull isn’t working, you tend to realize how far we still have to go in terms of technology, in terms of medicine, of progress, self-awareness, plain basic knowledge.
The mind is a mystery. Curing it, moreso. Yes, there are ways and there are tools, and I’m grateful for the ones I have, but today I say the pathway to mental health must cut clean across the forest of truth.
I don’t mean bluntness; I mean candidness. Reality. Honesty. Level with us. Level with yourself. Admit when it’s bad. Admit when the sun’s down. Admit when there are no solutions. Admit when we’re all in a corner. Admit when we’re being tested. Admit unprecedented times.
Admit our widespread social media addiction. Admit that everyone you know’s addicted to their phone. Admit that that alone is a public health crisis. Admit that our apps prey upon our bare humanity, wanting us to engage—to hunger for approval.
Admit that we’re lost. Admit that we’re scared. Admit the road is cold and lonely, low and dark. Admit the pale light of morning might be delayed. Admit it often gets worse before it gets better (if it even gets better at all). Admit the dying have questions that remain unanswered. Admit your own pettiness. Own anger. Hatred. Fear. Revulsion. Directed at others. Aimed at yourself.
It’s OK. It’s an aspect of the healing process. ‘Cause the truth beats out the lie every time. And a thousand years from now, whoever’s still here (if anyone) will see us as the ancient ones. The wanderers. The ones who didn’t know.
The only way we can speak from now to then—the only way our truth and our essence might manage to make the epic thousand-year crawl—is to be candid about our present predicaments. About who we are. And what we face. How bad it is.
How far we have to go.
We’re not enlightened. But we’re enlightened enough to know we’re not. It’s OK. Go slow. Times have always been ancient. People have always suffered, same as we.
Let this truth crawl all over you, now and always. For though it both hurts and comforts, though it both soothes and stings, it can carry you calmly, ‘til morning.