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  • Writer's pictureBryan Owens

When Your Mental Health is the Last Item on Your To-Do List

I have the good fortune of being surrounded by people, both personally and professionally, who are the exact kind of people you'd want in a crisis. They are selfless, intentional, supportive, and they tend to offer exactly what you need even before you know it yourself.

And yet, when it comes time that these seemingly superhuman people need help too, they are too hard on themselves, cannot understand why they are struggling, and they mentally & emotionally abuse themselves to try to 'straighten up.' They believe they should know better than to struggle like this.

Is this you?

Yeah, this can be me sometimes too. So, what is going on here?

It helps to think in terms of relationship. You are in a relationship with your self, are you not?

Take a moment to imagine the way you talk to yourself when you're struggling, when you've screwed up…what kinds of things do you say to yourself? What are the ways you shut yourself down and punish yourself for being imperfect?

Now imagine you are overhearing this conversation happening between a married couple having lunch nearby. What would you think of the aggressor, the one shutting down the other and humiliating them in public? Would your inner hero want to come to the rescue for the person being emotionally abused?

Now move that conversation back into yourself, where it originates. It can first help to recognize that you have both a hero and an abuser living inside you at the same time. But why is it the hero is always leaving to help others, and you get stranded alone with your abuser?

'When and how did you learn to treat yourself this way?' is a good question to use for a guided writing prompt if you want to fill an entire journal and then some. Somewhere along the way, very likely out of some kind of wounding and a need to survive, you adapted to this harsh inner world in a way that eventually left you with the belief that you somehow are not deserving of the same love, kindness, support, and understanding that everyone else deserves.

You may know this is harsh and unfair, but our beliefs have a way of penetrating into our bones, determining our movements. So what can we do about this?

As far as I can tell — from my experience and from what I have observed — a powerful shift can occur when you recognize that you actually are like everyone else, that you hurt like everyone else when you are insulted and belittled for your imperfections. And just like everyone else, you need and deserve the kind of compassion and curiosity that leads to self-discovery.

If a friend is hurting the way you are hurting, how would you respond? If a child is hurting the way you are hurting, how would you respond? Can you extend the same to yourself?

Raise awareness around how you came to relate to yourself this way. Do this until being kind to yourself is as easy as it is to be kind to others. You have everything you need inside you, and everything is waiting for you.

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