We’re not perfect, not invincible

A reflection on mental wellness by David La Rose, Hope Centre counsellor

As a counsellor, one of the issues I often encounter is a misunderstanding of what it means to be mentally well. I sometimes ask myself, “Why even insert the word mental into this phrase?” it only serves to add stigma to an already stigmatised subject. Why not just say health?

Health is a spectrum. Are you not either healthy or unhealthy? Maybe some young people can say, “I am perfectly healthy”, but this is not accurate for most. You may be living without relative pain or illness, but given enough time, there’s a good chance there will be a niggle, whether it’s a sports injury, a paper cut, or the need for braces or spectacles. There will be something that often comes to the young as a somewhat painful realisation, that we’re not perfect, not invincible. Some of us have even been known to display our injuries with a sense of pride. “Did you hear? So and so jumped off a roof and broke his collar bone, trying to jump into the pool. What a legend!”

The first time I became aware that I was not invincible was when my eyesight deteriorated. I once thought wearing glasses was cool, but now having to wear glasses daily, I find it significantly less cool.

“There will be something that often comes to the young as a somewhat painful realisation, that we’re not perfect, not invincible.”

I’ve since been diagnosed with other “reminders of my frail humanity”, but what I’ve learnt in this process is that I can be thankful for the health that I do have. Health supported by spectacles, medicine, and the wisdom of enough rest, to name only a few, is still great health. #TrueStory

Why, then, should health in the realm of your mind be any different? Mental health is similarly a spectrum. You’re not either healthy or unhealthy. You don’t either have mental health or not. At various stages in life, we all have more health; at other stages, we lack. And sometimes, we have been known to display our lack of mental health with a sense of pride. “Yoh, guys! I binge-watched all of season 1, and now my brain is fried. Wanna come over and binge season 2 tonight?”

Can you be thankful for the mental health that you do have, supported by apparatuses that help you to see better (like counselling), medication, or the wisdom of enough rest? Surely. But can you also take stock of and be honest about your niggles, from common nerves and fear to panic attacks and other diagnosable reminders of our frail humanity? Can you see this lack of perfection in the mental realm as something worthy of attention and care, not shame and certainly not pride?

If reading this blog post has hit close to home and there is something you’d like to talk about, please email hope@hatfield.co.za. Or, if someone came to mind while reading this article, why not share it with them, with a prayer that while one plants and another one waters, God causes the growth.

To know more about our Hope Centre >> simply click the link.

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