Last month, I was in Southern California with my two kids, and took them to a beach with a warning sign, “DANGEROUS SHOREBREAK if in doubt, don’t go out”. My 8-year son was apprehensive to venture into the water, but I assured him I grew up going to these beaches and it was fine. Fine, we were not. Mila, my 6-year old, spotted a wave and took off running toward sand. Caleb and I, however, had our backs toward the open sea and didn’t notice our impending deaths. The not-so-giant-but-strong-wave took Caleb and I under and washed us up to land. We avoided death, but our pride was killed that morning. Caleb gave me a long parental speech about taking the warning signs more seriously, and I’m sure he will not let me forget this lesson until my actual death arrives.
I wish the movement of Mental Health Awareness came with a warning sign. Warning: Don’t share your mental health or advocate for mental health unless you’re strong enough to endure the fight. “Slogan: Share, but be prepared.”
Dak Prescott, Cowboy’s quarterback, recently shared his struggle with mental health, and a sports journalist called it “weakness”. The truth is it takes strength to talk about your mental health. Strength to be vulnerable, and strength to endure the potential punches from strangers and loved ones.
I think talking about mental health is wonderful, especially, during a pandemic when more people are processing a season of depression or anxiety. You’re not alone if you struggle with a mental illness. I also want you to be prepared before you share. Have a plan and be prepared if your mental health is used as a weapon against you. We’ve often heard, “hurting people hurt others”, and there may come a time when your vulnerability and words are used against you. To hurt you.
I live a vulnerable life where I share my struggles with mental health both privately and on my social media, and I have felt the bruises from enemies misusing my mental health against me. It’s not often, and definitely not the norm, but it does happen. I’ve been called names to my face and behind my back, and it takes strength to not let the verbal fight defeat my spirit or trigger my depression and anxiety.
Please hear me when I say, I don’t want you to stay silent in your struggle with mental health! No! I just want you to be prepared. To build your strength. To have a plan.
While visiting Southern California we went back to the beach every day. We got back into the water and braved the waves. Our little Texan-legs learned how to not get knocked down by the waves.
The waves will come, my friends. You’re not alone on the beach.