One of the things that can be hardest about coming to terms with and learning to manage a mental health problem is the guilt that often accompanies it. We feel like there should be a reason why we feel anxious or depressed or whatever it is we are feeling. Not only like there should be a reason but that it has to be a good reason. But who on earth decides what a good reason is for feeling anything?
We feel because we are human. Sometimes we feel happy because we just do. Little things like the fact it isn’t raining or you just had a particularly tasty lunch can make you feel good. Sometimes you don’t even know why you feel happy, it’s just a good day. The same is true of negative emotions. Sometimes we feel angry or sad or anxious because of big things like a bereavement or the end of a relationship. Sometimes we feel sad or angry or anxious because of smaller things like a stressful meeting at work or the fact the pen we’re using keeps running out. Sometimes it’s for no reason at all. We just feel sad. We just feel angry. We just feel anxious. We twist ourselves into knots trying to figure out the reason why, desperate to be able to provide some justification for the emotions coursing through us. As if just being alive and trying to get through the day were not enough of a reason.
We look for reasons because we feel like other people look for reasons. And we feel that if we can’t provide evidence that justifies out feelings they they will not be seen as legitimate. You worry that instead it will be see as a choice to give in to these feelings, instead of getting up and getting on with it.
Matt Haig, one of my favourite authors (and favourite tweeters) often shares insightful musings about mental health and he recently summarised this struggle beautifully:
In order to have truly open conversations about mental health we all, sufferers, supporters and bystanders alike, need to stop looking for reasons as our first response.