Getting through the day while struggling with mental health is difficult. Trying to be productive isn’t easy when you’re dealing with negative thoughts, a lack of energy or any one of the many symptoms that make existing hard. Nevertheless, millions of people do their best every single day get through things, and one of the best ways to explain that is through metaphors.
Metaphors are used in many areas of life, and they can be very helpful in describing and understanding people’s mental health. Whether it’s a simple story or a more detailed description, a good metaphor can help someone begin to understand the sort of pain and struggle you’re going through. If you’ve ever been told that someone “hasn’t heard it like that before,” you know what I’m talking about. A metaphor about mental health makes it more relatable to those who might not totally get what’s going on – in others or even themselves.
When I was in my therapy session yesterday, my therapist brought up the ‘Bus Metaphor’, which is a popular metaphor for people who are taking part in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (otherwise known as ACT). It can be a pretty lengthy metaphor, but the gist of it is this: imagine life is like a bus route, and you’re the bus driver. You make stops along the way, picking people up and dropping them off. These passengers reflect your thoughts, which means that you can have good passengers and bad passengers. You’re welcome to acknowledge these passengers and even confront them, but at the end of the day, you still have to drive the bus.
There’s a lot more that can go into the metaphor (you can read this description to dive a little deeper), but at it’s heart, it’s a very accurate description of what it can be like being in someone’s head. I identified very strongly with the metaphor, and the wrinkles and specifics that he also mentioned spoke to me too. But I also know that there are plenty of other popular metaphors that people use to talk about mental health. Even if I don’t always feel like they’re describing me, I’ve been through enough to understand where they’re coming from. And that’s a very good start.
Metaphors can also help people understand their own specific mental health issues. For far too long, people were told to describe how they felt as good, bad, or neutral. There wasn’t patience for a longer explanation, even though a longer explanation always would have helped. Mental health is incredibly nuanced, and a one-word answer might be sufficient to deal with people in everyday life, but we should be encouraged to share more. By trying to explain how you feel most days through language, it helps us understand our mind a little more and how we operate.
Since I love words and language, especially when it comes to mental health, it makes sense that metaphors interest me, but I wanted to open the floor to my readers! Do you all use metaphors to talk about mental health? What are some effective/popular metaphors for describing mental health issues that you’ve heard or said? I’m always eager to learn more!