For one reason or another, I’ve been thinking about the word optimism for the past weeks. I’m thinking about it in a lot of ways – what it means to practice it, what it looks like in my life, and what it looks like for my mental health, just to name a few. Whether this is purely in my own imagination or something evident in my writing, I feel like sometimes my posts can seem overly optimistic about how to approach mental health and mental illness – and in months like September, suicide prevention. I truly do believe in the idea that ripples in the pond can raise awareness, reduce stigma, and help people learn that it’s okay not to be okay. But I also know how impossibly frustrating it can be to exist that way. At the end of the day, I think I’ll always end up opting for the glass half-full when it comes to mental health, but I don’t think I’ve ever really explained why. There are a few key reasons for why I write the way I do, and I thought I’d share them with you today.
Reason 1: I think it’s an effective way to bring new people in to the conversation. Statistics alone show that mental health is a serious issue in the United States and around the world. Based on those numbers, and comparing them to the discourse I see in my life (online and in my daily life), those stats would indicate mental health should be talked about more. Yes, working on our mental health can seem like an uphill battle a lot of the time, but there are also plenty of other aspects of mental health that are discussed far less, and I think it’s those things that can bring people in.
Reason 2: I want to be positive without practicing ‘toxic positivity.’ I’ll admit that part of my wanting to explain my attitude was because of a phrase I learned recently: toxic positivity. The idea is that you (or someone you interact with) is so positive that it’s actually detrimental to your well-being. Examples are phrases like ‘it’s not that bad’ or ‘just stay positive’, things reinforce that you should always try to have a positive mindset. While I think there are situations where it can be helpful to look at the positives in a situation, being optimistic doesn’t mean that there won’t be hard times- of course there will be! And in the mental health space, they’ll happen more than you’d care to know.
Reason 3: Optimism helps me take care of myself. Writing about mental health from a glass half-full perspective allows me to create more content, learn more about mental health and actually turn this blog into what I hope it can one day be. Optimism gets me out of bed most days, it gets me to work on-time, it helps me be productive when I don’t think I can be, and it helps me function when my depressed brain isn’t always working well. Do I want this attitude all the time? Nope, not even a little. But it’s helped me in many ways, and if it keeps me going, I’ll take it.
Reason 4: I have enough negativity in my own head! Honestly, it can get exhausting inside my head. Negative thoughts, intrusive thoughts, depressive thoughts, you name it. And while we all have ways of coping and dealing with that, working on my optimism by encouraging others is a good way to channel my attitude and energy, especially since when I encourage other people, I’m encouraging myself at the same time.
Reason 5: I need some hope in my life. I’m sure there are far better and more practical reasons to be optimistic about how we can improve mental wellness. But honestly, one of the biggest reasons I write the way I do is because I need hope in my life. Sometimes it’s specific hope and other times it’s a little more vague, but the feeling remains the same. Because there have been plenty of times where I’ve felt hopeless and worthless, and I’ve learned that I need some hope to survive – whether that’s day to day, hour to hour or even just from one moment to the next. And when you’re fighting on a daily basis, you’ll take any advantage you can get.
There are many other reasons for why I write the way I do and have the attitude I have toward mental health, but I thought these five would give some insight into who I am as a writer and as a person. I believe there are many valid approaches to the topic of mental health, and finding what works for you is extremely important, which is why I want to hear from you! Do you know why you think/feel the way you do about mental health? I’m all ears!