Day 92 (of 186) stupid brain 🧠 @Bell_LetsTalk @sicknotweak #mentalhealthawareness #BellLetsTalkDay
The brain. Such an important organ yet it can be as cruel as it is beautiful. Sometimes it feels stupid how the brain makes us feel. But first: it’s okay. And second: supports are available. Fans sometimes the brain is stupid. And that’s okay.
But what “counts” as mental wellness?
Anxiety counts. So does depression – but empathy is more than knowing how it feels because we have been nervous or sad. As I said in my tedx talk – we wouldn’t tell a throat cancer survivor we know how it felt because we’ve had a sore throat. https://youtu.be/V-JpBJal3F8. It’s vital to have empathy but more important to understand that we might only understand part of the iceberg that can be mental wellness (and why so many responses to suicides are “but they had so much to live for”…)
Does chronic pain count? What about autism? PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder – and who defines how much stress is needed to create a label?) Is it ironic that we are counting on the organ that named itself to help us understand why it works so different based on a blend of nature and nurture. And why sometimes psychosomatic medicines (placebos) can be effective….but never “always”…..and why it is so important to have a team working with you (at least a medical doctor) before self-medicating – because any drug (natural or lab-created) has an impact on the brain – and many cannot be “fixed” – which is my biggest fear with the current “legalize marijuana” trend – the “legal age” is too young as the brain continues to develop and be impacted until the mid-twenties. I don’t care what 30 year olds do to their body, but when it receives tacit “permission” it always leeches down to schools – and how will it be treated in schools – like cigarettes (a “look-away” approach and ignoring the smell that latches onto clothes) or alcohol (typically immediate suspension and referral to a counsellor/life coach) because despite “legal age” for some reason, people younger than those years have access to them….legally or not.
And do we really want to talk about it? It’s uncomfortable. How do you have an authentic conversation with your child who you only want the best for but you can see some of the “warning signs” thanks to a google search….
When it is a badge of honour to ask for an adaption in your day because your arm is in a cast but you’re still coming to school or work….or you’re in a wheelchair and “of course” we will adapt…..But when the “pain” is internal…..how can you “show” that you “need” a change….? Much like the tinnitus I suffer with…sometimes there is no “outside” way to see what is going on – but I know the constant ringing in my ears is ever-present and at no times is the world ever “silent” (which is why I like having background music in the classroom to start the day) and why I understand why/when some students want to listen to music while doing work….yet aware that some need silence – setting up different spaces with a variety of light and sound levels isn’t always easy, but I know it helps my learners….and me….because every brain is different…even though they work so similar to each other….and we learn so much more about the brain each year that the classroom setup should look different than it did 10…15…20 years ago when we did not know as much as we do…
But again, that can be uncomfortable….because mental health has long had a stigma of having something wrong with you – and we know more than ever strategies that can help…..if we are willing to talk about them….in a way designed to support, not assign blame.
And why is there “more mental wellness issues in schools than ever before”? Simple. We don’t allow the education system to give up on kids as they used to. October 1 used to be “the day” (because per pupil funding counts are on the last day of September) when there would be an influx of students leaving school because their learning needs were “too challenging” and alternate learning sites were full or inaccessible. And of course some kids learned quickly the way to get out of the classroom (swearing often works) or even out of the school (blood on someone else’s clothes is a good way to get a way out of school) to escape angst induced environment.
Mental wellness likes to hide. And will often create distractions – a reason why I sometimes ignore swear words and insults directed at me when there is a specific topic I don’t want to be distracted from. Also why I don’t object to hoodies and hats in the classroom – nothing tells me somethings up like a hat pulled down low and a hoodie drawn tight!
And while there are good rules (like my rant on anxiety in schools https://technolandy.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/day-150-of-188-my-anxiety-rant-edited-continued-blog4mh-anxiety/ ) it’s truly more of a set of guidelines – because even slow breathing, which works for most, is a trigger for my son (usually accompanied by a loud: I am breathing! If I wasn’t I’d be dead!!).
And this can be frustrating as it would be so much easier if there was one set of tools or a single pill that would make everything “normal”…..but then again, is anyone actually “normal”? Maybe a better word is ‘comfortable’ – being comfortable with the brain (my son loves the Dr Seuss quote: gotta be odd to be #1)
And despite previous thoughts – mental wellness does mean much about intelligence – other than a usual connection (especially with anxiety) to a higher intelligence – in a sense the brain is working too fast…or doing too much…and can’t unthink some things once it starts!
So….why does mental wellness seem to be increasing in society? As much as some would like to blame tablets – it’s much more complex. I would probably support the idea that there is so much information available for consumption that it can be overwhelming – which is why I regularly promote a balance between consuming and creating (with an emphasis on the creative part). And some traditional distractions (like reading a book) are more entrenched and acceptable in society than info from a screen….whereas it’s more often the initial adoption of a strategy that “all” want to try (fidget cubes, spinners, slime) while it only helps “some” (but can be very cool at the start).
And again, we are not as willing to marginalize those working on mental wellness as we used to. Adaptions are being made to keep all connected to school work and society….even if it isn’t always easy.
But most importantly, there needs to be a willingness to start a conversation. Events like Movember for men’s health (physical and mental) and BellsLetsTalkDay are important….because we continue to lose too many friends to suicide because the beautiful brain convinces itself that there aren’t options…even when there are. Though the availability of supports vary greatly from rural to urban and expertise (or right-type of fit because finding the right support person is super important and very personal).
So thank you to everyone who is sharing today. It’s not easy. But one day at a time. And one conversation at a time. And each connection is important. Especially the connections you may not have fully understood you made!