With mental health, what if it's not about getting better?

 man in bathing suit jumping into lake with arms stretched out like an airplane

Someone told me today that, with mental health, the goal is to get better.

I don’t think that’s always true.

On a very basic level, yes, we want to be better than we were before.

If we’re struggling, we want to not struggle as much.

If we have burdens, we want to lessen that load.

But I think it’s simplistic to say that a person with mental health issues should only strive to get better.

For me, getting better implies there’s something wrong with you.

It suggests that there is something inherently bad, so something must be done to make it good— to put you on the right path.

What if what is required is not getting better — but seeing the world in adifferent way?

Would you tell the man born to create art to get a proper job?

Would you demand that he do more to fit in?

Or would you guide him? Would you help him see for himself that an upstroke would have worked in place of that downstroke? That the upstroke simply completes an already beautiful picture?

Broken minds often craft beautiful pictures.

If you want minds to get better, then there is likely a standard by which you are judging those minds.

The western mindset — the medical model — spots these defects and corrects them.

It is efficient, but it can also be ruthless.

The problem is, mental distortions don’t exist in a vacuum.

Malignant patterns of mental activity develop for a reason. The environment is as important the mind that lives in it.

It’s not always about getting better.

It’s about becoming more integrated.

It’s about seeing the whole picture.

In other words, it’s about being holistic— about recognizing all the parts that make the whole.

I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember.

But you wouldn’t know it at this point.

I can cover it pretty well in public. I have coping skills. I am “better.”

But if you learned my story, you would know that there are many reasons for my anxiety. There is no one easy answer.

This is true for most people with mental health issues.

It’s not always just a biological issue. Usually it’s a combination of things.

It’s biological, yes, but it’s also social, and emotional, and spiritual.

If I asked you to paint a picture for me, you wouldn’t just make me a painting.

You would layer colors and textures, one by one, until you birth beauty out of the chaos.

Life is like that.

It’s self-evident, but it also can’t be explained.

All beautiful things are like that. You simply know it when you see it, but you also know there is so much going on underneath.

A beautiful sunset. A towering symphony. A private conversation.

They are all beautiful in their own ways. Each one of them could be “better,” but that’s not the point.

The point is to appreciate something for what it is.

If that something is not serving a person anymore — if it’s causing harm or producing a lack of focus — then maybe it needs to be altered.

But it doesn’t necessarily need to be better.

Use my outdated thoughts as an example.

I thought the best thing I could do for another person was to offer my help.

I grew up always wanting to fix things — wanting to make them better.

I thought I was being helpful, but really I was just meddling.

I thought I was giving actionable advice, but really I was just sticking my nose where it didn’t belong.

I now know that life isn’t about how much you can do for another person.

Life is joining. It’s listening. It’s crying, and nodding, and holding space.

It’s saying, “Your mind is broken? Mine is, too.”

It’s taking the time to say, “I love you just as you are.”

It’s acknowledging, “I’m not perfect and neither are you.”

And now that we’ve accepted it, I think we can both agree that there’s nothing better than that.


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