Guest Blog: Not Talking about it is Not Okay

Editor’s note: With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re turning to Dustin Anderson, president of Anderson Glass in Waco, Texas, who speaks up on this important subject.

It’s a conversation most aren’t comfortable having. These are words that are attached to feelings and emotions. Quite frankly, some of us just aren’t open enough to have that talk. There are plenty of reasons … the biggest is that society has made it difficult to open up and share these struggles. The judgment that might come with this conversation only complicates things even more. What if the person I share with doesn’t have any understanding about this topic? What if they tell someone else? Will I look weak or helpless? In most cases, these words go unsaid, and the struggle continues.

The words “mental health” carry a very negative connotation in today’s world. The idea that one would admit to having mental health struggles or issues creates some incredibly complex hurdles to get over. Add that to the already existing struggle and there should be no wonder why you may never know that the person sitting next to you for 8 hours a day might be battling something you never even knew about.

Hi. My name is Dustin Anderson and I talk to a therapist regularly. I’m not ashamed of this, nor do I feel like it’s something I shouldn’t share. If you can get on social media and tell me all about the dinner you made or show off that incredible vacation you took or complain about something earth-shattering from your day, like someone cutting you off in traffic, then I get to share that I have a therapist. What’s my goal with sharing that, you ask? It’s simple. I want someone to read that and realize that even though someone’s life may look perfect on the internet, they might be struggling with their mental health AND talking to someone about it is nothing to be ashamed of.

As an avid mental health advocate, I find myself putting my efforts in a place that I don’t see a lot of energy being put towards. My goal is to educate those who don’t understand mental health issues. I know, you’re asking why I would do that. They aren’t the ones that need help. Here is the answer … I spent years of my life hearing words like, “that’s not real,” “it’s just in your head,” “stop overthinking,” along with a lot of other hateful things, like someone else’s uneducated diagnosis of my struggle. I am here to tell you that if I had someone supporting me instead of making me feel bad about what I was dealing with, my journey might have been a little simpler.

Please know in advance that I’m not being hateful or mean with this … I am simply attempting to add perspective to a topic that you might be unfamiliar with. Don’t take it personally and don’t have your feelings hurt. This is an excerpt from a speech I give on mental health awareness:

For those who don’t get mental health or understand why there are those of us that advocate for mental health awareness constantly … I am here to help.

Let me try and explain it better, see … I don’t understand how motors work. I get the concept, but if you asked me to tell you what every part was or did, I’d be a little lost. That’s not to say I’m completely ignorant to the idea of how motors or engines work, but I’m not an expert and you absolutely don’t want me diagnosing or working on your motor.

Here’s what I do know … I have no idea what your motor has been through. I don’t know how hard it’s been pushed or how much you’ve babied it. I don’t know how often you let a professional work on it, from keeping up with regular maintenance to maybe only having it worked on when it’s completely broken. I am oblivious to all of that.

So for those of us who don’t know that much about motors … what do we do when someone tells us that something is wrong with the motor in their car? We tell them who our mechanic is. We tell them how amazing Mike is with a torque wrench, right?

So why is it that when someone doesn’t understand what is going on with another human’s mental health, we say things like “suck it up” or “this is for attention?” You don’t say that to your buddy Earl when his truck isn’t running right. You don’t say “Earl, just drive that damn thing. You just want people to give you attention, don’t you?” NO … you tell Earl he better not drive with “whatever” issue he has going on with his engine because he might ruin the motor.

Why then are we so careless with the topic of mental health? Why is it not okay to say, “I have a therapist” on social media without someone commenting, “not my business.” Why do we do that? Why don’t we keep our mouths shut or try and understand? But while we are on the subject of “not my business”… let me be the first to tell you, fella, I don’t really care how good you think your kid is at pitching, and he’s not by the way, I looked at the stats you constantly post! But that’s not the point.

I want to know why those who don’t understand how important being self-aware of one’s mental health condition are SO willing to help out Earl with his motor issues but not willing to lend a little grace to those with mental health issues?

Let me add this, by the way …. Earl’s motor can be completely replaced for a monetary amount with zero repercussions for the abuse it may have endured. Meanwhile, my mind hasn’t stopped thinking about that mean thing you said, or the classic dismissal of my emotional well-being, or your attempt at diagnosing me … no … all of that has hit me on some level and let me take you one step further … you’re not the first to not get in there either. Meanwhile … there is no overhauling my mind. There is no “crate mind” that I can buy at the dealership to undo the damage.

So before you chime in with your opinion, please understand that you’re adding to the stigma of admitting or understanding that it’s okay to have a mental health issue. You’re making it harder for someone out there to feel vulnerable enough to admit they are struggling. You’re stereotyping something you know absolutely nothing about … and you don’t and you know you don’t. You’re adding to a world that makes some people feel very alone. If you don’t want to understand it, that’s okay … I don’t want to really know in-depth what it takes to make a motor work either, but I promise you’ll never catch me chiming in on the subject like I know what I’m talking about.”

I know … it’s kinda heavy right? Here’s the thing, it’s extremely heavy and it’s not something everyone is okay talking about. The idea that one could speak freely about their mental health issues as they would the issues with how their car runs would be life-changing for most. The idea that you could make someone feel comfortable enough for them to reach out could be life-saving. Let that sink in for a moment. Let the idea that you not understanding what someone is going through not be the reason you can’t help. You don’t have to understand what someone is going through to understand they are going through it.

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