That’s the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Awareness Day. As much as mental health tends to be referred to as diagnosis and something that comes from within, I’m someone who has a combination of situations that reveals it’s more complicated, and absolutely universal. So, while the world is on fire once again, I want to talk about external factors of mental health.
We didn’t evolve to survive the modern world. Our technology has surpassed our evolutionary capabilities. And with the ability to industrialize and “scale up” every model we create, we not only didn’t evolve to survive this current world, no one is designing it. There are no intentions beyond a few as to how they want the world to be (usually driven by how much money and influence they want to gain) and the many — the majority — aren’t represented in that vision. There is no grand plan, no puzzle pieces being fit together to craft the ideal picture. It’s just humanity doing what it wants, sometimes with limits, sometimes without. And we all have to live with the consequences, just in varying degrees of comfort.
Our civilization is chaos, and we didn’t evolve to survive it. But we’re here. Adapting.
Some can turn to the Internet for connection, or television for distraction, while these same elements can bombard through marketing and algorithm to sell people bad mental health so that they will “engage” with “content”. This can change who they are in the world as they’re traumatized by shock and awe experiments news media networks use to ensure the traumatized come back to forever watch for the next attack. Their motivations can be changed as someone stops thinking about personal dreams and instead starts fearing every potential minefield of being an adult responsible for themselves and others in an unstable world while feeling like they have no power. The Internet in the palm of one’s hand means there’s no escape if you’re addicted to video games, or raging about topics online, or to checking your finances or news, catastrophizing about fears, or needing external validation as communities deteriorate while people spend most of their hours at work, not at home or investing in their neighborhoods.
Humanity didn’t evolve to the culture of stress it is contributing to as every real horror of the globe and imagined potential horror is pumped into their screens 24-7. Our empathy mirror is forced to go through the motions again and again, only ever seeing the horrors and never the good, until some just burn out completely and they’re changed. Hardened, colder, yet happy to survive… even as happiness feels less.
Our brains weren’t meant to have so many images of vast wealth and success staring back at us from so many screens, like these mansions are just the house over instead of behind gated acres miles away. We weren’t meant to have to decipher what is a visual lie 24-7, an illusion of wealth and stability as influencers sell us a lifestyle they can’t afford while seeking pseudo relationships with the working class to pay for it. When the majority of people live in credit card debt and many paycheck to paycheck, no mirror on their screens is there to let them know they didn’t fail. Poverty isn’t an individual failure; their government chose poverty for many so a few could be ultra rich.
Humanity lacks self awareness of the damage it creates externally and internally, of the norms that we participate in that are damaging. We fail to see our expectations don’t match reality because a false reality has be sold to us from so many, in every direction, and at some point we adopt the lie and only see that as truth. There are so many students left with horrendous debt for an education that slyly failed to inform them that there wasn’t a job waiting for their newly earned skills, and next year there will be more, and more, because out education system wasn’t designed to be a job placement system, no matter how much colleges will claim otherwise to fill their dorms.
We fail to see the value of our time in this existence as we’re taken from home and installed as labor for the profit of one, simply for the right to live. We haven’t evolved to this; we have adapted down to damaging conditions, failing to see the extent of what we’re doing even as the one planet we can survive on falters.
I took out the word “Human” in “Mental Health is a Universal Human Right” because I think it’s important to realize that it’s not just about us. Humanity sees everything through its filter, but in taking over the responsibility of transforming this globe full of diverse life, we have tried to release our accountability, and I think that’s bullshit. I, from a place of very little power, still hold myself accountable for my impact, even if the current way of living doesn’t give me many options on how to change it. And I can do that, because I work on my mental health most days.
It’s my job. I gained tools to do it when I gained enough self awareness to understand that this is my job: taking care of me so that I can be better for everyone in my life. I’m not allowed to catastrophize anymore. Not allowed to feed my fears and put myself down and talk shit about how I can’t be something that I literally cannot be, because I am exactly who I am. Always. Even when it’s different the next moment; that’s the only me I can be in the moment. It’s pretty hard to fuck that up.
We are all exactly as much and as little as we can be in the moment. Self awareness gives us that grace during the chaos. And it’s a lot of chaos out there, especially when you’re staring at a screen being exposed to far more than anyone with the base senses of a human would ever be exposed to without technology.
So, for mental health day (and any day you need a mental health fix), I recommend checking out of screens for a mental health check in. See the world around you. Ground. Feel connected instead of the disconnect sold to us. Find you in the chaos and love. 💕
If you can’t. If you find yourself trying, but your brain fills with all these reasons why you can’t, stop and listen. Write them down and examine those reasons. Some might be very good reasons, and that’s okay. Even if you can’t, you can still start gaining self awareness by just questioning if it’s true. If you really won’t survive turning off the screen for 24 hours. The more self awareness gained, the more you can start to see who is pulling you, and their intentions of how they want to use you on those screens. How you’ve absorbed their message as your own without even realizing it. And how it’s okay to have your own intentions for your time, for your thoughts. It’s okay to be you in your head. The only one judging is you.
I had to go through a lot of PTSD therapy to reach where I am today, and I’m far from amazingly resilient. I just realized that what I was being sold as resilient — being able to hold an entire globe’s problems in my nervous system and cope — was ridiculously unrealistic. We didn’t evolve to be able to do that, so why do we hold ourselves to this standard that the perfect version of ourselves can do that? Nonsense.
Mindfulness is really helpful, just avoid the cults (cuz of course there are cults in the mindfulness sphere.) CBT therapy can also be helpful, but it might not give you as much insight into yourself as just asking those questions and writing down the answers when you feel stuck in a loop, unable to break free from a damaging habit or thought. Self awareness is a relationship with the self, not just an awareness. Understanding is where we start, even as we’re all in a relationship with ourselves, aware or not. The better the relationship, the better our mental health gets because we stop blaming ourselves for things that were never in our control in the first place.
Good luck today, and every day, peeps. ^.^