Nothing like posting pictures of cute kids running around without a care in the world! Especially so when those pictures can help illustrate an important point about how we manage (or fail to manage) our mental health.
When we’re young and healthy, we attack the world with unabashed enthusiasm, not so aware of the challenges we may face. Not many of us can say we escaped childhood without a story or seven about running barefoot and picking up a splinter on a wooden surface. We’d run without thinking about the consequences, and then feel that sting as our skin was pierced. The common next step was usually a sterilized needle or tweezer, a good amount of pain, removal and a band-aid.
But imagine if – instead of removing our first splinter, our parents chose to leave it in, bc it was small, barely below the surface, and didn’t seem to cause us much pain. Then, as we got older and were able to take care of ourselves, each time we continued to walk or run barefoot and pick up splinters (some small, some a little larger), we left them in, because it was what we were used to, “they didn’t hurt that much,” and we just allowed them to heal on their own.
Over time, what didn’t seem like it was affecting us, may start to hurt just a little. Walking on any surface might become painful at times. And even as we continued to pass over wooden surfaces, and picked up some larger splinters that began to sting, even more, we’d push through the pain. Maybe here and there we’d try to do something to remove one or two, but by and large, our splinters remained. Eventually, we’d get to the point where any type of walking might hurt…and the pain might build to the point where putting pressure at all on our feet became unbearable. Sounds pretty ridiculous, right?
But this is exactly the pattern many of us follow when it comes to our mental health. “Splinters” are a part of life. Every break-up, family fight, career disappointment, friend’s sickness, and on and on are all splinters we store in our minds/bodies and leave there. Some are smaller, some larger, but we tend to not do anything to try to remove them and heal properly until the emotional pain becomes unbearable and/or it severely interferes with our ability to function. Isn’t this a ridiculous way to live when we think about it in this context? Why is it so obvious that we have to deal with and remove the physical pain we can “see,” right away…but the emotional pain we leave in and let scars grow over?
Maybe if we were open to addressing those traumas we can’t see, in the same way, we do the traumas we can, we’d all be much healthier and wouldn’t have to get to the point where we had emotional side-effects or even break-downs.
Just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not happening and we can ignore it. Take care of yourselves emotionally as much or even more so than you do physically. Isn’t it time the two were at least on an equal plane?