When someone is struggling with their physical health, people in their life might often say, “Maybe you should go to a doctor,” and this is likely a familiar experience for many. When someone is struggling with their mental health, hearing “Maybe you should go to a therapist” unfortunately, doesn’t have the same sense of familiarity. Admittedly, mental health is discussed more openly today than it has been in the past, but it is still not regarded in the way that physical health is. There is still a stigma associated with mental illness, and it can come from a variety of sources.
One of those sources might be a person’s own internal sense that they're a failure somehow if they need support with addressing their mental wellbeing. Have you ever said to yourself, “What’s wrong with me?”, “Why do other people have things figured out?”, or something else that’s similar? These questions suggest a sense of embarrassment around your mental health that you wouldn’t be as likely to have if something was happening to you physically. According to the AIP (adaptive information processing) model of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), the way a person currently responds to and interprets their current experiences is a result of their past experiences. Often, people’s childhood experiences (both implicit and explicit) tend to be some of the most influential when it comes to how they respond to and experience things (yes, even the interpretation of our mental wellbeing or lack thereof). This might be why some people experience more shame, for example, about their anxiety (that likely stems from childhood experiences that they had no control over), than getting their tonsils out (something else that they had no control over).
People don't get to this kind of thinking all on their own! A person’s perception of mental health (just like everything else) comes from past experiences with family, friends, community, even social media. Perhaps you have shared with a family member that you would like to go to therapy and heard something like, “You’re fine”, “What will people think if they find out?”, or “What do you need a therapist for, you have us.” Maybe you tried to have a heart-to-heart with a friend only to encounter a dismissal of your feelings that sounded something like, “Everything happens for the best”, “Is this really a big deal?”, or “That’s nothing, you should hear what happened to so-and-so/me.” While some of this messaging may be well-intentioned, it could have contributed to how a person feels about themselves and either created or reinforced a sense of shame around their mental wellbeing. Unfortunately, things like this may be said for lots of reasons. Maybe the person saying it has a lack of information or they're suffering from their own encounters with messaging about mental health that’s not the most adaptive.
If you have ever considered mental health services, please know that what you are going through is valid despite any messaging or internal dialogue you have experienced related to it. Seeking support from a professional is a great idea and an incredibly brave thing to do. In particular, an EMDR therapist can support by addressing things such as the shame discussed here as well as any other thinking that seems maladaptive to you and gets in the way of you living life the way you want and deserve.
So going back to the question in my title... YES! It’s absolutely okay to not feel okay, that’s just life, sometimes we have great mental health, and other times it could be better (not unlike our physical health). What’s not okay though is to live with that sense of not feeling okay and just accepting it as your reality. You can feel better! So why not put in the work to make that happen for yourself and live the life you deserve? Any one of our EMDR therapists here at Infinite would love to support you along the way. Let us know when you’re ready!