Mental Health & Labels: You Aren’t How You Feel
Things happen to you. You walk along the road. A bus passes and splashes a huge puddle causing and you’re drenched. You’re uncomfortable and wet for a time but later you dry off and get warm again. Even when difficult things happen to us, we don’t become them. We don’t become the puddle of water that is splashed up into our faces. This is obvious when physical experiences happen, but a lot of us fail to understand that the same is true when we have emotional experiences.
People love their labels, because labels help us to form an identity. But you don’t need labels to be a person. You don’t need to identify with anything to be who you are. One of the biggest problems I see in today’s mental health landscape it that people are given their labels, and then they are afraid to let them go. We then find ourselves attaching to the idea that they are depressed or anxious, meaning we may never be able to stop being depressed or anxious as they labels are now part of who they are
This is a huge problem, and one that is rarely addressed because it might sound a little bit insensitive. Insensitive or not though, it’s important that we understand this – You need to stop using your mental health problems as part of your identity.
When you are feeling sad or depressed, you don’t become these feelings. Our words are important. It’s why we say ‘I feel sad’ rather than ‘I am sadness’. Every emotion, no matter how intense is temporary. However, if we identify with an emotion, if we think a certain feeling, like anxiety, is part of who we are, then we will never let it go. We are dooming ourselves to a life of constant anxiety in that sense, because anxiety becomes who we are.
This is the exact opposite of self-compassion. You are hurting yourself by using an emotion or mental health issue as part of your identity. You are telling yourself that you must always be suffering because that is who you are.
None of the way you are feeling now will last forever. I guarantee you that. Emotions are designed to be fleeting, to be temporary. Telling yourself that, because you a feel a certain way today, you must always feel this way, is setting yourself up for perpetual suffering.
I am not for a minute suggesting that you are not feeling sad or feeling anxious or feeling stressed. You will feel these things from time to time, and some of us will feel them more often than others. What I am saying is, don’t allow yourself to identify with these feelings. Don’t use your mental health problems as identity labels because this means you aren’t willing to let them go.
A mental health problem is something that is happening to you – it isn’t something you are. This is a key and important difference. It’s one plenty of us ignore under the guise of self-care, but ignoring it isn’t act of self-compassion, it’s an act of self-destruction.
Don’t use mental health problems to construct your identity, or they will stay with you forever.