Wednesday, January 18, 2017

It's Okay

Here we are at the dawn of 2017. If at the dawn of 2013 (or the dawn of any year I existed prior to that, for that matter) you'd have said that I'd be considered a sort of expert (that word should be taken with at least a bit of a grain of salt) on the brain, human behaviour and mental health, it would have been a pretty, well, crazy notion. 

For nothing that I know that goes into this blog or what people now know me for existed prior to four years ago. I keep saying I really must get to the story of all how this came about (though some long time readers and those who know me through certain online circles are more aware) but for now there are many other more pressing concerns. 

In any case, the blog now has hundreds of readers around the globe and I have this 'reputation'. As such people write to me from every continent on earth save the Antarctic asking all kinds of questions that pertain to behaviours or mental health. People are upset, people are scared, people are worried, people are on the verge of or are already melting down. Though no one comes right out and says this (save for one notable exception), I know they're scared. I know this because it is scary. I've been there.

When our minds start to go off the rails and we feel we're on the very knife edge of life itself, frightening thoughts are racing through our head, we can't sleep and we don't know what to do or where to turn, it's scary. Real scary. Those who aren't scared have interesting psychological features to delude themselves so they're sort of blissfully unaware (a whole different sort of mental health kettle of fish, but we won't digress). I know it's scary because I'll never forget how scared I was, and still can be. 

So you know what? It's okay to be scared. We can get past scared but it's absolutely alright to be scared. I can one hundred percent assure you that there's nothing shameful about being scared. 

Let me tell you something. I'm 6 foot 2 (184cms) and most of my life I was "built". I worked in hard scary jobs, I played tough sports. I road motorcycles over some of the scariest roads on earth and through some of the most chaotic dangerous traffic there is. I faced and conquered a lot of scary stuff. But when my mind started going off the rails and I began having psychotic episodes and my life started falling apart, I can tell you, I was scared. Nothing I'd seen or experienced in my life was scarier. Nothing. I've met people tougher than me who were scared when going through something similar. 

So right now you're feeling a lot of things that are causing anxiety and depressed feelings and this is all really frightening and there are good reasons for you to be feeling these things, but we're not going to feel any less of ourselves or ashamed of ourselves because we feel scared. It's okay. We'll be surrounded by people who will heap shame on us for feeling this way, but right here, in here in this space, we're going to know that it's okay. It really truly is. 

Now, about breaking down. 

We live in the most complex, fast paced and fast changing and densely populated time in the history of the planet. As I present and argue in Evolution, Life and Why Our Brains Developed the Way They Are, our brains spent millions of years evolving for conditions that bear absolutely no resemblance to today's world. We daily must deal with cultural and societal and family unit complexities that have no precedent in history. 

Knowledge is doubling at the rate of every thirteen months. Technology changes yearly. We are exposed to the ails of the world and human suffering in ways and at a scale that are unprecedented in human history. 

So are people going to break down under those conditions? Yes. On a scale that is again unprecedented in human history. 

So if you are breaking down (or have been breaking down or have been broken down for some time) or are are feeling anxious and depressed (or all of these things at once) you know what? It's okay. There are literally millions of people around the world breaking down (and each day many won't live to see the next day). I don't mean it's okay these things are happening to you - it's not - but it's okay in the sense that you are not some Particularly Flawed Human Being for breaking down. So yes, it's okay. It really is. 

Your brain is the most complex biological organ in the four billion year history of life on earth. It operates on levels of complexity that defy any current understanding or ability to explain it, despite the efforts of thousands upon thousands of the most highly trained people on earth using the most advanced instruments in human history. It has to operate 24/7 for every second you draw breath. Even some of its most basic functions would cripple the most advanced supercomputer on earth. 

A simple watch is going to break down under certain (and far less stressful) conditions. So I think we can assume that it's pretty unreasonable to expect that this unfathomably complex organ between your ears isn't going to break down under some of the most trying conditions in history. So yes, it's okay that you're breaking down. Again, I don't mean it's okay that it's happening to you, but it's okay that your brain is experiencing some 'wobbles'. You aren't "weak" or a "wimp" or in any way a lesser human being. You are very normal and it really is okay for this to be happening. 

Now when I say "it's okay", it's not in the fluff "everything's going to be okay" way we see and hear passed around as "advice". For in truth, if your mental health problems are serious, then if certain things don't happen, I can assure you on no uncertain terms that there's an unacceptably high chance that no, it won't all be "okay". I can tell you this from studying countless case studies of what happens when certain efforts aren't undertaken to make things better, not to mention from my own very difficult case. Long time readers will know - and appreciate - that I'm not of the type to blow rainbows and moonbeams up your butt and tell you "it's okay, it'll all work out" because frankly, that sort of fluff gets too many people killed or keeps them in unacceptable conditions.

I mean it's okay in the sense that you are a perfectly normal human being who's not going handle everything perfectly. We can beat ourselves up about a lot of things but we're not going to beat ourselves up about this. It's okay. It really is. 

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