Psychology is a ‘social science’
This one irks me the most, so it’s better to get this out of the way first. Psychology is a health science. I urge you to whack anyone at the back of their head when they call it a social science. It is not a bougie philosophy that was developed in a different century that’s meant to be studied. In fact, calling it a “social science” only stigmatizes mental health issues further, because they aren’t seen as valid health concerns at all. The mind is seen as a mystic object that one has to mesmerize into functioning appropriately. No. Psychology is the study of behavior and mental processes. It is the study of the brain and its complexities ― complexities that are so knotted that they have to be assessed through repeated interaction and monitored change. Diagnoses like bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder, or dissociative identity disorder, are not born out of a doctrine. They are very real health concerns that are studied by the science of psychology. The brain is the sneakiest organ and the most powerful system in our body. When it stops, we stop, even if we’ve the heart of a 25 year old at the age of 52; so how does one invalidate the science that’s dedicated to studying it as a philosophy that was developed after a round of shrooms?
Your mind is an isolated cave
The brain and body are connected, and a lot of times I’ll try and explain to patients that it’s important to keep that friendship intact. The “mind” is like a state of being, it is not a tangible presence in your body. We look at the brain as a central system that impacts all the other processes, but the reality is that they impact each other; which is why when something is wrong, your body will tell you. Lack of sleep, a poor appetite, bags under our eyes, a dry throat, heavy breathing, acid refluxes, unexplained stomach concerns, unexplained chronic pain and in so many more ways. Our body is always giving us signs, if only we listened. Phrases like “don’t get stressed” or “don’t be anxious” is like saying “don’t have a stomach ache.” Our feelings are associated with physiological responses. Anxiety feels like a higher heart rate, a knot in the stomach; but so does excitement. Sadness feels like a weight on the chest, stress results in persistent headaches and each of these experiences can be controlled and managed with healing, just like food poisoning.
You cause a mental illness to happen to you. It’s all your fault!
What’s problematic with this myth is that it leaves only the individual with the responsibility of their mental health and does not hold any one else accountable. A rape survivor with PTSD has not caused created the symptoms of PTSD in her mind, they are a consequence of her trauma. If we discredit her experience of rape by saying that she needs to stop “allowing” it to impact her, she’s being traumatized further. Additionally, societal constructs and impactful life situations can also impact mental health. Depression that’s triggered by grief can feel like an amputation till one has healed, severe childhood trauma can result in panic disorder or personality disorders. The experience of a mental illness is subjective and internal, but in many situations, it can be caused by something uncontrollable and external. Moreover, several mental health concerns can also have a genetic predisposition, like one would simplify diabetes and a severe physical ailment can cause a mental health concern too. It’s why postpartum depression is a legitimate concern. The brain and body are connected, remember?
Mental health issues do not happen to everyone
I think all of us have experienced a mental health concern at some point in time. All of us! I have had the common cold, so have you; I have had nightmares, so have you; I have experienced anxiety and so have you. We have all had a mental breakdown that is an outcome of exhaustion. The severity varies and diagnoses can be determined accordingly, given all that’s written above, but each of us are susceptible to them. Preventive measures are possible, self-care is imperative; but man, life happens! An overdose of grilled cheese clogs your arteries and overworking can leaving you with symptoms of depression.
Therapy is the same as talking to your best friend
Therapy is backed by evidence, research and science to support its effectiveness. You’re essentially learning to rewire your brain when you’re working with a clinician. It’s extremely intimate, given the nature of the work, but it’s incredibly powerful. It gives you a chance to bravely explore the cob webbed corners of your brain, to establish a relationship with your body and truly understand how you function as a human being. The brain is developing till the age of 24 and as it is impacted by different events, it bruises and heals in the ways it knows. However, if it hasn’t healed appropriately, it continues to function with minuscule bandages on these bruises. There are tailored approaches for treatment in therapy that are adapted to an individual’s needs. It’s not the same as a life coach, a motivational speaker or your 4am friend.
Children don’t experience mental health problems
Children are the most vulnerable to mental health concerns and in cultures where their experiences are diminished or when they aren’t healing from their pain, it affects their brain development. The worst thing you can do to a 3-year-old whose experienced trauma is to say that they’re three and they won’t remember. The brain keeps score, the body keeps score. It comes back ― oh, it always does! Children are heavily impacted by what they see, what adults model for them and that affects who they grow up to be, the relationships they become invested in. If a child grew up in a household with domestic violence, their chance of growing up and being in an abusive relationship is much higher because that’s how love was modeled for them (the brain keeps score!). Children often act out in school, get poor grades, have unexplained emotional outbursts or even have poor language to explain how they feel. They are all signs that scream “something is wrong!” It’s also extremely silly to expect the cognition and language of a 30-year-old from a 13-year-old. Child therapy is a skillful practice that is designed to help children in the language they understand. It gives them a voice, it helps them in rewriting their narratives of powerlessness and most importantly, it helps them heal.
Physical and mental health go hand in hand, from the day we begin developing in the uterus till the day we die. The more we acknowledge their relationship with one another, the more we are of service to our health. Suicide is an outcome of helplessness. Why would a dying man have the desire to live when he feels like there is no hope? But nine-out-of-ten times, there is hope. We live one life! We don’t even know which volcano is on the other side after we die, but we can sure as hell make the best out this tornado that we call our lives! There is power in the resiliency of survival, there is effective help that’s available out there. Advocate for help, find resources for people who need it, educate them on services, educate yourself; but most importantly, practice love and kindness towards yourself and towards the ones around you.
We live in a world where we are left with new wounds, everyday; the least we can do for one another and for ourselves, is offer the comfort of recovery. I promise you, help is always a good idea.