I wish I could say that I’m an activist, but I’m not. I don’t feel like I’d have what this needs. I am only someone with questions. I sit, observe, put things together, and then ask myself questions about this process. The same goes for the outer world. I sit, observe, gather information, and then try and make something coherent out of everything.
Or this is how it used to be, as 2020 came like a hurricane, shattering every single thing I thought it was already figured out. It brought a pandemic and a whole list of questions to be answered. It brought new issues to be addressed, and put some light on older issues, often left for later.
One of those issues to-be-addressed-later is the way we are looking at politics. I used to hear frequently that old line, I am not getting involved with politics, it is none of my business to do so! long before 2020. But then a pandemic came and made us ask ourselves Is this true, or just comfortable?
But let’s look a bit closer to it. When we talk about politics, we talk about agendas. About issues and core values that politicians find worthy of being prioritized. From women’s rights to migration and education, everything is or could be, a point on some political agenda. And I’ve managed to see a lot of issues being publicly addressed by politicians, real and heavy issues of the society. Excepting for one: the mental health state of the population.
Even when the environment is toxic, focused on competition and over-achievement and, constantly fearing that you mightnot be good enough, no politician or political party has made a statement about the mental health crisis. Because it is a crisis, and the pandemic is only putting it under the spotlights. And there are a lot of arguments as answers to any related questions.
It is a crisis because it does not provide any kind of recommendations on how to stay sane during these times. Our lives are nothing like before, we still have restrictions to face, dear ones that we can’t see, and are told to limit any unnecessary kind of interaction, for as long as it will be needed. We are being told to obey the rules, protect ourselves and the others, but no one tells us how to cope with all the anxiety and frustration that this situation has brought.
People have to deal with anxiety, grief, stress, and uncertainty on their own.
There is no real support system for psychological needs. Access to psychotherapy is a privilege and not a realistic possibility. I’ve heard a lot of I will start going to see a psychotherapist as soon as I will afford it from people perfectly aware of what they are facing.
There is no real support system for the children’s psychological needs either. They are also feeling anxiety, depression, pain, neglect. They are also feeling rejection and heartbreak. They are also needing help with learning to manage their feelings. They also need someone else to be there for them with empathy and objectivity. A bigger person, worthy of their trust and openness.
And I will not talk here about the lack of psychological support for the families having a member with disabilities or chronic conditions. I will not even open the subject.
Yet all these have a common root, even if it doesn’t necessarily look like it: the social stigma associated with the topic. Society doesn’t see mental health as actual health, but more as a trifle. It is optional, not vital. Public policies on mental health can wait, we have bigger things to focus on. Even if this might, to some extent, be true, there is just as true the fact that a bunch of individuals facing mental struggles all by themselves won’t form a thriving group.
The public agenda on mental health policies is empty. No words about deconstructing the social stigma surrounding the mental issues, no words about increasing the awareness about anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and nothing to be said about the tendencies of romanticizing mental struggles. Silence and empty pages waiting to be written. People waiting to be seen, heard, and represented.
Nothing can be changed overnight, but this doesn’t mean that things have to stay the same forever. We need help, and we need it on an institutional level. Of course, the help given by the NGOs that advocate for mental healthcare is like a glass of water in the desert. Deeply needed, and definitely something to be grateful for. But it is not enough.
If we scream and brag about how much we care about people’s health, yet we won’t do a thing for their mental health, then our care for the overall health is just a lie. A lie we keep telling ourselves and others, without understanding that we can’t have a healthy individual with a struggling mind. Even this splitting between mental and physical health is artificial, therefore worrisome.
There is a lot to be built, but the good news is that it’s worth it. Because a society where you can afford seeking medical help when you have a broken bone, but not when you have a depressive episode, that is by no means a society that has any interest in her citizens’ health.
…As a famous pop-song said, once upon a time during my childhood. One of the most common notions met in the mainstream mental health conversation is the one called toxic people. We are frequently told to avoid them, as they are bad for our emotional balance and mental well-being. That they are also victims, people with traumatic experiences, and so on. But one of the things no one talks about is the fact that every single one of us could, at a certain point, become toxic. For the others or, even worse, for ourselves.
Because no one is really clean and no one is toxic either. The oh-so-popular toxicity is a social label covering a very wide range of behaviors. In other words, being toxic is something one mostly learns, not an inherited feature of the individual.
Some of the most popular (and common) behaviors labeled as toxic are:
Even if it comes to jealousy in a romantic context, a professional one or a friendship, it is one of the most common toxic behaviors. It affects the quality of the relationship and it often brings unwanted drama.
This happens whenever a person tries to diminish the importance and validity of other’s feelings, experiences, plans, and dreams. How many of you have heard that ‘You’re making it look like a bigger deal than it is!’? Well, that’s a sign of toxic behavior right there.
One of the easiest to notice warning signs is this. A toxic person looooves to make everything about themselves. You’re telling her about something that recently happened to you? No worries, she got it the same way, too! And, of course, it wasn’t such a big deal, I’ve just dealt with it! Or, au contraire, they’re drama masters. There seems to be some drama unfolding wherever they go, and they never get tired of it.
A toxic person will lie, and often, and will know how to do it.
This is the easiest to see when everything is over. You will see, at some point, that you were to blame for everything by that specific person. You never got anything right, ever. In fact, you’re to blame for every wrong in the relationship, every failure, every miscommunication. Nothing to blame them for, just you. In the long run, it often becomes tiresome to always be the guilty one, so don’t beat yourself up for choosing to give up on the relationship.
Whatever is less than perfect, is a failure. Number two is the first of the losers! Does this kind of discourse ring a bell to you? If it does, then chances are that your toxic person was, as well, a perfectionist. And even it is a common trait, as I’ve previously said here, it makes you feel bad way more often than it makes you feel good around that someone. Let’s be honest, no one likes being around somebody who’s never satisfied with what they have at the moment. It just ruins the moment, as well as the other person’s joy.
These are the main clues to be looked after, but, from my experience, the thing is pretty simple. It all begins and ends with the way that person makes you feel about yourself. If you, and that’s the key-word here if you constantly feel bad about yourself if you constantly feel like you’re not doing or being good enough for that person, leave.
It might sound harsh, even selfish, but don’t feel bad if reading the lines from above, you’ve recognized a loved one. A relative, someone from your family, perhaps… It’s not you, it’s them. Toxic attitudes have no bloodline, they just happen.
Of course, there are different shades to it, some people are not even aware of their toxic behaviors, or the ways they affect you. And this is where you come- a calm, yet firm talk about how their behavior makes you feel could work wonders, especially if you will give them alternative ways of doing or saying things that hurt you less or not at all. Because not all the toxic people are evil, some just don’t know that they are acting wrong. And you might have a chance, if you won’t lose your temper during the talk, to actually improve those relationships.
It won’t be easy, but it would definitely be worth it, especially if those connections are important to you. But, and this is huge, having a talk with your dear ones about what harms you coming from them, and tolerating the same things over and over, these are two very different things. It is, indeed, their right to know what they are doing wrong and how could they possibly change this, but if they will just keep going with their old ways, feel free to put up new boundaries in your interaction with them.
At the end of the day, there’s not about relatives, family members, friends or even lovers. It is about your mental health, one of the most important things. And it is so, so important to be your own safe place in a toxic environment. What good could possibly happen in a world where you’re being toxic for yourself? Choose wisely, and if it happens to be the toxic person from your life yourself, just sit with yourself a little and ask yourself how much of your toxic behavior is internalized during your life from somewhere else? Because more often than not, the root of one’s toxic attitude about itself has external roots. Find the root, seek professional help, and remove it, as simply addressing the immediate effect won’t help.