It’s mental health awareness month. Like every therapist I know, my practice is overly full and I am constantly having to tell people looking for help that I can’t help them. It feels terrible.
There is a lot of suffering happening. Some of my clients tell me they feel guilty about having it, and especially about voicing it, because they have houses, or jobs, or health, and/or etc. But comparative suffering is illusion: pain is pain. And in these strange times, there is so much pain, even beyond the pandemic. The loss of trust and ease in the future, or in our democracy. The open divisiveness, unkindness and hatred. The indecencies of racism, the caging of children, the burning and pillaged planet, the injustice that 50 Americans have more money between them than the poorest 165 million.
Coping strategies provide some help, but only in getting through the pain, not eliminating it. And strategies that work best in the moment aren’t necessarily good for the person or the collective: denial, numbing, avoidance.
I heard this song today by chance and was reminded of some conversations I had with clients this week.
Not everyone is struggling. But for those who are in very close touch with the present pain, whether because of genetics, trauma or circumstance, the “positive vibes only” culture is salt in the wound. I think of the messages I’ve heard in my own suffering, or my clients hear: buck up, count your blessings, stop worrying, don’t think about those things.
Be mindful: what helps you cope, helps you cope, but it’s not a panacea for everyone. If you’re doing well, lend some of your bandwidth to someone who isn’t.