i know it is not false

BY REBECCA HEILWEIL

i know it is not false

Mental health is a malleable concept. This is what makes it so appealing to everyone. Of course, everyone has mental health. Just like everyone has a heart and a toe and a nostril. Everyone has a head; it’s simply true.

But unlike toe-pain and heart-pain and nostril-pain, perhaps, mental health lends itself to myriad descriptions. The way we describe our hurt is not quite self-diagnosis but not quite objective. We are caught between the future and descriptive: it’s a frightening place to be.

More than a concept, however, mental health is a reality.  By malleable, however, I only mean to say that “mental health” is used as a phrase, as an identifier, as an expression of something that through other words is simply inexplicable.

For much of my life, I think “mental health” meant writing. This was meant both as a means of catharsis, and a literary form of explanation. Mental health was writing because writing meant “processing” but it also meant visceral feeling.

I’m not sure if this is still true. I know it is not false.

Maybe mental health is “visceral feeling.” Of this I’m not sure. Right now, I think feelings are something produced by context. I am happy when my boyfriend kisses me on the cheek. I am sad when I worry about my father. I am angry when people to lie to me.

Mental illness sits on the opposite weight of this dichotomy. Mental illness could give two shits about context, about time-and-place, about triggers and incidents and situations. It sits and waits when the moment makes absolutely no sense. Mental illness is more than irrational, it is unpredictable.

But perhaps this binary is naive. It is, I know. Too often, our contexts and our emotions bleed into our mental health. Their mixing covers our eyes, blurs our vision. We spend days stringing separation between our emotions and our mental illness, all to have them collapse into each other again.

Last week, I started to think about mental illness like a roller-coaster I couldn’t quite leave. I would be all these levels of anxiety and depressed and scared and exhilarated and joyful: it didn’t matter what the world was doing. I would be feeling all of these things for the rest of my life.

Their diversity and intensity would be inescapable: this could be the constant I should expect.

I’m not sure if this is still true. I know it is not false.

Rebecca Heilweil is the editor of Beautiful Minds Magazine.

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