Say hello to your Ego
I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I had an epic inspiration bubble to share a friend’s journey through a heavy period of anxiety and depression. I would outline how the ocean and OneWave played a role in him coping at that time and his ultimate road to recovery to an improved mental space. The tale was real, human, and perfectly outlined what OneWave epitomises. I was ready! At the time, I lay witness to the tortuous journey of his gradually deteriorating mental state. His agonising mental voyage traversed the loneliness of isolation, the abyss of hopelessness, the eternal nights and the vastness of despair. Eventually he came to surrender into acceptance, with introspection and random acts of kindness acting like stepping-stones leading him back to funsies in life and waves with time. Eventually.
Because I viewed his journey as a positive, seeing that he had literally freed the funk of his mental depths and emerged graciously to the other side to what he acknowledges as a “better place”, I thought he would jump at the idea of sharing his story. Inspire others who are going through the same. I sent a message detailing my intention to see what he thought. Time passed and he replied to call him for more information. OK I thought this is great, already envisioning how the chat would go and running full steam ahead of myself.
However, the conversation that followed is one that has been pedalled many times before. “I am not sure I am ready to share my story with the rest of the world”. I blurted out “You will remain anonymous” but that was beside the point. To him, my message had opened up the raw emotions he had experienced at that time and how painful even the thought of reliving that period of his life really was. He continued to detail that since the majority of his friends remained unaware that he was in such a hopeless, dark place he was concerned they may be able to trace the article back to him. And this thought made him feel uncomfortable. Despite two years passing he still was not ready to have those conversations and expose old wounds. Thud……heart sink.
I thanked him for his honesty even though I was selfishly a little disappointed as in my blind enthusiasm I had already prepared his story. All I could do was respect his stance and move on. Unfortunately, I left him in a quandary, as he would have loved to be the pin up boy for mental health recovery and support OneWave. However, when it came to taking the actual leap he remained stuck.
This got me thinking how foolish I had been to dive head first into the deep. Unfortunately, what I just experienced reflects exactly where mental health journeys are up to in our society. Solitary individuals moving around with intrusive emotions entangled in loneliness, yet fearful they may be exposed. How exhausting! So who or what is to blame? Is it the individual or society? To be honest as with all things human not one entity is to blame. Or is it? If I could simplify the stigma that surrounds mental health I would summarise it in one word. EGO. I will keep this three-letter word in uppercase, as I believe for such a little word it is in fact a big thing!
Now, just to clarify when it comes to EGO I am not referring to the type of superficial EGO that props you up and turns you into a strutmaster 2000 when you stroll along the foreshore of a crowded beach. No, No, I am talking about that inner voice that seems to form an opinion, and usually not a very nice one on almost anything you do!
You see this EGO is a divisive phenomenon that feeds on vulnerability, thrives on fear and perfects negative judgement. You may recall it from such thoughts as “I should be able to deal with this”, “I am not good enough”, “they can why can’t I”, “what will people think” and in it’s simplest form just plain old “I CAN’T”. The EGO in fact is so present in our lives that often it is mistaken for our actual being. Kind of like an invisible mental conjoint twin that we cannot separate from our own thoughts. It often arrives with a giant “should’ve shovel” that digs you into a rut and keeps you stuck. To be fair, the EGO doesn’t discriminate amongst individuals, as it is present in us all. This multiplied by the entire population equals the EGO of society, and when it comes to issues concerning mental health EGO = STIGMA.
So here is a thought for today…….listen to your EGO. Acknowledge its views. Thank it for its opinion, and then politely tell it to bugger off. You are NOT your EGO. You are not labelled or defined by your EGO (although you may allow it to do this often). You in fact are an entirely separate entity. If each individual reconnected with their own identity and separated their thoughts from that of their EGO we may just step away from our own fears and become a little less stuck.
So on Friday, maybe heading down to the beach early in crazy fluoro, catching a few waves or simply hanging with new faces doing some yoga may start a battle with your EGO. So be it! In doing so you may just win a part of yourself back. Sure, your EGO would love to come for a free ride to the beach. However, you have the CHOICE to listen to your own non-judgemental dialogue and leave your beloved EGO in the boot. By learning to mute the running commentary of your EGO in time, you will become less afraid of what others may think and more aware and accepting of the difficulties experienced by those around you.
This concept, multiplied in everyday life, in every individual, is the secret to freeing the stigma of mental illness. First, a ripple at an individual level then flows a positive vibration into our society. I like to picture it as a giant EGOless tsunami about to crash down on stigma. So lets get amongst it, head to the beach and get those ripples going, one wave and one thought at a time!