Language can be a funny thing. We express ourselves but sometimes it doesn’t come across the way we want. I studied communication and I think the power of it is so intriguing and beautiful. I could talk your ear off about semiotics if you want – but the real point is we need to be careful about our use of language. When we aren’t careful, our language can unintentionally make people feel shame or isolation for the things they are dealing with.
The terms ‘good’, ‘bad’ and ‘better’ are so arbitrary when it comes to describing our mental and emotional health. It doesn’t help us communicate clearly if we use binary language to describe mental health. My biggest pet peeve when someone asks you how you’re doing, especially if they are checking in because you’ve been having a hard time, and you say “I’m okay” is when they assume that means you’re completely fine. You’re totally great. You’re not still being affected in anyway. The thing is, okay doesn’t always mean doing well. Sometimes it just means you’re making progress.
I was talking to one of my roommates about this and she related to this frustration. I told her sometimes I don’t know how to convey feeling better but still having a hard time. She said a phrase she uses, and one I’m going to start borrowing, is “I’m more okay today than I was yesterday.” I love it. Sure, it still leaves things up in the air a little – but I think it helps encapsulate progress while struggling while honouring that the struggle is ongoing.
“More Okay” vs. “Better”
Better is a confusing term to me. I don’t like it because it sounds like struggling with mental or emotional health is a negative or shameful thing. It sounds synonomys with getting back to normal and in my mind it limits the scope of healing. I think we often go through hard seasons to learn valuable lessons, to grow and come out different, or transformed on the other side.
I think it is also okay to struggle. To face pain and deal with it head on. The healing process doesn’t need to be rushed. I like the idea of being ‘more okay’ than ‘better’. Healing, learning, growing and processing emotions all take time. There shouldn’t be pressure to be normal or better. Healing looks different for all people; it can be feeling pure joy again, it can be getting ready in the morning and having a dance party in the bathroom because you’re excited about the day; it can be booking an appointment with your counsellor two weeks apart because you feel confident you won’t need to see her in a week, it can be making art or making plans with friends because you have energy to be social.
I think, it is understanding that there is no deadline to feel better. And more importantly, that any other state of being is not better than where you are now.
You might be wondering why I named this post Good, Bad, Bad enough, and Better. The thing I want you remember, if you remember anything from reading this, is that you don’t have to wait until you’re in a desperate place, you’re “bad enough”, to ask for help; asking for help, in any form, doesn’t have to be a last resort.
Even if you aren’t one of the 1 in 5 Canadians who experience mental health issues or mental illness *, every person has mental health and it’s still important to take care of yourself and keep your mental health in check. If you feel like you’re struggling it is okay to ask for help. I consider counselling like going to the gym for my mental and emotional health. It helps me keep myself in shape if I need to. It’s so good to ask for help when you need it – but I’ve also found that you don’t need to wait until you get to your breaking point to make the call for an appointment. If you’re starting to feel stressed but think you’re strong and can go it alone but then remember that you don’t have to.
Counselling is great and if you feel like it could be beneficial to you you should try it. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak. The way we talk about mental and emotional health matters a lot so please be careful with your words and avoid broad or binary language. And always know that it is okay not to be okay, and to take your time to heal from things.