The other day I was reading a book and a page of it really got my attention. It made me think and it also made me remember something that happened a couple of years ago. I have been mulling the whole thing over for the last couple of days and I suddenly realized something. More about the book and my realization later, first I want to talk about the memory.
In 2012 I was in a pretty lonely place. No one knew about my anxiety except me, I couldn’t tell anyone. I kept everything bottled up but I knew I needed help and managed to get a few counselling sessions through my GP. At one of the sessions my therapist asked what stopped me from telling my family and friends. I told him that I didn’t want anyone to treat me differently or to worry about me. I didn’t want my parents to fret and my closest friend was in the middle of her A level exams, I didn’t want to distract her. A little later in the conversation he asked me what I would change in my life if I had a magic wand. I said I would make myself brave and stop myself worrying over stupid things, stop myself from being a coward. I got a bit tearful as I said that and I will always remember what happened next. My therapist looked at me thoughtfully for a moment, then said that I was stopping myself from sharing my problems with the people I love because I was concerned about their feelings. Instead I was trying to bottle everything up and tackle it alone. He said he thought that that was a very brave thing to do which meant I was brave. At that another tear rolled down my cheek and I said “I don’t feel brave.” He replied “That’s okay.”
The thing is I didn’t believe my therapist when he said I was brave. I thought he was saying it to make me feel better because I was upset. Now this is where the book comes in. I was reading Divergent (Yes I know, its a futuristic action novel that has just been turned into a movie, bear with me!) The main character is thinking about the real meaning of courage and she comes to the conclusion that courage doesn’t mean that you aren’t afraid, it means that you continue despite being afraid. In the same book she talks about courage and selflessness being almost the same thing. Now this made me think, not feeling scared of something isn’t brave. If you were in the same room as a tiger, not being scared wouldn’t be brave, it would be stupid! Maybe true bravery is knowing that you are afraid but not giving up!
I think that this is probably a widespread problem for those of us with mental health conditions, we think that because we have these conditions we are weak. We think we are cowards or selfish or not good enough. But can we just stop for a second? Look at yourself, think about all of the times that you have felt anxious or depressed but soldiered on regardless! Think of all the times that you have tried to hide your feelings, not because of how it would effect you but because of how you think it would effect the other person! Does that make you a coward? No! Does it make you selfish or weak? Of course not! It makes us human. It makes us stronger than we believe we are. And now I can finally see the truth… It makes us brave, whether we believe it at the time or not.