My Mind is a Fixer Upper & Still Under Renovation
By: Katie Dale
There’s this popular Facebook group military wives are into these days. It’s where they post pictures of their amazing farmhouse and contemporary decorated homes. It’s called White Walls. I go there for inspiration and to rest my eyes on some aesthetically pleasing décor. I get jealous of the magazine-like photos a lot of the group members post. I think to myself, “How do they make it look so good?” They are the home décor advocates of clean and simple spaces. I’m over here looking on, wishing I had it all together like that. They make renovations look so easy.
I’m guilty. As a mental health advocate, I make my recovery look easy. In that, I’m also guilty of contributing to stigma. I ignore how my friends and church family and even my husband are really doing. I haven’t gone up to one single person since I can remember and asked them out of genuine care and concern, “Hey, how are you really doing?” I guess I am scared to hear the truth of where they may be at. Could their “mental home” be cluttered? Do they keep emotional baggage and outdated memories like a hoarder?
When I think of how little mental health is talked about in my own life, I get scared. Why would I be a mental health advocate online if I can’t even care enough about my friends and family in person? There’s something amiss. I need to take a long look inside and find some compassion. Sometimes I tell myself I’m great and got it all together. However, in reality, my mental health is under renovation. Yes, I’ve put a lot of work into making it better, but it’s still not finished.
I think of how seldom a conversation with another church member, heck even my own family members, goes beyond the stuff of our plans for the week or our opinions on other people’s choices or our usual complaints and surface conversations. I’d like to know what it’s like to be a true friend to someone else. I can’t keep this front up forever. It’s like applying some white-washed photo filter that lets the light look just perfect and yet there are deeper issues – like inefficient heating and cooling or clogged pipes.
So I confess, I’ve been out of touch with the reality of other people’s wellbeing, others who I should care about and really be genuinely concerned for, but am not. I’m guilty of wasting time and effort making small talk and not getting to the nitty gritty. When was the last time I was honest and vulnerable with someone? Aside from the first therapy visit I went to last week, it’s been too long. I discovered I have lots of inefficient heating and cooling going on. There are clogged pipes, among other broken things.
Where to from here? Do I throw my own pity party and sit quietly in the corner hoping someone see me? Do I throw my hands up and forget the purpose of maintaining my mental health and advocating for others who aren’t aware enough to? Or do I go out of my way to find that person struggling with just as many doubts, questions, misguided beliefs and cognitive fallacies and give them an ear, or a shoulder to cry on? Sometimes people without a vision for their lives need inspiration. Not to aim for a picturesque home, but for the peace and comfort that comes from working out our issues in a Christ-like way. Being the body of Jesus means getting real and getting messy. We need each other and that takes getting involved.
These days I’m afraid it’s become too easy to hide behind a screen and fake it, and in person too. How our lives look like they’re floating along, until we realize we have been addressing the cosmetic and surface issues, applying filters and putting on a mask to make it look like we’re okay. The gospel of Jesus isn’t neat and tidy and White-Walls-worthy. It’s messy and unclear and gray matter. There is order in the gospel, and a cleansing through Jesus’ work, and the war is won. But the battles are still fought for the completion of each of our stories our Creator keeps us on earth to finish. We are always under renovation. Let’s stop hiding behind photo-filtered images and be real. That’s when the healing begins.
Ready? Let’s get to work.
Katie Dale is the mind behind BipolarBrave.com and the e-book GAMEPLAN: A Mental Health Resource Guide. She works full time at a behavioral outpatient clinic, ministering to those with mental illness. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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