Post by Britt Turpack
With depression and anxiety on the rise, heightened by the social isolation from the global pandemic, it is no surprise people are craving human connection more than ever before. I believe we have greatly underestimated the negative mental health side effects of having a limited ability to connect in daily life with others through employment, education, and recreation — just to name a few. A role model of mine, Brene Brown, says we are “hardwired for connection with others. It is what gives us purpose and meaning to our lives. Without it, there is suffering.” So it makes sense that so many of us are longing for it, especially right now.
I think it is safe to assume that the last nine months have been very challenging and most of us have been in “survive crisis” mode. However, if you look at the Greek root of the word “crisis,” it means to SIFT. As in, shake out what does not serve and leave what is important. When you look at CRISIS in that way, it can be viewed as a beautiful opportunity. But that comes down to choice. And so I am choosing to see this pandemic in this way, as a beautiful opportunity. To shake things up until we are forced to hold on to what matters most. Call me an optimist, but I do strongly believe with every negative there is a positive and we have the capability to view both good and bad as learning opportunities. Again, that comes down to choice.
For those who do not know me, I am a passionate mental health advocate and part of the NAMI WLA team. One of the programs I am involved in is Ending the Silence, where we go into schools to educate students on mental health. I share my own personal story about my mental health conditions in hopes of destigmatizing the conversation around a topic that our culture deems taboo. To clarify, I am not a mental health expert, but I am an expert in my own lived experience and it is through vocalizing my own journey that I connect with so many students.
After more than a year of presenting in more than one hundred classrooms, I have had a front-row seat to bear witness to the power of sharing personal stories… the power of connection. Although I started my work with NAMI in hopes of being of service, what I have learned is sharing my own story has been one of the largest ingredients in the recipe for my own healing. It’s funny how that works out. Not only has vocalizing my story helped me personally, it has also been a catalyst for so many others to receive help. I know this because of the countless personal messages I have received after many presentations. I really believe this is because when we confidently stand in our authentic truth and bravely share our experiences, we give permission for others to do the same. To feel seen. To feel heard. And in turn, FEEL LIBERATED! And that feeling of liberation is a result of fearlessly connecting.
I know we may not be seeing others as often as we used to, but if you do have the privilege to still go to your local coffee shop, or hop on Zoom calls, or interact with the public in any capacity, I encourage you to stop and PAUSE. To listen. To hold space for others. To look people in the eye. To smile. To check in on someone. To share YOUR truth. To have hard conversations. To tell someone you love them or that they mean something to you. To be brave enough to ask for help. Because THAT is connection. And not only does that connection help heal us individually, it helps heal the world.
Thank you to this sifting process, for I have recognized this invaluable lesson of connection and thank you to NAMI for positively changing my life.