When it comes to mental health, a DIY approach might not be the best option
I’ve been leading support groups for a while now, and one of the more interesting themes I’ve noticed is a DIY (“do-it-yourself”) attitude toward our mental health work. Overall, this is healthy and true. We are each responsible for our own emotional experience, and activities such as journaling, meditation, and mindfulness are typically solitary experiences.
In truth, these more solitary activities are foundations for the bigger work that comes down the road for us. As we start to heal our little wounds, we gain confidence in the process and the capacity to approach some of our deeper hurts. (I like to use the onion analogy: We start by handling all the surface layers, and as we make our way through each layer, we get closer and closer to the central issues of our lives.)
Eventually, we start to see outward evidence of our healing. Maybe we begin to engage with our friends more frequently, or perhaps we start looking for a new job. Inevitably, someone who knows us is encouraged by the progress we are making and offers a helping hand. “Hey, I know someone who is hiring; want me to make a recommendation?”
For the emotionally healthy, the default response here would probably be, “yes, please.”
But those of us in a storm might kindly refuse.
I’ve crossed paths with this specific scenario multiple times, both in my work and my personal life. Those who refuse the help will typically explain the decision with something like, “I want to know I did it on my own.”
I think this is, at least partially, a cultural response: Here in the United States, we worship at the altars of Ayn Rand and the proverbial bootstraps. We adore the self-made success story, holding them up as examples of what a little hard work and determination can achieve.
We rely on societal structures to help protect us, guide us, and meet our fundamental needs.
But no one succeeds in a vacuum. We are all inter-reliant upon each other. To deny this core truth is to deny our essential humanity.