An eviction notice
Yesterday was the start of Mental Health Month. May is designated to addressing our mental health and encouraging people to focus as much on their mental health as they do their physical health. There continues to be a stigma associated with getting help for mental health. Not addressing your mental health can be as lethal as not addressing a diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, lung disease, or many other physical/medical issues. It still baffles me that seeking help for mental health difficulties such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, psychosis, or trauma is, to some, considered weak. It is one of the strongest things you can do, to take care of and talk about the things that bother you or cause significant distress in your life.
If you had a house that you are renting to someone and they destroyed the place, didn’t take care of it, and abused it leaving it tattered and worn, what would you do? Would you continue to let them rent from you? Would you continue to let them destroy the place you own? Would you ignore what they are doing? Would you allow it to continue but complain about it? Or would you stand up for what is yours and not allow someone to destroy it? Would you evict them?
A common theme in depression and anxiety is remembering things from the past or ruminating on something someone said or did that bothered you. Many people beat themselves up for things someone said to them or feeling guilty about wrongdoing they did to someone. Many people struggle with wrongdoings done to them by others and not being able to forgive and move on. They have a hard time letting that go. These things start to evolve into defining who you are. The person you were before the event becomes blurred by the person you now have defined yourself as after an event that was distressing. You have suddenly allowed your self-esteem to be dependent upon what others think of or view you as. You become nervous and anxious, doubting yourself and your capabilities, afraid of letting others down or afraid of messing up in front of others. You become angry, doubting the goodness of others based upon what was done to you. These are common emotions, however, this becomes “clinical” when the level of dysfunction begins to interfere with your life. This is when intervention is necessary; this is when, in physical health terms, the sprain becomes a fracture and is no longer manageable by just hobbling along.
I like real-life crime shows such as anything on the Investigative Discovery channel, so I listen to many victims on these shows. I was recently watching one where a loved one was murdered and the victim’s family member said that she had to forgive this person due to “no longer wanting to rent him space in my head.” Wow. That was powerful to me. I asked myself who is renting space in my head and then I laughed. I laughed because I have realized that I have given out many eviction notices without really realizing what I was doing. I have become healthier mentally because I have stopped ruminating on mean words said by someone, feeling left out from a group or abrasive actions of others.
I have been able to recognize when I am going down that slippery slope of wondering what is wrong with me if someone is not nice to me or doesn’t like me. At the bottom of that slippery slope is where we fall into self-doubt, sadness, anxiety and possible depression.
This isn’t to say that things don’t bother me; it’s to say that I have learned how to stop myself from letting the opinions of other people about me define who I am. This certainly did not occur when I was younger, but I have heard that we get wiser with age.
I have allowed myself to get upset over something someone has said to me or done to me that hurt my feelings, however, I then am able to put the power back to me and realize that I can allow that person to continue to rent space in my head or kick them out. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are kicked out of my life, but they are kicked out of having an impact on how I define myself or how intense I allow my emotions to become. I can still be cordial and pleasant to those that I have given eviction notices to. Sometimes, there is some satisfaction in issuing eviction notices and knowing the person may not even realize he or she has been evicted (enter the evil laugh).
So, now I ask you, who are you renting space to in your head that is currently causing some mental distress?
More importantly, what are you willing to do about it?
Do you need to write some eviction notices?
Something that can help is to ask yourself what you are capable of doing that can minimize the emotions you are feeling. Would writing a letter help get your feelings out? You don’t have to send the letter, you can decide that later, but sometimes just getting the “stuff” out of your head is enough to allow yourself to find some peace. This is the same thing with talking about what you are feeling. You don’t have to talk to a trained therapist or psychiatrist, just to someone that will listen to you and allow you to feel heard without judgment. That can be enough sometimes.
Other times, the people and circumstances renting space in your head is just too much for you to handle on your own with these strategies. Asking for help from someone removed from the situation and trained to help psychologically is what is needed. No shame there. Know when the eviction notice can be handled by you or when you need extra assistance in handing out that eviction notice. Either way, remember that you are responsible for who you allow to rent space from you. You are in charge of what kind of tenants you will allow to come onto and into your property. You are allowed to write eviction notices.
Your mental health matters. You matter. It’s okay to not be okay, but talk about it.
Kari Swanson is a Master’s level clinician with 25 years of working in the mental health field. She is the founder of CORE–Choosing Openness Regarding Experiences which is a non-profit organization with the mission to provide mental health awareness and suicide prevention education to Warren County.