Glennon Doyle frequently says, “We can do hard things”. I’ve been thinking about that idea a lot lately.
We’ve all had times in our lives where we had to do hard things. I moved to a new country where the only person I knew was my then girlfriend, now wife. I gave birth to our amazing daughter. I’ve made it through bouts of depression.
The pandemic has meant us doing hard things like being away from loved ones.
Often hard things, like most of the above, we need to do because of our own circumstances, but sometimes there are hard things we need to do because of world circumstances. We can try to ignore those things and pretend that they don’t exist or aren’t our problem, but frankly, many of the problems we’re facing now and have been facing for a long time can’t be ignored any longer.
Just as we can’t pretend that there’s no pandemic (though too many people have done that very thing), we can’t pretend that the other challenges in the world aren’t there or don’t matter.
Climate change is real and its impact is being seen in flooding from Southern Sudan to Southern British Columbia in the past few weeks. Sticking our heads in the sand about this will lead to the rest of us sinking under the water.
Racism is an evil that must be addressed and conquered. It’s at the root of so many of the problems we face (poverty, swelling prison populations, homelessness, and many other injustices).
What does this have to do with mental health, with being a Better You? The divisions we face, the arguments with family and friends, the homeless we see on our streets, the opioid crisis, the pandemic, all effect our individual and collective mental health.
We need to do hard things like read challenging books about the history of our countries. I’m currently reading The 1619 Project (the book) and recently finished Speaking Our Truth. Yes, facing the ugly parts of the histories of the U.S. and Canada is not easy, but banning the teaching of racism, slavery, residential schools, and other historical injustices, when we have the chance to start making real change, acknowledging how our countries have gotten to where we are (both the good and the bad) makes us as guilty as those written about in those history books.
An important tool for improving mental health is getting really honest with ourselves about the role we have played in getting to where we’re at (again, the good and the bad) and working through it.
If we’re going to improve the collective mental health of our nations, we need to get honest with ourselves about the roles of those who came before us in getting us to where we are now. We have to stop lionizing Founding Fathers like Washington and McDonald and accept that the first owned other human beings and the second played a key role in Canada’s Indian Act and setting up the residential school system. And our children need to learn this history as well so that we can begin to heal the wounds in our countries that are at the heart of our divisions.