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Praising Mental Health

Praising Mental Health

by Ehsaan Forghani

I started going to a psychiatrist in early 2020, almost right after the COVID-19 breakout in Wuhan. I could only see my therapist once before the lockdown started in my home country, Iran. After the first in-person session, we’re having our sessions via Skype or WhatsApp ever since.

It’s been almost two years since we had our sessions. Although I have moved between countries twice (so far), I’m still going to the same therapist. We’re working it out after almost a year and a half. It took us a year and a half before I could get pulled in and actually start talking about my health instead of chit-chatting. In other words, it took us a long time to let my guards down.

I’m not going to talk about why, but after all this time, I’m starting to appreciate what’s between my ears more and more. It’s really fascinating. All the thoughts, reflections, words, feelings. At first, they seemed hostile and out of control. They were not working for my good. They were defying my love, my anger, my trust, my hatred when I should’ve had expressed them. I thought they were coming from many places, and it seemed almost impossible to get a hold of them, let alone controlling them or explaining them.

Anyone’s feelings are a priori (“before the fact”) authentic and valid

Feelings are important in the context of what we do. Our thoughts create the context for our feelings. The interpretations of our interactions with others and ourselves create the context for our thoughts.

This simple idea changed the way I thought and changed my life’s direction. It’s not a rare, never-heard-of-before notion. We all know that people do things differently because of how they feel. We mostly do something, not because it should be done, but because we feel it should be done. If everyone was relying on the reasonings and logic alone, procrastinating wouldn’t be a word then.

Feelings are valid, and it’s something I needed to start believing in, to respect myself, to respect the only true thing my brain produces, and then, to respect the only things other people’s brains produce. If someone says they’re feeling sick, a (good) doctor won’t ignore them. Even if a person feels sick, that means they are sick.

Yes, it all feels like writing down the obvious. I sometimes forget the obvious. And to me, it seems a lot of other people forget it from time to time as well.

Achieving the mental health

Sounds like mental health has become the new "Afterlife Redemption." Everyone’s working so hard, the preachers preaching so loud, and of course, the businesses making a profit, trying to sell Paradise to the faithful. Yet, I see many people around me are not getting much benefit from it. They pay so much money for psychiatrist sessions only to quit and demand a refund after 2-3 sittings.

It’s another lesson I’ve learned: growth starts from within, continues from within, and ends within. It’s kind of cruel, I agree. If we let go of the people with mental problems to decide on their own whether they should seek help or not, it doesn’t make much sense. I’m still trying to learn how these people can be helped without intruding on their privacy or even my own mental wellness.

But my own experience wasn’t so smooth. I canceled my therapy sessions almost every time for 6 weeks before going for the first session. I was scared that I might get diagnosed with some fearsome illness or get judged or labeled. But then, I just decided to go there, and I went. But that was NOT the hard part at all. It’s continuing, steadiness, and having a desire to change for the better.

There were days that I felt like it was impossible for me to talk to anyone, let alone my therapist. I was constantly moving. During 2021 alone, I moved from one city to another, then left my family and moved to another country (with no way back home, literally), and then left my new home again and moved to the Netherlands. All the stress, feelings, challenges were so undertaking, but instead of fighting with feelings, screaming at myself: "You should not cry now. You should feel ashamed. You should not feel tired", I decided to go with the truest product of my brain. I cried, stopped feeling ashamed, and expressed that I was tired. Surprisingly at first, everyone was OK with that. But does it really matter whether "everyone" is OK with my feelings or not? No.

So far, it was a long journey, but it was worth every bit of blood, sweat, and tears. Right now, I’m on my new journey to adapting to the new, friendly environment. Living for so many years in a hostile society made me forget the warmness of a welcoming community and how to integrate well. Maybe, I wasn’t even taught in the first place. By the way, it’s something I want to do.

And this was my first blog post, sharing my thoughts and experience on mental health. If you have any thoughts or feedback, I’d be more than happy if you shared them with me. You can find my contact options at the bottom of the page.

Stay safe!

Image credit goes to Ümit Bulut