How would you describe yourself? What words would you use? Would you describe yourself using full sentences, or create a list of adjectives? When I think about the way I describe myself, my brain freezes. It’s not that I’m afraid of using the wrong words, of talking about myself in a way that’s disingenuous. Actually, it’s the opposite; I’m worried I won’t include words that would clearly state who I am. I get scared that there’s a part of me that will never be known, things that will never be shared.
It’s not always easy to find the right words. When I was first dealing with anxiety and depression, my mental health vocabulary was limited. I didn’t know how describe what I was feeling. My thoughts were jumbled; no description felt right. I needed to build a new vocabulary to describe what I was going through, and there was so much relief when I started to find these words. The way I talk about my mental health now is so different than it was when I was younger. It’s more respectful, patient and understanding. But the road to get there can be brutal.
This post was partially inspired by a Google Search I recently made. I wanted to find synonyms for the term trigger, which I’ve found myself using a lot in regards to my anxiety. I wanted to find something more accurate, that spoke more to what I felt. I found a list of synonyms; that didn’t turn out to be very helpful. But something that did help clear my head was an article about how people can misuse the word triggered.
This article was about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the UK, which wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. However, it made me think about how I talk about my mental health. Was I using the right words? Had I grown comfortable in the way I described my anxiety and depression, and was it still accurate? I love the complexity and imagination of words, but I often forget the other side of things. Sometimes, words can feel impossible to come by, which can lead to feeing isolated or alone.
I used to be afraid of talking about my mental health. There was the stigma, sure, but there was also confusion. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. I didn’t want to undersell the challenges, but I also didn’t want to exaggerate anything. The result was that I wouldn’t say anything unless I was in a crisis, which isn’t a good way to build mental wellness (I would know).
It’s not easy to find the right words to talk about our mental health. We don’t always know what to say, or when to say it. But there are a few things I remind myself that have helped over time. One important thing to remember is that patience pays off. We’re not going to find the right words immediately, but we can get close. And the more we talk about it, the closer we get to finding the right words. The relief I’ve felt when finding the right word to describe my feelings…I feel whole. I feel heard and understood, and it’s beautiful.
Another key thing to remember is that mental wellness isn’t built overnight. Feelings are valid, and not always being able to describe doesn’t make them any less valid. The more I built up my mental health toolkit, the more I was able to talk about it. I used what worked for me, and I ditched what didn’t. Before I knew it, I was talking about mental health in a way I hadn’t been able to before because I’d put in the work. And when it comes to our mental health, the work is well worth the rewards that can follow.
I’m going to continue trying to find the right words for how I feel, even if I can’t always get to them in time. The more time and effort we spend on learning these things about ourselves, the better our chance at learning what mental wellness means for us. Here’s hoping you find the right words on your mental health journey!