This website is undergoing a substantial transformation which parallels my own transformation from life coach with a side interest in mental health, to a mental health advocate, a researcher (well I was always that), an artist and a future peer supporter.
My first urge when training as a coach was to serve people with chronic illnesses. Before that, as a psychology major at UBC, I sensed my mission would be in mental health. While at UBC, I finally sought treatment for major depression.
I’ve worked as a health librarian looking at research for over 10 years. I have noticed that we are still obsessed by hard evidence and rationality to explain why and when diseases occur. Picking up Gabor Maté’s book When the Body Says No, published in 2003, is still a ground-breaking experience.
In numerous studies of cancer, the most consistently identified risk factor is the inability to express emotion, particularly the feelings associated with anger. The repression of anger is not an abstract emotional trait that mysteriously leads to disease. It is a major risk factor because it increases physiological stress on the organism. It does not act alone but in conjunction with other risk factors that are likely to accompany it, such as hopelessness and lack of social support.
The person who does not feel or express “negative” emotion will be isolated even if surrounded by friends, because his or her real self is not seen. The sense of hopelessness follows from the chronic inability to be true to oneself on the deepest level. And hopelessness leads to helplessness, since nothing one can do is perceived as making any difference.
– Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No, Stress, Hormones, Repression and Cancer, p.99.
In my own life, I have seen the detriment of withholding emotions and skating over what is negative or difficult to hurry back to having fun. Society and our social media suggest that we share only what is great, glowing and fun. So we censor out what is “bad.”
Oddly, even paradoxically, immersing ourselves in our current emotional state(s), however “bad,” and without distraction, judgement or shame, seems to be the most reliable healer. This is opposite to what I learned early in life. I believe I am not alone.
A popular news story published in February 2018 states that a survey of Americans commissioned by a fitness app, shows that they have on average 60 ‘bad days’ per year. Work stress and lack of sleep are cited as major causes for the bad days. Other causes were illness, financial worries, cancelled plans and feeling dishevelled or unclean (including bad hair days).
I believe that emotions exist on a spectrum, much like gender. To be female is not to exclude all that is masculine. To be healthy is not to exclude illness or disability. To be happy is not to exclude all that is upsetting. For a deeper discussion, check out the Happiness Monopoly blog post.
My website is for everyone who has ever had a bad day.
P.S. My blog posts tend to be irregular, and I will always create them with a true and kind heart.