Choose joy. Comparison is the thief of joy. Everything happens for a reason.
When you struggle with mental illness, choosing that joy or refraining from the comparisons is not going to change with a simple mantra. You want to choose all the right things, the right thoughts, but these phrases make us question more than they snap us out of hard feelings.
Lately, the days haven’t been for choosing; they have been for fighting. Busted pipes. Health anxiety. Mental and physical exhaustion. Seeing the “choose joy” mantra can make an anxious person feel like they are missing out – more than they already do. They can’t flip the switch to that joy so quickly. Their switches toggled a bit and are often so heavy to move.
It has been almost 20 years since I lost my dad; five since I lost my brother. Some days, I don’t see joy. I just need a day (or days) to get in my feelings. Choosing joy right in that moment doesn’t honor my grief; it pushes it in deep. And, when you struggle with anxiety already, pushing any hard feelings down makes for disaster later.
The magnitude of the first days of loss, the anniversaries, or the random moments that present themselves is heavy. Yet, grievers learn how to carry the sorrow as time goes by, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone completely. We can’t automatically “choose joy” because we see it while scrolling through Instagram.
May is Mental Health Awareness month. If you are standing by the side of someone who struggles with mental health, you know each day is different. In one moment, they may be withdrawn or sad, it doesn’t mean they are incapable of feeling joy ever again. On their good days, it doesn’t mean the grief/anxiety/sadness is wiped away.
My dad and my brother are not coming back. A person’s depression doesn’t stop automatically when that “choose joy” is shared. Joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive.
Instead, let’s choose grace.
Grace when our happy switches toggle a bit, and grace when our mental health requires us to hide under the covers.
Choose grace. Choose it in May as we are becoming aware of mental health. And, choose it in the months thereafter.