Of Course It's Happening Inside Your Head...

When I first decided to start a blog, I had no clue what to call it. I thought about song lyrics, puns, play on words, a lot of different options before I landed on Living Joy-Full. I’m still in love with the name I chose and have zero regrets about that. But today I was reminded of one of the quotes I initially considered and realized I’d yet to write about why this quote so fully encompasses what I’m trying to do with this platform.

You shouldn’t be surprised that it’s a quote from good, ole Harry Potter.

In one of the climactic scenes, Harry enters a limbo state where he gets to talk with the deceased Professor Dumbledore trying to decide what next step he should take. Before the scene fades away Harry asks, “Professor, is this real or has it all been happening inside my head?” Then Dumbledore responds:

“Of course it's happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it isn’t real?”

Let’s get deep for a moment. A lot of people don’t understand mental health care. A lot of people don’t understand that the hurt and pain of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses can affect you just as much, if not more than physical pain. A lot of people think that just because it’s happening inside your head, it isn’t real.

And I love how one line from Albus Dumbledore completely dispels that narrative.

Because there are a lot of people who don’t understand mental health, but there are also a lot of people who deal with it every day. And there’s a weird, unwarranted shame involved with dealing with a mental illness. Like you’re scared people won’t take it seriously because it’s something they can’t see.

The anonymity of anxiety drives me insane. I know there have been times I get so frustrated with my brain. Like “dude, get it together, everything is really fine why are you making my heart beat faster and my breathing stall and my thoughts go down rabbit holes of negativity and fear.” My logic brain fights with my anxious brain, and I don’t even know what triggered it.

You can’t see what’s happening, so you don’t always know how to fix it. Think about it like this. Say I take the same route to work every day. There’s some broken glass on my front stoop, I step in it every morning causing me to bleed. Then I always underestimate the height of my car door, so I hit my head getting in the driver's seat each morning. Now, on my way to work, I miss the exit every time causing me to be late.

All of those issues I just described have easy, quick fixes. Sweep up the glass, remind yourself to duck, and turn up the volume on the GPS.

Solving mental health problems doesn’t work like that. I may be cutting myself on glass every morning in my mind, but I can’t identify the glass so I don’t know what to sweep up. Or my car door changes daily so even if I duck as much as I needed to yesterday, I may not clear that unresolved issue today. And sometimes I’m driving down the same path I’m used to when autopilot takes over and decides we’re going down a scarier route.

I don’t know how to fix what I can’t identify. I don’t know how to beat an opponent that is constantly adapting to my evasive maneuvers. I do know this is a real, daily struggle, even though it’s completely happening inside my head.

There isn’t Neosporin for your brain. I’m not going to pretend I can solve mental health care with an easy fix. But I can promise that I will always treat the problems going on in your brain with the same weight as the problems going on with your body. And I encourage you to do the same.

For people who are experiencing these mental health struggles, especially in this time of quarantine and confusion: I see you. I see your struggles. Just because you aren’t bleeding, doesn’t mean there isn’t hurt.

Whatever you’re going through, depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, stress, fear, frustration, even if it’s inside your head, it’s still very, very real. Give yourself permission to acknowledge that pain and live in the discomfort for as long as you need. Naming your opponent takes away their power.

Is there something going on in your mind that you haven’t acknowledged, because you didn’t think it was real or worthy of dealing with? Have you refused to ask for help because you thought your hurt wouldn’t be taken seriously? Have you been living inside your head, terrified to step into the real world?

Give yourself permission to share. You deserve to seek out comfort and peace. Just because it’s happening inside your head, doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

And one day, your depression and anxiety and grief and frustration will be replaced with joy and peace and love and excitement. And you may start to question if those feelings are real, too. I promise you, those concepts are just as real and even more powerful than the clouds that are hovering in your brain right now.

So when light and love and joy and peace start happening inside your head and you start to doubt, just remember the words of Albus Dumbledore whispering, “of course it’s happening inside your head, but why on earth does that mean it’s not real?


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