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When It Comes to Mental Health, Bravery Isn't a Knight in Shining Armor

When you read the word “bravery,” what image pops into your mind? My bet would be something like a knight in shining armor facing off against a dragon. A hero of some sort. They would be standing tall, looking strong, running directly into danger, seemingly without a care of the fear they may be feeling.

But I don’t think this is what bravery is.

In the “hero” scenario, the individual has an emotion driving them into battle. The fight response is activated. Their brain is giving them the chemicals they need to face this fight. The picture of the hero we draw in our heads, does not (for me) describe what it means to be brave, even though the individual in that picture is potentially being brave.

My picture of bravery is entirely different.

The bravest I have ever been was when every bone in my body was telling me to sit still, to not get help, to remain isolated. Almost every thought was telling me not to open up. To stay hidden and safe. My act of bravery was to go against these feelings, even though they terrified me. To heal, I needed to get help, start meditation, arrange an appointment with a counselor and express my vulnerabilities.

Bravery, I think, is having emotions driving you not to do something, but consciously deciding to do it anyway. It is neither triumphant nor pretty. It is not really the place of knights or heroes. The picture is of something completely different.

Maybe it is after a breakup, when you cannot fathom a life without the person you love. When you have lost your job, without an idea of where your next paycheck is coming from. When you are on your third antidepressant, simply waiting for one to work. When you are just about to step into your very first counseling session. When you have to say goodbye to someone you love more than life itself.

Bravery usually brings no medals. Others rarely notice it. They may not understand what it takes to be truly brave.

They want to see knights in shining armor.

When it is actually someone making the decision to continue living.

Getty image by grandfailure