It is NEVER ‘just in your head’

The word just is one of the most dangerously abused words in our language.  For the sake of this conversation, I’m not talking about the word just as a term for justice, but when just means only or simply.  It creeps into all kinds of dialog… “I was just talking about that,” “it will just take five minutes,” “can you just sit still for a minute?”

It is regularly a throw-away word that wasn’t needed in the sentence, but that’s another conversation… today I want to talk about the ways it is toxic.  It is a word to negate identity and experience.  You are (I am) just a layperson.  You are (I am) just a beginner.  You (I am) just….

And then we use it this way: “it’s just in your (my) head”. 

Mental health continues to be a major stigma in our country.  When you break an arm, everyone can see the cast and understand why ordinary things are more difficult for you.  When you are carrying trauma, when your body chemistry is out of balance, when you experience pain or identity crisis or emotional distress – no one can see it, you cannot quantify it (no matter how many times they ask you pain level on a scale of 1 to 10), and its lack of objective reality makes us have a tendency to utter the harmful words: it’s just in your head. 

Our mental and emotional worlds, despite their subjectivity, are as real as our flesh and bones.  And in many ways, they are far more powerful motivators of our well-being or lack thereof.  And it’s made all the harder when we try to discredit that reality with words like “…just…”  I find myself heartsick at how pervasive our need is to address feelings of grief, stress, trauma, and all manner of mental and emotional health challenges.  A reality made more difficult if we aren’t willing to admit that we are carrying these burdens… or that they are not legitimate burdens. 

I sincerely hope that we all can carve out space for ourselves and others to talk about the mental and emotional burdens we carry… and I earnestly pray that you, me, and all the people are willing to use professional resources to address the pervasive burdens that prevent us from being whole and well.  When you break your arm?  You get it looked at by a doctor, x-rayed, casted, cared for by professionals. Please do the same with all your health challenges, encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same, recognize that there is no such thing as normal… and there is never a reason to say, “it’s just in your head”.  Do not negate the pain of your neighbor simply because things affected them differently than you, and do not negate your own pain because you wish it didn’t bother you as it does. 

If you do not know where or how to start, I’m always here for you – and no I’m not equipped to be the only person here for you, but I’m willing to be the guide towards the better guide and to be the voice crying in the wilderness: you are not alone. 

About Andrew Kukla

I am the proud father of four wonderful children, loving husband to Caroline, brother to three mostly wonderful sisters, and son of two parents that gifted me with a foundation of love and freedom. I also am a Presbyterian pastor and former philosophy major with a love of too many words (written with many grammatical errors and parenthetic thoughts), Soren Kierkegaard, and reflections on living a life of discipleship that is open to all the challenges, ups and downs, brokenness and grace, of a chaotic and wonderful life founded upon the love of God for all of creation.

Posted on November 2, 2021, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Well said, Andrew. Another word that is almost as frivolously thrown around is “but.” You’re a great kid, but… I love you, but… I know you think you can do that, but….

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