Recently, I thoroughly enjoyed a man's speech about mental health issues. He described his struggles and his successes and how they shaped him. He made me laugh and cry. One particular moment I recall during his speech is when he said, “The #1 rule in my household is talk.” He said, “No matter what, we talk about it.”
This struck me. What is the #1 rule in my household? What’s yours?
No matter the size and shape of any family, there are rules established to maintain its function. And yet, how many of us have articulated those rules? Oh sure, rules like make your bed, don’t leave the lights on, and clean up after yourself get lots of airplay in many homes. There’s nothing wrong with these rules but now they seem like missed opportunities to me. Let’s be honest, they’re not that important.
When I contemplate this now, I realize I’d like a do-over. Instead of those consistently verbalized rules structured around chores, I’m wishing I had stressed the more valuable household rules I believe:
1. I get 25% of all Halloween candy. (Okay, maybe not this one.)
2. You can be yourself here.
3. There will be no bullying here.
4. We can talk about anything.
5. No shame.
I regret not consistently articulating these rules more than the menial rules. Because, like that speaker said, when it comes to mental health issues, it’s shame and fear that prevents people from sharing their pain and seeking help. They don’t want to upset their families. They suffer alone. They’re afraid to talk. That’s stigma, and stigma can kill someone you love. Dear friends: it’s not too late to make better rules in your household.