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The four agreements are a big deal, but I found a caveat to the third one

Colorful Hands mental health

Crying Girl[reading from paper]  I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school… I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy…

[about to cry] 

Damian: [shouting from back]  She doesn’t even go here!

Ms. Norbury: Do you even go to this school?

Crying Girl: No… I just have a lot of feelings…

Ms. Norbury: Ok go home…

[girl walks off stage] 

Ms. Norbury: Next!

This is a classic scene from Mean Girls, though one would argue every scene in Mean Girls is a classic. I am one. One is me. While the character aptly named in IMDb as Crying Girl wishes “we could all get along like we used to in middle school,” here’s what I, known as one or the Non-Crying Girl, wish for.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom is a book by Don Miguel Ruiz, translated into 46 languages, and a New York Times bestseller for over a decade, with over 10 million copies sold in the U.S.

Deepak F*cking Chopra said: “Don Miguel Ruiz’s book is a roadmap to enlightenment and freedom.”

Broadly speaking, these four agreements are:

  • 1: Be Impeccable With Your Word.
  • 2: Don’t Take Anything Personally.
  • 3: Don’t Make Assumptions.
  •  4: Always Do Your Best.

They may seem obvious, but if you click on the numbers above you can find out more about these four agreements and why the book is such a big deal to me and millions of others.

If you keep reading, you’ll find out why I think there’s a caveat to agreement #3.

I’ve been thinking these past few days… what if we all assumed everyone is struggling with their mental health?

Granted, I haven’t discussed this with anyone, so I may be missing the obvious counterarguments.

But I write a new article every Sunday and since we’re friends, we’re friends, right (more than two people who read my articles have now called me “bestie” so I think things are getting pretty serious), I thought, why not write about it?

What if we all assumed everyone is in a bad place mentally right now?

This question came to me after seeing Naomi Osaka’s story unravel in real time.

Naomi is a four time major champion in tennis and the #2-ranked player. She’s also 23.

naomi osaka third agreement caveat mental health
Naomi Osaka. Photo by WTA

Long story short, as Howard Fendrich wrote for The Associated Press, Naomi:

was fined $15,000 when she didn’t speak to reporters after her first-round victory at Roland Garros on Sunday. The next day, Osaka pulled out of the tournament entirely, saying she experiences “huge waves of anxiety” before meeting with the media and revealing she has “suffered long bouts of depression.”

Short story long, I read her notice to withdraw from press conferences. I woke up the next morning and saw that she’d been fined. Then, I saw her say she withdrew from Roland Garros and explain that her mental health was deteriorating and she didn’t want to draw attention to herself, it was just a decision she took to protect her health.

Then I heard that Roland Garros officials had made a statement:

“On behalf of the Grand Slams, we wish to offer Naomi Osaka our support and assistance in any way possible as she takes time away from the court. She is an exceptional athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she deems appropriate. Mental health is a very challenging issue, which deserves our utmost attention. It is both complex and personal, as what affects one individual does not necessarily affect another. We commend Naomi for sharing in her own words the pressures and anxieties she is feeling and we empathize with the unique pressures tennis players may face.”

This was yesterday, I don’t know if anything else has happened since then because I’m writing this early in the morning, without the WiFi turned on just to get in the zone. #CreativeLyf

There are plenty of perspectives to ponder on here, but I want to focus on the one I mentioned earlier, the third agreement caveat.

What if we all assumed everyone has mental health issues?

A world where everyone walking on it isn’t mentally well sounds… scary. Wouldn’t it be unsustainable if every therapist was struggling themselves as they assist clients?

But therapists do struggle, just like psychiatrists which, last time I checked when I was an intern at a psychiatric clinic, have one of the highest suicide rates, 58 to 65/100,000 compared with that of the overall population, 11/100,000.

Apparently, that study was done in 1973, so “last time I checked” is incorrect and we now have new data.

According to a new study on suicide rates by occupations, “suicide rates were significantly higher in five major industry groups:

  1. Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction (males);
  2. Construction (males);
  3. Other Services (e.g., automotive repair) (males)
  4. Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting (males
  5. Transportation and Warehousing (males and females).

But it doesn’t stop there.

“Rates were also significantly higher in six major occupational groups:

  1. Construction and Extraction (males and females)
  2. Installation, Maintenance, and Repair (males)
  3. Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media (males)
  4. Transportation and Material Moving (males and females)
  5. Protective Service (females)
  6. Healthcare Support (females).”

I mean, I stand corrected. I wish I didn’t though.

While it’s paradoxical that psychiatrists have high suicide rates (Don’t they help others to get better?), it also makes sense. As I explained in Living Hell(p): How This Mild PTSD Might Be Affecting You Too, compassion fatigue disproportionally affects therapists, doctors, and caregivers. Compassion fatigue symptoms include:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Burnout
  • Dissociation
  • Exhaustion
  • Nightmares

But all those people with other occupations have higher suicide rates too?

It’s like a lot of people struggle with depression, anxiety, and mental health issues.

So then… Why do we have such a difficult time hypothesizing that others are struggling with their mental health until they come out explicitly saying they are?

Did Osaka have to tell us that she suffers from huge waves of anxiety for us to trust that she knows what’s best for her mentally, physically, and professionally and that if she says she would like to withdraw from press conferences, we should let her decide?

Last year, Chadwick Boseman passed away from cancer. A slew of “Be kind, you never know what someone is going through” followed suit after some “jokes” about his physique and his weight resurfaced.

Should we really know for sure that someone was struggling with cancer or “suffered long bouts of depression” for us to be understanding and humane?

So this is my hypothesis. If everyone always assumed others are struggling mentally, we’d all be kinder, more patient, more understanding, more supportive.

You know, just how we should always be.

In the 2017 interview Chadwick Boseman On Suiting Up To Play Thurgood Marshall And Black Panther,” Matthew Jacobs asked Boseman:

You came off of one Black Panther project, did “Marshall” and then made another Black Panther movie. Did you bulk up, slim down and then bulk up again?

[Nods his head, looking exhausted] Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

You’ve been through the wringer.

Oh, you don’t even know [laughs]. You have no idea. One day I’ll live to tell the story.”

third agreement caveat Chadwick Boseman One day I’ll live to tell the story
Chadwick Boseman. Photo by Getty Images.

I read the interview a few days after Boseman’s passing and I felt so moved by “You have no idea. One day I’ll live to tell the story.” 

Let’s assume everyone is struggling, so if they live to tell the story, we won’t have to say “If only I’d known…”

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