Better Doesn’t Mean “Good”.
I never really thought about it before, but somewhere along the way we started to equate “better” with “good”. But, “better” and “good” aren’t the same thing. We know that, yet how often we tell our sick friends and family “get better soon!” Obviously we want our loved ones to feel “good” or even “great”, but what we are literally telling them is “I want you to feel better than sick”.
We do the same thing with mental illness too.
We tell people struggling with mental illnesses that we hope they “feel better” or “do better”. In a way, we do mean that. We really do want them to feel better than they do, and that’s great. There is nothing wrong with wishing that someone’s healthy is better than it was before. But, there is a small unintended catch. When they start feeling “better”, we start to think that they are now “good”, and that might not be the case at all.
Better can still mean “not okay”.
Imagine yourself in a deep, depressive episode. Maybe you haven’t had the will to get out of bed for day. You’ve only eaten dry cereal and pop-tarts for a week, and you can’t remember the last time you showered. Then, one day you find the energy to take a bath and order a pizza. You are, by definition, doing “better” than you were before- but you’re still not okay.
Sometimes better is just a notch above rock bottom.
Don’t discount the progress you’ve made. Being better means you’ve made improvement and should be celebrated. But “better” doesn’t mean you aren’t struggling. Most importantly, don’t assume your friend who tells you they are “better” doesn’t need your help. Better means moving forward, it doesn’t they’ve reached their goal.
Better Means Better.
In the case of both physical and mental health, there is no “best”. No matter how healthy and stable you are, you can always improve. You can move in any direction. You can always gain physical strength or speed or flexibility. You can always be happier, more compassionate, or smarter. You can always do “better”, and that’s a good thing.
Trying to be better than you were yesterday should always be a goal.
While “better” doesn’t mean good, it doesn’t mean “bad” either. “Better” is just that: better. It doesn’t mean you aren’t still struggling. It doesn’t mean you don’t still need help. It doesn’t mean that things aren’t hard- but it does mean that you are trying. If you are doing better, you are looking forward. Keep going that direction. Don’t be afraid to tell your support system what “better” means in that moment. Don’t be afraid to say: “I”m not better, but I still need help”. Just remember that “better” is another step. It’s not a destination.