These days the phrase ‘It’s Okay Not To Be Okay’, is a popular tagline used in association with conversations regarding mental health.
Around this time every year it’s Mental Health Awareness Week. This year’s will draw to an end on Sunday, 16th May. However, thankfully our open conversation about mental health is not solely meant for just one specific time of the year, it is now a topic for discussion which is becoming more and more at forefront of our consciousness, every day of the year! If nothing at all, Covid and Lockdown has created a greater awareness regarding mental health awareness and for this I am very grateful for!
I am not going to lie, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to help people access appropriate services, but the fact that even high-profile people in the media are willing to have an open dialogue about it now, is an indicator of how far we have come on the subject matter these days.
As human beings we have a great deal in common, but we often overlook our commonalities and focus on our differences. The fluctuation in our mental health is something we will all experience at some time in our lives; and the shift in our mental health is definitely something which we can all relate to. In truth, shit happens, and because shit happens, life will seem more harder sometimes, than others.
If I were to reflect on own struggles in the past, at the core of my pain was not the issue at hand, but my inability to articulate how I was feeling at the time. I struggled with the belief I may be burdening others; I was fearful of exposure and somewhat scared of being judged.
The best way I can describe my mental health at the time was this constant nagging pain, but I didn’t even know at the time I was struggling with depression. I couldn’t shake the feeling of sadness, which I woke up to, and went to bed still feeling, day after day. I was consumed by a numbness that deprived me of the things I loved best. I constantly dwelled on the past and was apprehensive of the future.
The first time it happened to me I was in my late teens. The enormity of life hit me and I felt this incredible pressure to ‘make something of my life’. There is something about mental health which leaves you in a state of flight or fight mode, but for me, I had this overwhelming urge for flight. I struggled in silence and didn’t tell a single person. I can’t remember what got me out of that state of mind at the time, but that period of desperation thankfully eventually passed.
However, depression found me again after the birth of my son. After a traumatic birth, I was left with PTSD and post-natal depression. However, when you are depressed, you may not even be able to call it out or put a name to it. In 2002 I found myself in a very dark place, but to the world around me, I was the happy bubbly Sandra that people were so used to knowing and seeing, but within me was this empty and lonely feeling. I became very good at concealing my true feelings and compressing them, which was a very unhealthy coping strategy of mine.
Every last bit of energy I had, I devoted to caring for my child at the time, but beyond that, I didn’t have the insight to realise how unwell I was. I knew I needed medical intervention but I wrongly thought people might judge me as an unfit mother. I struggled on for 2 years with this huge weight and the belief things would never get better.
My turning point, was when I went to volunteer for a local charity. I worked on an emotional support helpline and people shared the most heart wrenching stories with me. I wanted to give people a voice, where I had previously struggled to find one for myself.
My two years of volunteering was an enormous catalyst for change, and I was able to personally recover due to two significant things. Firstly, the gift of talking and sharing. Mental health leaves you feeling isolated and alone. You might be surrounded by many people, who would be bereft to know you are struggling, but mental health can make you lose a sense of perspective at times. My volunteering job meant I gave people a safe space to talk, and I too eventually sought out help for myself. I met an incredible coach who I instantly clicked with and who would always champion me in whatever I said or did. He helped me to overcome some pre-existing issues that kept blighting my life, and which kept resurfacing and affecting my mental health, a lot of which stemmed from my childhood. He was by myside but he also gently challenged me. It is good to have an active listener who will walk alongside you but in order to implement change we must also be open to be challenged – and I was.
Interestingly enough, the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is connecting with Nature. So, nature was the second thing which helped me recover because it became my reliable and trusted friend. Some of my own personal healing has meant being close to nature. When I give myself the time and space to be in nature, things never seem as intense or overwhelming as they previously had. I truly think nature is like cleanser for the soul.
As a Transformational Life Coach, my primary objective is to be there as a sounding board for my clients. I would not cite myself as a mental health expect but I know how our mental health can hold us back from living the life we truly deserve and crave. There is a huge power in being able to talk and share, and this can be aided and abetted by connecting with nature. Nature in itself is a type of therapy and the most wonderful part about it is, it is absolutely free! Therefore, the power of talking, and making time to be out in nature, changed my life, and I want it to change yours too!
Please do get in touch with me if there is anything you have found interesting in this article and would like to chat to me some more about.
Sending you all positive energy and love,
Kind Heart Fierce Mind,