I wrote a post last week on my Mental Health and in it I wrote this ‘I have Mental Health and my Mental Health is similar to my Physical Health. Sometimes I am good, others bad others OK or not really thinking about it.‘. When I wrote it it was kind of a throw away line to express how I felt, but I have spent the last week with it playing on my mind a little.
The essence of the statement still rings true, but it is a little trite so I want to delve a little more into the how I feel and the sentiment behind it.
I like to think I am fairly tough and resilient, in my life in the last ten years I have dealt with some really horrid situations. Illness, bereavement, redundancy, unexpected situations, being a carer, the stress and worry of friends and family being ill.
Through it all I keep grounded by reflecting and seeing the situations of others, there are always people who are in worse situations than you. Also I count myself as really lucky as I am blessed with lots of friends and family in my life. Some amazing friends actually, some have been on large parts of my journey alongside me, others less of my journey. But all an amazing support, whether they know it or not.
Originally I am from a small village on the Yorkshire coast. I was born in the 70’s, although I am from a loving family, and have loving friends, I am not a massively emotional person. My community is farmers, miners, industrial workers etc. The old tradition of men don’t show or talk about feelings was strong thought a large part of my life.
There are obvious exceptions, bereavement and funerals being one. I am very emotional on these occasions, flooded with memories and the emotions of people physically leaving my life, despite knowing they are still very much a part of me and my life.
My common thread to my Mental Health has been holding things together, holding things in, rationalising and ‘fixing’ myself. For a large part of my life this had been my approach.
For a while it worked really well. I was ok, I convinced myself I was ok, and I truly believed I was ok. There were several points in time where I knew I wasn’t ok but did a really good job of convincing myself and the world that all was ok.
Two things happened that changed this.
First was that I worked in a different sector, I moved into Healthcare. I was surrounded by people who used strange practices like reflection and supervision, where they talked openly about patients and situations. Asked for opinions and direction on what they could have done differently to gain the right outcomes.
This seemed odd to me. Professionals, with lots of experience, talking to others with mixed levels of experience about how they could have done things differently, in situations that had resulted in a good outcome. That really made me question my approach to myself!
Second I saw the rock, pebbles, sand story. I am not going to go into it, but if you google you will see a story about a professor teaching his class about a jar being filled and is it full. It made me realise that was what I was doing. Bottling things up, making my ‘jar’ (my mental health wellbeing) more and more full, cramming in more thoughts and issues and hoping they would go away.
There started to be more campaigns around Mental Health, Time to Change was one that resonated with me. I became involved on Social Media and in signposting people to their resources. But more importantly, I looked at their resources, how they applied to me, and how I could use them to benefit me.
Although still being self reliant, I was utilising resources and techniques to help myself. I also started to be slightly more open about my Mental Wellbeing, stating more openly when I was a little low etc.
I am still quite introverted and reflective on my Mental Health. My default position is to retreat, go quiet, be reflective, dig to my steely core and forge a path forward. Its reflexive behaviour, but I continue to work hard to break that reflex.
My relationship with my Mental Health is still a troublesome one. If I am honest I think it always will be. I am, like most of us, OK 80-90% of the time, and for 10% I struggle a little. The old me would have just said thats life and carried on.
The slightly better me says to you, how is your relationship with Mental Health?
What do you do to support yourself/give yourself a break?
Do you even acknowledge your relationship with your Mental Health/Wellbeing?
And finally, something I have been saying an awful lot recently
Do you acknowledge that it is OK to not be OK?