I will jump straight to the point. Why is there so much awkwardness around mental health?
What makes things so difficult for us to talk about our mental health openly? We talk freely about our physical health. What is so different?
I hid my own mental health challenges for years. I did this because I think I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to be perceived as weak and ‘not normal’. It makes me sad looking back that I felt like this for over 13 years. I do think that if I had spoken out about it a lot more openly, then I wouldn’t have endured over 13 years of hurt.
There were times where I did speak up. I spoke to my doctor about my anxiety and OCD. Sadly, this doctor was just so out of touch and simply referred me to the local mental health programme and that was it. Sat on a list for months. All I wanted was to be listened to and then be given some help.
I’ve had several conversations in the past with people who have played down my challenges – ‘oh we’ve all had anxiety’ was a good one. Yes, its true to a certain extent but the thing that really annoyed me was the blasé attitude. See when you ‘suffer’ from anxiety it goes a lot deeper than the traditional anxiety that our body uses to protect us. My anxiety would be at its worst when I had to do a task I was dreading. We will take locking the house up as an example. The anxiety would start as early as the night before when I knew I was going to be the last one out of the house in the morning. Increased heart rate, sweating, overthinking and being very irritable. To put it bluntly it was bloody crippling.
There is no shame in not understanding mental health. I’m not ranting at anyone here for not understanding it. There just hasn’t been enough education around mental health. Things have got so much better in terms of awareness and education. It’s now a catch up game which will take a while but at least things are moving in the right direction.
Why wait for someone to educate you though? I challenge you to spend some time to learn about a mental health disorder. OCD, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, body dysmorphic disorder, borderline personality disorder to name just a few. You never know when your new found knowledge might come in useful. Just to simply understand better what someone is going through means the world to them.
After I had addressed my struggles head on, it gave me the confidence.
What I have learnt, is that the words ‘mental health’ sadly seem automatically linked to negative feelings. I don’t know why though. When you say the word ‘physical health’ it doesn’t seem to have any negative feelings attached. There should not be a difference though. Everyone has mental health. Just like physical health, it’s just a question of what condition it’s in.
The reason I started my coaching business was to help people and make a difference. I am not a therapist and I do not treat mental health conditions directly. I do however help people make positive changes in their lives which promote good mental health. They learn things such as how to become more confident, how to manage stress and how to lead a balanced and fulfilled life.
I used to hate myself for having OCD and anxiety. I saw it as a barrier, something that would hold me back. Now I see it as an advantage. It’s made me stronger and resilient. It’s made me aware of my feelings and thoughts. It’s given me valuable knowledge and the drive to help others live the life they want to live.
So, if you’re reading this right now and you’re going through a tough time remember this. You are unique, there’s only one of you. So no matter how hard things may seem right now, brighter days are round the corner.