Recognising Mental Health

When we talk about mental health in a casual or in depth way, are we considering our audience?

If we imagine walking into a meeting in the cabinet office, we’ll see a committee of representatives discussing issues that may or may not impact us directly. In that case, we better sit down and try and make sense of the discussion in hand. We leave with a better grasp about what is going on but do that thing when something has been explained five times and we just nod our head in confusion with the fear of looking silly if we ask for it to be explained one more time.

Recently, you may have noticed that there are more discussions and public posts regarding mental health. You may have also heard the phrase ‘mental health effects all of us’, well sure, having a physical body effects all of us, but what is your point? When we post or discuss mental health, most often we assume people understand what we are talking about or agree with us. The reality is that for many individuals, they will not recognise that they are being effected by mental health issues, instead they may put those feelings down to the current circumstances and expect it will all just pass with time. This may be due to many varying factors, such as culture, generation or gender for example.

If this is the case, we must begin talking about mental health in a less general and intimidating way. If we are going nurture and care for our dynamic communities, we must first understand who we are talking to. This doesn’t mean we should generalise as a result about our assumptions about others, but what we should be doing is enable ’empathy’ and ‘accommodating’ mode in our communication.

An example of this (emphasis on example), we may encounter a friend or work colleague who may be acting energetically, excitedly and perhaps erratically towards their work or daily tasks. We may respond by saying something witty like “someone’s in a good mood today”. Okay let’s pause here and understand the concept that excitement and anxiety cause almost identical physical reactions. I’m not suggesting a few energetic days in work or home mean there’s an underlying issue, but it is responsible to recognise those changes that continue over a longer period of time or reoccur.

There are a wealth of resources available to us now regarding mental health, including blogs. By reading, hearing the stories and reflections of others, we can educate the judgements of our subconscious to see that mental health is more than depression and anxiety. Mental health is as dynamic as our physical bodies are. You know that intense pain that occurs when you stub your little toe on the coffee table, well we wouldn’t say days later “I’ve got this really bad pain in my arm… it must be from when I stubbed my toe”. We need to approach our own mental health and the mental health of others creatively and dynamically. As a result, we cease trying to fit into societies understanding of mental health and begin to accept that areas within our health existed before the pandemic and we can react accordingly.

Read a blog, visit the NHS website, write a journal, speak to a counsellor… wherever you are at there is no harm in expanding our perspective about mental health. If not for ourselves but for our families and communities.

Washed away

Washed away by emotions. They’ve tugged at me left, right and from my centre. My core tense like rock as I’m left in this open space, running a cycle that never let’s up. All I see is bleakness, so much motion yet nothing to grab on to.

I express my worries, the room caves in. As a voice bellows over my concern, I wish I wish I never spoke. How do I stand strong as I am? How can I be me when my words are belittled and blamed.

Yet my pain throws me further into this open space, what does it matter if you let it all go? Allow the fire to burn this room? Your shadow raises up towards me, I retreat trembling like the prey of the lion. Put in my place once more, apologies flow from my eyes and bounce off my lips.

The life of so many, if the power of this pain could be bottled up. The world would implode, life would be free. My God holds me.

Claiming Joy, Renouncing FOMO

Yes it is nearly Christmas. Whether you celebrate it because of beliefs or tradition, we all seem to hold this sense of anticipation from November onwards. I wonder if this is the excitement of good times ahead, prospects of a fresh new year or just the warmth of childhood memories. Whatever it is, for alot of people this time of year is much anticipated.

As I prepare for Christmas, I seem to be making more and more excuses to do the things that bring me joy. I am a total winter bird, everything about Autumn and Winter brings me gooey feelings of romance and warmth. So, why is it I still find myself asking Google “when to put up Christmas decorations”, seeking confirmation of when I should allow myself joy, from a search engine. I instinctively know that October is too early for our family but the second week of November I get an urge to cozy up and have a tree in my living room.

Last year, I was heavily pregnant in November and due the week before Christmas, so I had already given myself the go ahead to buy presents and decorate early. This year I find myself exploring a variety of excuses. My top two are: after this year of pandemic, we need a joyful environment and we owe it to the baby who spent last Christmas day onwards in hospital.

Why am I making excuses for accessing joy? Why am I looking to others for confirmation?

Decorations aside, this is a lesson I want to hold on to from now on. When we wait on life to bring us joy, our expectations grow and we miss the precious moments of joy that pass us every day. I find that with a full on routine with family and work, I was missing out on joy in the most basic moments. In my earlier years of motherhood I felt entitled to bonuses and time off (as if paid employment) and if I didn’t access these benefits, I would feel distressed and throw a adult tantrum. It is true, the more children you have; the more of your time is taken up but you become an expert of your own needs and the needs of your family. This, for me is an area where I am gifted with the greatest satisfaction. Just to know that no one has experienced my children and my husband like I have, no one can feel the pain or the joy that has moulded me into the person I am today.

With great happiness, I’m claiming the joy of motherhood and renouncing FOMO (fear of missing out)!