Let me talk about mental health for a second.
In the wake of writing This is not a hiatus and poignantly stating that there is no such thing as work/life balance, one thing is true and has been for me for the past couple of months and that is that my mental health has not been terrific.
One thing to understand about mental health is that it is a spectrum. Your mental health, just like physical health, can be good or bad. And it can get better, and it can get worse.
Over time I’ve educated Nick about things like my triggers and what works for me when it comes to dealing with breakdowns. For most people it’s simply to be listened to, and to not be judged, especially when you are at your most vulnerable. People are different and have different ways of coping. Sometimes, I want to be left alone, and some people need that space to recover as well. The problem with this is that some people push others away, and push away the help. This is why if you have a loved one who is struggling with mental health, it is important to take the time to understand them and be gentle with their emotions and respect their needs, but at the same time knowing when they might need professional help.
It can be hard explaining mental health to someone who may never have experienced mental health issues, or who is simply misinformed. But starting the discussion is important to reduce the stigma around mental health. And to get people understanding that everyone has mental health.
As I mentioned, the past couple of months have been hard. It’s really easy for someone to say, “You have too much on your plate. You went to many meetups, you have a wedding to plan, you are disorganised, you took on too much work”. I know because at some stage this was Nick’s way of seeing my problem. It can often look like the sufferer has brought it upon themselves, when in actual fact anyone taking on a lot of work can become stressed, and this stress can worsen when mental health isn’t even at the positive end on the spectrum.
If my mental health has been at a low point because of a stressful event such as losing a loved one, breaking a leg, being promoted and having more work to do, or practicing for a driving test – then something as simple as, say, a 5:00am appointment with my personal trainer at the gym is more likely to cause a mental breakdown more than if this stressful event had not happened.
There was a person I was dealing with in the past few months who gave me a lot of grief and stress that already added onto the many things I had going on in my life – yes, wedding planning, trying to find accomodation for my large family visiting from overseas, setting up our new apartment, and my passion for my fitness routine, to name a few. That is not to say that these happenings were negative in any way. But I had a lot going on, and the behaviour of this person made me very emotional and frustrated. I was left doubting my worth and feeling devalued.
It was a shame because this person should have been a good mentor. I was not able to stop seeing this person until quite recently. Even then, there are reminders (triggers) here and there that remind me of how toxic this person was and how much they affected me. This happens on a daily basis. Sometimes the only things that can truly help to lift my spirits are to surround myself with people who make me feel safe, who look out for me, who treat me well. People with mental health issues value a support group much more than you may think. And a support group does not necessarily mean people who are going to check and ask, “are you OK?” every ten minutes, but it means people who you can turn to if you need to talk. People whom you can trust, whether you feel like talking to them a little bit or a lot, whether you feel like opening up or not. People who you don’t fear any kind of judgment from, and people who make you feel safe.
It has been hard for me to get back into the “swing of things”, as I seem to have fallen out of the habit of blogging. When you lose interest in something you used to be passionate about, that too, can get you down.
Edit: I also wanted to add that starting a discussion about mental health does not mean you need to explain that you are prone to anxiety attacks, detail your triggers, or share stories about how it is difficult to function or that you have self-harmed. Keeping it high level and stating, “I am struggling, mentally” is sometimes all it takes. Being open is different from revealing everything.
I wanted to say that there have still been bright moments in my life recently. When I struggled with depression, every day I tried to write down three small positive things.
Amidst the shit that’s been happening (because let’s face it, it’s shit), I have indeed been happy. I have a little support group. I have friends who look out for me.
Setting up furniture and moving things into our apartment has been great. It’s been fun. Wedding planning has not been too stressful, but there are loose ends to tie. I’ve had Nick’s company a lot (although sometimes not enough). I hope that things continue to look up. 💕
Thank you Courtenay Farquharson and Matthew Wills for their recent talks touching on mental health, which inspired me to revisit this topic I feel strongly about.