This week (8-14 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week. I’ve been wondering all week whether to write something. A longish car journey has provided the opportunity at the end of an exceptionally busy week.
It would be easier to blog about reusable sandwich bags, supply chains and why chickens are best kept in orchards – but that will all have to wait until another time.
If you’ve been reading my reflections regularly, you’ll know about my experience of antenatal anxiety and my struggles with perfectionism. But the reality is I’ve had mental health difficulties the majority of my life, including periods of anxiety and times of deep depression. I’ve benefited from medication and talking therapies.
I’m now at a place where I can be more open yet I’m not prepared to share my story in its entirety to that many people. So I’m being vulnerable and honest but this isn’t full disclosure!
For many years I have felt unable to talk about my anxiety and depression. I was scared of being labelled, judged or feared. I was frightened I would not be respected or trusted, particularly at work and at church.
I’m learning that I have ‘health’. Physically, I know I have to strengthen my stomach muscles to prevent a re-occurrence of lower back pain and stiffness, to warm up well before playing sport to avoid injury and not to consume too much caffeine. Similarly, I know I can look after my mental health by getting enough sleep, exercising, eating healthily and spending time on my own. These are like the four legs of a table – if one is neglected I can get a bit wobbly!
I’m discovering I can learn to think in ways which are more productive, resilient and kinder to myself. The futile spiral of negative thinking can be broken.
As others (friends, colleagues, and people with public platforms, such as Prince Harry) have been open about their own experiences of mental health, I have gained courage to accept my own brokenness and to embrace all who I am.
Yet, I know that this is not where I want to stay. Instead, I will continue to walk (or maybe limp) towards greater freedom, peace and wholeness.