Last week was mental health awareness week. I really wanted to engage in the blog world this week and discuss mental health.
They say that 1 in 5 Aussies will suffer from mental illness at some point, or something along those lines. But I honestly kind of think 5 out of 5 of us will have had some moment (or moments) of feeling less than perfectly mentally healthy. Whether 5 out of 5 of us actually qualify as suffering from mental illness is probably too big of a leap to make. However, the point I am getting at is that mental illness is not a weird thing. It is probably in fact quite common and normal.
It makes sense to me, we get colds and sniffles and occasionally something worse, depending on what we are exposed to and how run down we are feeling. So why wouldn’t our mental health follow the same ebb and flow?
Generally these days I feel pretty mentally healthy. Especially compared to my teenage years and early 20s. I have learnt (partially self taught and some from professionals) many strategies to keep my head in check. Although I am constantly tested with things life throws at me. And honestly even today coming back from my trip really triggered some strong emotions and got me feeling really down. Probably irrationally so.
It is normal to have moments where we don’t feel the best mentally. It needs to feel normal to seek our professional help too. We wouldn’t hesitate to go to a doctor with a broken bone, but unfortunately I think there is a much greater stigma associated with seeking help for our “feelings”. The first time I saw a professional it was sort of forced by my Mum when my parents were getting divorced. I could have refused but I was always a dutiful child so even though I was 18 at the time and didn’t have to oblige I did.
However, I actually got a lot out of speaking to someone outside of the situation and completely impartial. (Also trained and paid to talk to me.) And it changed my perspective on seeking help for my feelings. Honestly if I had the money and time I would probably see someone more regularly. Not because I feel like there is anything particularly wrong with me mentally, but it really helps to keep things in check.
I suffered for quite a few years with depression after my parents divorce and struggled with an eating disorder. The divorce completely changed my relationship with both of my parents and honestly even now I still get upset about some of the changes. Feels ridiculous and immature to say it out loud, but that’s life and I am surely not alone in having those feelings. That’s the thing as humans we all have many similarities and it is so normal to find yourself in a negative headspace.
Occasionally I still feel the dark cloud coming over and know that I am heading into a negative mind spot. I now know what depression feels like for me and can usually shake it before the storm blows in. When I was younger I didn’t realise how much control I actually had over my mood. I blamed everything on external events and didn’t know how to identify the storm so to speak and take preventative steps. I am not immune from stress and from my feelings by any stretch but I am definitely better equipped to cope with the stresses of life than I previously was.
There is always hope, beauty and pleasure to be had in this world. If you are struggling to find it speak up. If you can’t tell someone close to you don’t hesitate to call a hotline or seek professional help. Sometimes in life it can feel as though we have no options or a way out, but fresh eyes can really give new and wonderful perspective. If you are in Australia a great first stop to call is the Beyond Blue Hotline on 1300 22 4636.