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No Shame No Gain

It’s World Mental Health Day and I felt compelled to write a little thing about it.

It won't come as a massive revelation when I suggest that mental health, and the maintenance of it, is something still profoundly misunderstood by many. Yes, massive strides have been made in understanding mental health problems, anxiety, PTSD and related issues, but in our day to day lives we will still find a startling lack of understanding. We will still find ourselves open to eye-rolls and incorrect assumptions at the mere mention of it.

Mental! Crazy! Nutter!

All of these are phrases I’ve used throughout my life more than I’d care to recall. I’ve used them in attempt to describe someone who is not quite ‘normal’ to my apparently exacting standards. If this were an internet based confessional I’d be kneeling shame-faced reciting 250 Hail Mary’s right about now. But it’s not, and I’m not, because thankfully I’ve learned from my mistakes. I understand that calling people these names is not big or clever (regardless if I’m doing it behind their back). I understand that were I myself suffering from a mental illness the last thing I would need is to think someone was mocking me, accusing me of ‘faking it’ or simply just being unkind.

Because I do suffer from mental health issues. I am ‘mental’. I have and do suffer from depression, anxiety and the bluest of moods. But I’m not embarrassed about it as I’ve been led to believe I should be. I’m not ashamed of it for fear of being teased or misunderstood. I understand that there is no shame in me talking about my mental health in exactly the same way I wouldn’t feel shame for discussing my (physical) chronic illness. I’ve come to accept that treating my mind with as much care as I treat my body is incredibly vital. The whole package has to work as a team and if I ignore my worsening mental health I only serve to exacerbate any physical issues in unison.

A clear and happy mind is so important to give us much needed energy and mental strength to fight not just other physical ailments but just face the day. Life with or without illness is hard for everyone, so mental health maintenance is imperative. There are a few things we can do each day to ensure we look after ourselves, and each other, to quote that bastion of mental health awareness, Jerry Springer.

  1. Spend Time With Friends
    Laughter is allegedly the 'best medicine' - although I'm sure after years of university, medical school and time spent on hospital wards, doctors may disagree. It is however, proven that spending time with people whom we love and enjoy being around makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside (I think that’s the certified medical term), therefore causing relaxation and minimising stress. During stressful situations, our immune system gets depleted and making time to relax with friends can boost this back to full capacity.

  2. Avoid Unnecessary Conflict
    I am not an argumentative person, in fact I hate arguing. It causes me nothing but grief. I know people who relish a good argument and purposely wind people up in order to get into one. This is not my idea of a good time. Being argumentative, in most cases, causes stress for both parties. It should really be a case of trying to look at the situation objectively to decide if its really worth the stress. Look for a solution rather than continually beat each other over the head with the same points.


  3. 3. Realise Your Own Limitations
    Lots of stress and anxiety is caused when we try to take on too much. Work, responsibilities, and making time for family and friends can get on top of everyone. We often end up doing more than we really should, especially if you are a martyr like me who will spend an entire day off washing, cleaning, sweeping, mopping and scrubbing then complain she's not being taken away to the ball at night in a giant pumpkin. I've had to learn to just say no - difficult as I hate letting people down, upsetting or offending anyone but a little bit of assertiveness goes a long way.

  4. Time Management
    Trying to prioritise your day helps reduce stress. Make sure you do the most important jobs first (usually the least pleasant ones), the unimportant jobs will always wait. Try not to put off the un-pleasant tasks - even thinking about these, and your lack of backbone in putting them off will cause stress to creep in.

  5. Look At Things Differently
    When things are bothering you the most disquieting thing you can do is dwell on the problem. Try to see things in a different light where possible. If the problem is light, try using energy savings bulbs or candles! Talking things over with someone impartial helps to get another perspective and can stop things getting blown out of all proportion. People not directly involved in an upsetting situation can see things as they are without the emotion clouding their view. Or the smoke from those candles.

  6. Talk - Self-explanatory this one. No one is demanding that you all run to the nearest therapist or counsellor, although again there is no shame in any of that. I found huge benefits in seeing a therapist myself and would recommend it to anyone, but I’ve also found and continue to find, huge benefits in talking to people who love me. Friends and family are more beneficial than you may realise; they will generally listen and won’t judge, and if they do, try not to retreat but take it as an opportunity to educate them. Give the people who love you the chance to help – if you feel helpless, than talk – tell someone you trust and give them the opportunity to bear some of your blue burden. The more we talk the more we begin to accept and understand one another, and as I have a 500mph Scottish accent, that’s a point of particular interest to me.

I love you xo

Kathleen NichollsComment