Mental Health - Let's keep talking about it!
Oct 9, 2018 | RUTH STEEL
It's so typical of our society to ask how another is doing and give that same generic reply - You know the one, "I'm all good thanks" or "I'm fine." Sadly, I've done the same, but how often are we actually all good and how frequently do we dare to ask a second time!?
We could be sat in a damn hospital or doctors surgery and bump into someone we know and give that same answer without much thought, clearly we're just being polite and perhaps don't want to burden others with our day to day problems however, it is risky business when too much of this behaviour becomes habit and thus gives less permission for us all to be more truthful, aware and able to open up about our feelings and mental health!
Around 6 years ago, I first began experiencing anxiety & depression during an abusive relationship, I did very little about it and tried to cope alone, thinking I knew best. Three years ago, I hit an all-time low following the death of my Mother and it was only then, I knew I needed help!
I began letting those around me know I wasn't well and attended counselling with a female therapist I trusted, and I found this very useful to open up to a stranger with no input, opinion or unhelpful advice. The more I gave myself permission to feel, to experience, to talk, to open up - the more I was able to face those fears and tackle them head on rather than running away and seeing them resurface in my life, time and time again. I've continued to learn about our mental patterns and now as a full time Yoga teacher, I have made it my lifestyle to get to know myself, have more kindness and compassion every day for me as well as all others. You see, it is the very nature of trauma, be it PTSD, anxiety or depression, to resurface again and again when it has been too long buried and not acknowledged for the transparent albeit elephant in the room, that it is.
Now I'm no spokesperson for all mental health disorders, I only know of my own experience and am fully aware that lots of others have mental health disorders with little to no known trauma or triggers at all and that is still just as valid a reason to seek help and look after yourself.
After recently attending a 'Transformational breath' workshop plus a retreat weekend, called 'The fundamentals of Trauma Healing' - I learned of the trauma we all experience in life.
In some way, we have all known trauma which comes in many different variations and forms and I'm not just talking about physical trauma like vehicle accidents, cuts and burns. Trauma begins at birth, for birth itself IS a type of trauma which determines a lot about a person’s future, for example: If you were a premature baby, born by caesarean, you'll likely not feel 'ready' for the ongoing changes that occur in your life. On the flip side to that, if you were a late baby like myself, you'll probably be running late frequently and have a slower internal body clock than others who were born early or on time. (Cue a huge sigh of relief, for we're not just tardy.)
They say that trauma is stored in our bodies and the body never forgets. Therefore, it's great to practice being less in our heads and more connected to our bodies, so we can hear its internal dialogue and respond more mindfully to its needs. Ways we can connect to the body every day is by engaging mindfully in physical activity & exercise, dancing, practicing efficient breathing techniques, taking walks in nature, mindfulness and meditation.
More resources and support we can turn to, when struggling with mental health, can be;
Music, Singing, Art, Taking Time to Yourself, Spending time with Animals, finding a Safe Place, Friends, Theatre, Cooking, Slowing down, Playfulness, Presence, Laughter, Rest, Massage, being by the Sea, taking a Bath, practicing body scanning/tracking or EFT, (Emotional Freedom Technique also known as Tapping). All are subjective to the individual and that list can also include, Food, Sleep, Travel & Sex, though those can sometimes fall under the bracket of addiction so be wary of what your addictions are after all, we're all addicted to something.
Other examples of trauma continue throughout childhood and early teens, a phrase I liked to describe it was; 'We have children and teach them how to walk, read and write, then as soon as we are done, we tell them to sit down and shut up.' If you've ever been bullied by other kids, teachers, parents or guardians then you've likely also have been bullied by yourself, and you'll know exactly what that feels like and how that affects your whole perception of the self. The truth is, it's actually impossible to live this physical life without any trauma, for both mental and physical trauma teach us incredibly valuable lessons of what not to do in life. We never touch that flaming hot hob again after doing it once as a child and you know why, because we scream and cry and propel our bodies around in reaction, fully acknowledging and letting go of, the incident that just happened and if you're lucky enough, being comforted by those who care around you afterwards. When thought of in this way, it should come as no surprise that dangers arise in our Adult lives, when we lose the ability to feel, express, move and to damn well make a noise about whatever trauma it is that we are experiencing. Instead we develop coping mechanisms or 'fake it' outlets which can include anything from caffeine, alcohol, smoking, drugs, co-dependency, over compensation, workaholic, victimisation, OCD, excessive partying or sexual activity, extreme sport, self-harm, addiction and denial.
So, my thoughts after learning about us humans in this way, is that once again, though we are all beautifully unique, we are also very much the same. Chances are, whatever you're feeling and experiencing right now - someone somewhere, has had the same feelings and experience before - and I find this comforting to know we are all in our natural state, united as one.
For starters, as a society we must never trivialise any trauma, be it from a child, teen or adult - we are all worthy of speaking up, seeking assistance and being heard in our entirety.
The way our parents taught young boys to 'man up & be strong' and young girls to 'be soft & pretty' has in itself caused huge mental health implications to both males and females nowadays. Throw into the mix the extreme demands of social availability and comparison in our fast-paced technical world, it's no wonder that so many of us are suffering in silence with an illness as legitimate as the ones visible to the eye. But I think and damn well HOPE, that we are all gradually making positive change to the way we treat ourselves and others and with increased awareness and education, we can all collectively provide help to those with mental health disorders.
So, what CAN we do to help from today. For a start we can drop any stigma attached to the word 'mental' just because something like OCD, anxiety or depression falls under a category of mental health, it does not mean that we are out of our minds, bat shit crazy. I remember thinking as a child that if someone was in a psychiatric ward, that they were totally unstable and like the Ursula character from little mermaid, going to start zapping lightning bolts into everyone around them. Nowadays, I've grown up somewhat and have many friends who have required psychiatric help for things like eating disorders, bipolar and personality disorder. Does this make those people any less human, any less capable of feeling and experiencing love and kindness!? I certainly don't think so. All our brains are so complex and incredibly flawed, unless you're an unworldly genius then it is better to accept that none of us ever know everything and problems occur when we're so stuck in our beliefs, that we assume our way of thinking is best or the only way of forming a point of view. So, stop stigmatising, stop labelling and start listening to many varying but valid views of others too.
Remember, the individual has not chosen to feel that way and there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about when talking about a crippling mental illness. You would not dare make someone feel bad or isolated for having cancer or heart disease so why act any different for a mental health illness??
Stop assuming that looks have jack shit to do with what goes on in a person’s mind. Unfortunately, we live in a world where we make many assumptions about a person’s health, wealth and even their worth by the clothes they are wearing, what material possessions they own etc. This has absolutely ZERO to do with what the individual is experiencing on the inside and any comments made about the outside appearance may be as damaging as telling someone to 'pull themselves together' or saying 'but you've got such a lot going for you'. Be very wary not to put your wants and expectations onto others, just because another individual has something you assume would make them happy, they might have a lot of other baggage that is completely invisible to the naked eye.
Keep on helping others in need, being a little more mindful to ask how your friends, family and strangers ACTUALLY are. Keep practicing and sharing as much kindness as you possibly can, for we never truly know anyone else's story and though we live in an incredibly visual aesthetic world.... there is always more than meets the eye. One kind comment, some undivided attention or honest interest in anothers well-being, could alter their whole day for all you know.
Take care of yourselves,
All my Love
If you want to learn more about WHAT TO SAY to those with a mental health illness, here's an fantastic article.
You can also learn find lots of information and support from the World Health Organisation (WHO)
For information on WHAT NOT TO SAY to those with mental health problems, watch Katie's inspiring video and please please please, educate yourselves.
For general information about the different types of mental health disorders and to get involved and pledge to help stop discrimination, please click here.