What we have versus who we are… some thoughts on World Mental Health Day
The Dalai Lama knows a thing or two about mental health. One of the things he talks about is how we work hard to accumulate possessions and material wealth, but in doing so we damage our mental health…and then we have to pay to fix it. I know that to be true. And on World Mental Health Day, I wanted to share a few of my own thoughts…
Like a lot of people, growing up I heard a lot about working hard, getting a good education, a good job, a nice house, a fancy car, then a better job, a bigger house, a better car… and on and on it goes. But all this does is drive a behaviour which is fundamentally unhealthy and dangerous. We’re never happy where we are, and we place our value on what we have rather than who we are.
Let’s be real here, we all do it to some extent. In my case I excelled in it to my detriment. 7 years of therapy later the Pandora’s box I opened is only now able to be closed.
Your mental health and wellbeing is the most important thing you have. In today’s world we really test the durability of what we have. Make no mistake, you break the mind and you have to start a long hard journey to fix it. Think about it. If you spend 20 years slowly breaking something, what makes you think that you can fix it with a couple of sessions with a therapist or a few pills? Shit gets real when you have a breakdown and the places you can go to are dark and scary. But things can and do get better.
Coming out of something like I have been through in the past 7 years has made me realise what I need to do and how I need to change my perceptions on things. Clearly I’m not perfect and can easily fall back into the old ways, particularly, underestimating my ability to cope and overestimating the problem at hand – which is what anxiety is.
The most shocking part of my journey was the realisation of how many people suffer like I did (and still do) in silence with a mental illness. Opening up to my team back in 2013 was hard, but what I got back was not just overwhelming support but also understanding. Over half of them were also suffering with their own mental health, and are on medication or in therapy. In a weird way it was reassuring – I knew it was going to be ok.
So be careful with your fragile self. You are not superman. As the hashtag goes, “it’s ok not to be ok”, so don’t try to bottle it up, think you’re weak, or try to sort it out “like a man”. Mental illness is like every other illness – a cut may need stitches, a broken arm needs plaster. The difference, is the same fix isn’t right for everyone when it comes to mental health. So do what’s right for you.
And remember, it’s not about looking for a “cure” but about finding a way to handle what’s going on. In many cases once you accept you have a mental illness and don’t feel inferior or second rate, the journey to coping can start to take place. It’s not about being strong it’s about being honest to yourself and finding help.