“There’s nothing rare, strange or shameful about our mental health”

I’ve been so eager to write a blog for mental health awareness week because this subject is so close to my heart, yet I must admit I wondered where on earth to start. Like so many people, I have experienced times when I’ve felt incredibly low. That grey cloud of depression, draining my energy and convincing me that I couldn’t possibly get out of bed. The heart palpitations of anxiety that at times left my mind and body on edge. A host of internal voices that can subtly criticise me throughout my day without me even realising. 

Mental health problems, for me, have taken on many different forms- some have been easy to recognise, others not so. Experiencing these difficulties can be a lonely place and we can convince ourselves that we are absolutely alone. When we continue to be alone in our pain without support, these tormenting thoughts and feelings tend to thrive. For me, counselling was a place to be heard and felt, to make sense of my internal dialogue and confusing emotions. Whichever route of help you choose (and it might be several), what I want to share with you more than anything is that if you’re facing difficulties, support isn’t as far away as you might think, you’re not alone in this.

With the work I now do, it’s impossible to not peek behind the veil of my mind, my ego- into my emotions, my subconscious, to get to know myself on a deep level. Training to work in the field of counselling and mental health has been life changing for me. I’m continuing to learn how to help others and forever learning about myself. MHAW is working to raise awareness of mental health issues which is fantastic, yet if I’m honest there’s a part of me that’s a little bit baffled. Raising awareness of a rare disease, or things that we otherwise wouldn’t know about, this is what comes to mind when I think about raising awareness. But here, this week we’re talking about our health, our mental health.

Just like our physical health, our mental health is part of us, it’s a real thing and more importantly it’s a ‘thing’ for each and every one of us. Some people are effected by the common cold, for others it’s flu, for some it’s cancer or heart disease. These illnesses don’t define us but they are the problems that as humans we experience. Sometimes the ‘recovery’ is a few days or a few weeks, sometimes it’s months, and other times we’re in an ongoing battle. We might not have the flu all our lives, but we have the potential to experience it. We all have the potential to experience common mental health problems- in fact 1 in 4 of us will. This week I hope we can take a step towards understanding our mental health better and a step away from the idea of ‘us’ and ‘them’. ‘Us’ who don’t have this so called mental health and ‘them’ who do.  There’s nothing rare, strange or shameful about our mental health. We’re human and our mental health (and mental health problems) is very human and very real.