Mental health is now talked about so much more that is has been in the past. Numerous celebrities have shared their personal experiences to help people relate and understand how they are feeling. Support groups are pushing for mental illness to be treated the same as physical illnesses. A whole industry growing around mindfulness and meditation.
But is it making a difference? Do we feel differently about mental health, how we feel about ourselves when we’re having a mental health issue. Do we feel more comfortable talking about it in our offices with colleagues or in the pub with friends?
Well in my personal opinion, not yet….
I definitely can’t say I represent all facets of British society or even just one whole bit of it. I live in middle England, in a middle class neighbourhood, I’m married with two children who go to a local school and I work in an office for a global company. But do I talk about my mental health with anyone? Not really, I read blogs about it, I listen to radio articles about it. But in my mind depression is something that happens to someone else that is far more serious than how I feel, anxiety is something a bit silly that I wouldn’t admit too even though I feel anxious all the time.
I function like a normal person, I look like a normal person, I work and I parent like a normal person. But inside I’m a whirling dervish of sadness, fear, anxieties, cold dread and hot shame…
Am I alone? I suspect not, I really hope not but I don’t know for sure. I don’t talk to anyone else about this, my friendships are shallow and based on school or work and social interactions are for fun, parties, birthdays, holidays. But I see and hear glimpses of it from other people, a mum casually mentioning they are on anti-depressants, a colleague disappearing from work for a few weeks due to stress, someone laughingly mentioning how overwhelmed they are or angry that someone has given then another thing to do.
What can we do? Well firstly I’m going to try and be more open and more honest in my social interactions from now on, it must be a grass roots movement, if we all mention our mental struggles just to one other person every now and then it will gradually become something more acceptable to discuss.
But mainly I’m going to share with as many people as possible that my main coping mechanism is to try and exercise every day.
This is because there are moments in a Weights class or halfway through a swimming set or when you’ve run up to the top of a hill, when everything just melts away. It’s just you and your body working together as hard as you can. You can feel connected to the earth or part of the water, or the strongest person in the world with all your body tingling. It feels magical and free and such a relief to let everything go. That feeling can stay with you all day if you are lucky, restoring your mental health or making it just a little bit better.
I would recommend it to anyone, it’s not medical, it doesn’t have to cost anything, and it can make your life better.
Run – Cycle – Swim – Walk – Pump more, Worry Less.
Worry Less Design.