If you weren’t already aware, this week (May 11th to 17th) is Mental Health Awareness Week, an annual week of activities and events hosted by the Mental Health Foundation. The week plays a huge part in raising awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues in the UK and worldwide. It first took place in 2000 and has engaged the general public in debate about many factors that impact our mental health, such as exercise, anxiety and sleep deprivation. This years topic is Mindfulness – a technique that we can all use to stay in the present, to minimise anxiety caused by worrying about the past or the future.
It’s a topic close to my heart. I have suffered from severe depression and take medication to manage my condition. My depression was brought on by stressful careers, in the legal and teaching professions which took me to the brink of my capabilities and over the edge. It ruined my relationships and my career aspirations. More positively, it also led me to qualifying as a holistic therapist and becoming very compassionate towards others that have suffered.
My last episode involved me ending up in hospital and needing Electro Convulsive Therapy. I pulled half of my hair out and my family didn’t want to see me like that in hospital. I was extremely distressed and wasn’t sure if I would get better. I tried to hurt myself. (I wanted to leave this paragraph out but I don’t want to sugarcoat it). I met people with long term mental health conditions such as Schizophrenia who unfortunately did not have the opportunity to get better. It was heartbreaking to see people suffer like that.
Luckily I discovered my passion – writing – not long afterwards which has helped me to manage my condition and given me a creative outlet. I honestly believe that ignoring my creativity and putting myself in stressful careers that I though were expected of someone intelligent made me ill. I had to learn about self-care and wellbeing and looking after myself was the number one priority. I decided that would be my focus at the beginning of 2015, but I’m trying to set up a business and it’s very easy for me to forget. Then i have to refocus on my wellbeing. If I’m not looking after myself, I can’t produce the work I am capable of.
I had to let go of my plans to have a traditional professional career and realise that a balanced life is better for me. I hope soon to run workshops for business owners to help them with their marketing and wellbeing, and use my massage training to help to bring balance into the lives of others struggling with keeping on top of everything. I want to turn that negativity in my life into something positive and keep moving forwards doing the things I love, whilst making a difference.
I hope that others feel able to speak out about their experiences which although painful and extremely challenging can lead to breakthroughs and a whole new future full of positivity and helping others. That’s what Mental Health Awareness Week is all about – sharing our experiences so people don’t feel marginalised. Use the hashtag #MHAW15 on Twitter and share the posts of the Mental Health Foundation on social media.