Never have we talked more about the impact our mental health has on us.  The pandemic has bought it closer to home and we are seeing and hearing sports men and women putting their well-being and mental health first.

What we now know is, mental health issues are common, especially depression, anxiety and those associated with use or misuse of alcohol and other drugs.

There is still a stigma associated with mental ill health, and it frequently involves negative attitudes, miss understanding and prejudice.  Many people have learned to hide their illnesses and will continue to do so.  Whilst we are talking about it more, many people are not well informed AND many people with mental health issues don’t get adequate treatment or they delay accessing treatment.

Let me share a bit about my story.

I thought I was wired wrong!  I didn’t know anyone else who inner voice spoke to them the way mine did.

Why did I analyse every comment and situation so I would get anxious and believer I was worthless?

How come it only me who wanted to hibernate, feeling so low, sad, constantly exhausted, not feeling like I had a friend in the world.  Wondering what was the point of me being here.  I’m abnormal, who’d want to be with me!

My life would cycle in and out of depression.  It was 2003 when I was first diagnosed and when it reared its ugly head and I confided in a HR colleague or manager I was told that perhaps I wasn’t resilient for a career in HR ….  Just adding to more evidence that I wasn’t ever going to be good enough in anything I did.

…. And let’s not get into the effect on my personal life just now!

What might you see from someone with poor mental health?

(Examples I know I showed at various times)

  • Over analysing every situation or conversation.
  • Perhaps only seeing or hearing the negatives
  • Working long hours and/or seeking approval
  • Striving for acknowledgment or praise
  • Overeating or not eating
  • Over reaction to something – the tipping point.

I’d burst into tears (practically a meltdown), tell a colleague or friend but then think they would hold it against me (and on occasions they did)!

  • Disengaged, very quiet or abruptness
  • Dip in performance or speed (presenteeism!)
  • Reluctance to attend work or any social events.
  • Anger! Behind this might be – anxiety, fear, depression, shame, helplessness, sadness, confusion, embarrassment

What you don’t see?

(based on my personal experience)

  • Believing not good enough (at anything) and incapable of doing the task in hand let alone reach any dreams or aspirations.
  • Over thinking, double checking, anxiety to send an email or make a call.
  • Burnout, not eating properly, becoming paranoid and constantly thinking the worse.
  • Coming home from work and going straight to bed practically every day
  • Emailing reminders to own work email with horrible messages in the middle of the night
  • Lack of sleep, feeling sluggish, tearful and having multiple mouth ulcers
  • No energy to do things they enjoy, meeting family and friends
  • Not keeping themselves in order e.g. doing the housework
  • Scared to speak to anyone about what is happening

What steps would I encourage people to take to support someone.

  • Listen, don’t judge and seek to understand
  • Communicate non judgementally and don’t advise/share what you think they should do
  • Encourage them to get appropriate professional help.
  • Give support and information that you know of that they could contact.
  • Ask what you can do to support them.

Finally, it may be hard for someone to explain what is going on in their head, when they can’t explain it themselves.  So, give them time, provide a safe space for them put it together and live with the silence.

By listening to the stories of others, that I’ve realised I am not alone.  Having cancer helped me understand who I am and can be when I filter out the negative noise and look after my mental health.  And now I share my story to help others find the tools and belief to help them.

Photo by  Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash