It’s Mental Health Awareness week, a condition that so many of us with or without a chronic illness can identify with.
The Princes William and Harry (I don’t care what you think of them, I love ’em both, especially Harry) have been at the forefront of the campaign, as well as celebrities like Lady GaGa. Their website Heads Together is a mine of helpful resources and encouragement and well worth spending some time on, whether for yourself or a loved one.
Mental illness still has a stigma, and I don’t know how we go about fixing it. I’m so glad that people in the public eye are coming forward and talking openly about their struggles. We seem to think if you’re famous you’ve got it sorted. The truth is very different. I’ve worked and socialised with many a well known face, and they have the same anxieties and doubts about themselves as you and I, if not more. Is it a British thing that we just want people to pull up their bootstraps and get on with it? I remember in my days working for British Forces TV, the number of young squaddies who would pour out their heart about things they were struggling with to the two female presenters and myself, eager for a listening ear that wouldn’t judge them. Bloody hell, the stuff they had to face at 17 and 18 years of age, and this was on UN duties, not when we were at war.
I think we’ve all struggled with our mental health at some point, whether we realise it or not. Or maybe that should be if we admit it or not. I’ve had friends who have been so overwhelmed they have taken their own life, others that have lost their home and livelihood because they just couldn’t cope and felt they had no-one to turn to. If that’s you, please, please reach out. Look at the Heads Together website, contact The Samaritans…
You are not alone.
I’m reading A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled, by Ruby Wax at the moment. I was never a huge fan of her comedy, but I met her a couple of times and really warmed to her. She was a bundle of insecure, frantic energy and that came out in her work. Her battle with depression is well documented, but she took it one step further and studied for her Masters in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy at Oxford University. The book is part memoir, part scientific based research and part practical mindfulness instruction. This is no woo-woo-floaty-incense-burning-waffle. It’s a fascinating insight into how our brains work and how we can re-train them with small steps. I highly recommend it.
Having MS has been a not just a battle for my body, but a battle for my mind too. Everyday there is a constant dialogue with myself …”You’re lazy”…”You’ll never be as good as you were”…”You’re on the scrap heap now”…
For me, being out in nature is the best medicine I have found, as are The Scoundrels, without whom I’d be lost (although far more wealthy…)
It’s taken a long time, but I’ve realised I don’t have to listen to those voices in my head. I decided I would not be bowed by my inner critic. I face the dark days full on and don’t cower to fear.
In the words of my favourite writer, Maya Angelou… Still I Rise.