Yesterday was World Mental Health Day and a sunny, blue skied day in Cardiff. Working within mental health and as a Complementary Therapist – promoting positive mental health is a big part of my professional life, but yesterday I took some time out to walk in the October sunshine to reflect on what positive mental health means for me personally. I’d like to share this with you.
Three years ago my life changed forever after the sudden loss of my dad. It was a time of terrible sadness, utter desolation and days of asking why? I took time off work, exhausted by grief and anxiety, my family in pieces. Friends rallied round and my partner did everything he could to try and ease the pain that we were all going through.
I was restless, stoic and unaccepting in my grief. I wanted answers and I wanted to fix everything straight away for everyone! Of course, I could not to do this.
I went for some bereavement counselling. Anxious, tearful, stressed and terribly sad, I let that one hour a week be my haven, somewhere to crumble if I needed too. There were still black days, complete emotional discord, and sadness but little by little I started to put the jigsaw of my life back together. With this came clarity and big change, leaving my main job to focus on my other work and my true passion – holistic therapy.
Three years on my life looks very different, but grief is not picky. It will creep up on me at the most unexpected of times, a familiar phrase, a song, or just something I know my dad would have liked and for a few seconds or sometimes longer the sadness can be over whelming. There is no doubt that the strength of those around me and counselling has helped me through this hugely difficult period. I have had to accept that what I really needed was patience – particularly with myself. No one can speed up the grief process, it takes as long as it takes.
There are some people who I have met along the way who seem to regard the need to go to counselling as a weakness or a sign that you are showing some sort of ‘chink’ in your armour. Indeed it is the opposite. When you are ready, talking about your problems or how you are feeling shows you the real strength of who you are. This can have a hugely positive affect on your mental health. Whilst this journey is rarely easy; and can at times feel like you are getting nowhere, if you look hard enough there will always be a beam of light, however tiny, at the end of the tunnel to reach for.
Mental health problems affect one in four people. The stigma around going for counselling and talking about mental health in general needs to be busted. Anti stigma and discrimination campaigns such as Time to Change Wales reinforce the message that we need to talk more openly about mental health problems to make it a less taboo subject for everyone. We need more talk and more action! We can all play a part in this, even in the smallest of ways.
For instance – next time you ask someone ‘how are you’? – really mean it, they may have more to say than you think.
Don’t be afraid to talk about mental health.