I have watched the programmes screened over the past few weeks,discussing mental health and am amazed by the difference well-known people are making: shining a light on mental illness and diminishing its power.
Like most troublesome issues, mental illness thrives in the darkness where it likes to gain control and change how we live.
Nadiya Hussain bravely faced her anxiety and spoke out in the most honest and raw fashion. Cameras entered the sanctity of the therapy room as she struggled to understand the root of it all. She explained the many ways she sought to gain control of the anxiety that raged unabated across her mind. From the moment she awoke to when she lay down to sleep.
Mental illness can often arise, unless its due to a chemical imbalance, when we are faced with trauma. Our intrinsic need to survive can mean that we will find ways to manage that may prove to be unhealthy. Addiction, for example can one way of avoiding pain, on a sub-conscious level.
Busyness, often worn as a badge of honour can be complicit in supporting our avoidance.
For twenty years, I have had the privilege of sitting for thousands of hours (no exaggeration) as my clients have explored their lives. Sitting with their pain and loss. Listening as they uncovered the true depth of their feelings. Invariably there was a need to explore the past.
It doesn’t matter what walk of life we are from; we are all, in one way or another affected by issues of mental health.
Like the celebrities who have been bravely sharing their lives we are all affected by bereavement. Prince William spoke out about how he had found a way to talk about the death of his mother. As the group of men shared together, they realised that they were not alone. Yes, their stories were unique, but the feelings of depression, anxiety, sadness, loss and fear were common to them all to some degree.
It’s all about vulnerability! In her brilliant Netflix film Brene Brown unpacks the truth around shame and vulnerability.
Bravery and vulnerability are two sides of the same coin as opposed to the opposite ends of the spectrum.
Recently I completed a psychometric test that revealed my highest score as being bravery. I was so surprised at this result. But those who knew me were not surprised in the least.
The question I asked was, why is that the highest score? Their response was loud and clear. You are authentic and thus brave. Really? I asked.
It’s because you share your own story that you are brave.
I have to say that I had always thought my outspokenness was not a strength. It was more an inability to keep quiet and, as my mother would say, a need to air my dirty laundry.
But hey guess what? My ‘authenticity,’ as a client told me the other day is why people connect with me. Its nothing to do with airing my dirty laundry its just about being real. It’s not about spewing up my story without boundaries, its more about being congruent.
The truth about mental health is that if we are brave, if we speak out, if we are vulnerable, then we will discover connection and our strength. And our bravery.
What about your mental health? Will you trust others and take a risk? Will you find those who have earned the right to hear your story and be vulnerable. There is risk that is for sure. There will always be those who comment and attempt to crush us as I have experienced on social media.
But heck, what really matters is that we live life to the full. That we find out the full extent of our feelings, after all if you suppress one feeling you suppress them all. There is no joy without sadness, and no happiness without fear.
What one thing you will do today to be vulnerable and brave? Shine a light in the darkness and live well.