Blog post written by Janet.
Welcome to my world…… and Yours
My name is Janet and I’ve been asked by my son to write on mental health that we all experience in our day to day lives.
With my 30 years’ experience of working as a Professional in both hospitals and community, he felt that I had the knowledge and experience of discussing such problems and sharing some helpful thoughts.
I am not here to try and diagnose, give clinical advice or a treatment plan.
My intention is to try and normalise the mix of feelings, emotions and mood swings, we experience, that are a normal part of everyday life, as distinct from when they become more serious and require professional help and support.
My hope is that after reading this, you will have a better understanding, that feelings of anxiety and low mood, aren’t necessarily a brick wall preventing you from fulfilling your career or lifestyle.
Everyone experiences mood changes
Usually, they are in response to known events or situations, such as: pressures at work, or home; sitting an exam or interview; hearing bad news of a loved one and grief… and now coronavirus.
What is happening today, with the unimaginable effects of Coronavirus is stretching not only our physical health, but our mental health, and personal relationships to limits beyond anything that only a few short weeks ago, would have been inconceivable.
Now, probably more than ever, we are being put to the test, as we become gripped by increasing levels of anxiety and stress, as a result of the silent side-effects of corona.
For everyone who is “fine” and learning to play the ukulele, there are thousands who are struggling to even get out of bed in the morning.
In these circumstances we never question our mental health. We feel able to speak openly about such concerns, knowing that everyone will understand.
Can the same be said when we have “off days” ….days when we feel “off the boil” or “below par”?
We may feel tearful or emotionally fragile, tense, irritable or just ‘generally fed up’. These feelings often appear “out of the blue” and for no apparent reason.
We try and hide these emotions from others, fearing that if they knew, they would think of us as weak or “not up to the job.” So, we usually remain silent and carry on with our head down.
First among equals
I read recently that the Duchess of Cornwall has days like this. She said, “Sometimes I get up in the morning, and think, I can’t do this, but I have to”.
Now we have to be honest……we do possibly question her statement. She has a life many dreams of. She’s very rich and married to a Prince. She lives in a Palace with lots of people in attendance, to organise her personal and working life. Fantastic!
The one thing we have in common, though, is that …. she’s human. There are no exemptions from how you feel inside, no matter what side of the fence you’re on.
The same applies to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
Meghan has recently talked of the struggles in life, her inner emotions, and the effects they are having, on her mental health.
Harry has also spoken publicly about his mental health and the effects on his life.
It appears though, that this hasn’t stopped them from striving to achieve their own personal goals in life ….in fact it has given them more courage to make a difference, not only for themselves, but others.
They have both spoken frankly about their emotional struggles, in the hope it encourages others to do the same in their lives.
Significantly, the general response to Meghan and Harry’s honesty and openness, has been warmth, understanding and support from family and the public.
We all know their lifestyle is more privileged than ours, but mental health affects us all, in the same way, no matter what our status …that’s our common ground.
I’m a Celebrity, help me get out of here
Even the hardest, toughest among us are not exempt.
Tyson Fury, a big man, with a big heart, and a man on a mission. It turned out, that his biggest battle wasn’t in the ring, it was in his head.
For a long time, he tried to cope alone, until he became more and more overwhelmed. He eventually found the courage to talk to someone, and seek help, so that he could carry on being a husband, father and boxer.
It certainly seems to be working…….
He freely admits that without letting others know about his emotional state of mind, he could not have achieved what he has accomplished so far in his life. He is outspoken and vocal on the importance of talking and letting someone know how you are feeling.
George Ezra has recently spoken of his mental health struggles and something as simple as talking or listening can make a world of difference. He said “Conversation is the key. Once you realise you’re not alone, it’s easier to approach your own situation”.
A few weeks ago, another high-profile figure had outpourings of support, in abundance, by just opening his heart and letting people know that he was struggling to cope.
Though it was his physical state, he found the courage to let his audience know why his performance was under par. It wasn’t easy and it was extremely emotional for him.
Elton John started his show, and it seemed he hoped, he could perform to his usual powerful and flamboyant self.
He wasn’t able to….and it seemed his audience knew it too! He continued to perform. He sang his last song knowing the audience would join in and he could have a few moments rest…. relief for him, brilliant for the audience … they knew he was struggling.
When the song finished, he stood up from his piano. He cried and was extremely tearful as he tried to explain that he felt unwell. He had a condition known as a “walking pneumonia,” a milder form of the potential life-threatening condition. He thought he could perform as usual. He didn’t want to cancel and let people down.
The audience gave him overwhelming support and appreciated his honesty. Nobody felt let down.
It’s good to talk
You may be wondering what a physical health example, has got to do with mental health ….
Well, it’s safe to say, we all have experiences of feeling physically unwell…a temperature, cough, cold, flu etc. ….and we either carry on feeling ‘poorly’ or we admit defeat and seek medical advice and treatment.
What we do know though, is that we usually get better. In general, we also feel more at ease openly talking to others of physical health problems.
There are common terms we use to describe how we feel, when physically unwell….” I’ve a banging headache” “my throats on fire” “I’ve got an iffy stomach” “my nose is like a tap.” Everyone knows what you mean, without a verbal description of symptoms … and usually you get empathy and support from others with tried and tested remedies to try …. great!
So, what of those days when it’s our emotional well-being – thoughts and feelings affecting our mood. Concentration and decision making are affected ……even choosing what to wear is an effort.
On such days, we try and paint on a face. We hesitate telling others, for fear of being seen as unstable or ‘losing the plot’.
Like physical ailments though, there are lots of simple terms used on a daily basis that are short, but powerful and descriptive …. and people understand them.
We often hear people saying, “I feel really fed up today” “I’m not firing on all cylinders” “I’m a bit on edge” “I feel stretched to breaking point.” We instinctively seem to know that it’s a way of describing how someone is feeling.
The weather also can be blamed for feeling ‘out of sorts’ …. actually, it’s a fair point though, it can affect us …. grey skies to blue skies it can affect our moods.
This is not trivialising mental health well-being…. it’s real and impacts on our life.
Coping with feelings of anxiety, low mood etc, on a day to day basis, is real for most of us…. but it does help, to let others know.
Whether it be a full-blown conversation or just an ‘off the cuff remark’…. it’s off our chest …. we have made others aware its ‘not a good day’ .
Experiencing emotional struggles, doesn’t mean we cannot fulfil hopes and dreams in our chosen career.
We can achieve anything we want to in life, if we are able to manage our mental health in the same practical, effective way, that we manage day to day physical health.
I have a very good friend who experiences anxieties and doubts about herself most weeks.
She works alongside other Tutors and Professors at a University.
Somedays she just feels very insecure, with obsessive thoughts, that she is not as bright or clever as her Colleagues, even though she is highly qualified and respected by others. She also writes books, does TV work and public speaking.
She knows that she has accomplished most if not all her personal and professional goals, and mostly she’s “on top of her game”.
It’s just that that some days she feels anxious and obsessive about the negatives in her personal and working life and it makes her feel “ sick with nerves.”
She finds difficulty shaking off these feelings. Doubts and fears overwhelm her and she then describes herself as “in a state” in which she can’t face food or she overeats and she becomes preoccupied with her physical well-being.
What helps Susan, is that she has several friends, who she calls her life coaches. She talks to whoever she feels will be available and she trusts…. I’m usually the 8.20am call …on her way to work.
These calls are not daily or even weekly …. it’s when she feels in her words “uptight”.
She talks…I listen …. we go over past episodes and what helps….by the time she gets to work she feels much better.
She feels she cannot confide in her Colleagues at work, as most see her, as a strong individual who copes well under stress…. but she welcomes her Colleagues to talk to her when they are having “one of those days.”
It seems to work. Her empathy shines through and has a powerful calming effect. They know she understands, and quietly, she takes comfort from knowing she is not alone in how she feels, emotionally.
One small step for man…. one giant leap to recovery
So, what can we do when we feel miserable, glum, with lack of drive or motivation or stressed, tense or irritable…… Talk and share? You’ll be surprised how much people actually do care.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a work colleague. It could be chat with your wife, husband sister or friend…whether over a coffee of over the phone …it helps.
Talking it through, helps bring normality back, as you realise, it’s not only you, who has difficult days.
You do not have to hide or feel ashamed. It’s not a label anymore.
In today’s world, mental health is an open conversation. …. from the rich and famous to ourselves. It is high profile, on posters, adverts, TV, in magazines. It is even played out in “soaps”.
It’s true to say that we will have good days .and bad days, overwhelming days ..too tired days ..I’m awesome days ..I can’t go on days ..and days when you can say you’re ok and mean it .
The first step to getting somewhere, is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are. The first step is the hardest. Have the courage to make it. It is worth it
Some useful numbers
If we find it difficult to talk to our loved ones or friends, there are confidential phone help lines….
People who are trained to listen and encourage conversations about feelings, thoughts and emotions.
MIND. Infomation line: 0300 123 3393 (Website)
Samaritans. Confidential support line, 24 hours a day: 116 123 (Website)
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 anytime for support from a trained counsellor.
Healthline: 0800 611 116 (Website)
NHS 111 help line (Website)
There are other help lines available.