May 14 – 20 2018 was the official Mental Health Awareness week in the UK. However, I feel that we can never write or talk about the subject too much. Good health is not just the absence of physical disease, it is also a reflection of how your emotional and/or psychological well-being affects you. Unfortunately, as our emotional well-being is not a physical thing that can be touched, a lot of people, me inclusive, do not give our emotional well-being a lot of thought. Some things have happened recently that made me feel that I should add my two-pence to increase mental health awareness.
FACT: Life in the 21st century by default is HARD!
I can’t say I speak for everyone in the world but at least for myself and a lot of people I know, life is really hard. We are constantly battling one challenge or the other, especially financial. Then when you add in being a parent, those challenges quadruple. That’s why it is ever so important for us to consider our mental health well-being as much as we can. Things can and do go terribly wrong when we ignore our emotional well-being.
Make time to ask those close to you how they are doing
A couple of years ago, I was talking to a friend of mine and he said something that struck at my heart. He said “but I told you I was depressed! I was even having suicidal tendencies”
How did I miss that? On paper, this friend of mine had the most amazing life. He works in IT and you know IT consultants make stupid amount of money. In fact, even in my fantasies (at the time), I didn’t think I could ever earn even half of his monthly salary. He has a flat in an ultra-modern building close to central London, he’s got a wife and a beautiful little girl. So on paper, what does he have to be depressed about to the extent that he was even contemplating committing suicide?
The take home from this is: it does not matter how great you think someone’s life is, just take a moment and ask how the person is doing. We all fight battles that no one else is privy to.
I have another friend who I accidentally found out that he suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). He’s over 6″ tall, a project manager, is possibly one of the most caring and understanding man I have ever met. When I found out about his DID he told me that he’d actually gone through the motion of taking his own life. I don’t mean taking pills and staying where someone could find out. He’s actually jumped into a river knowing fully well that he can’t swim and it was the people that were there with him that saved him.
So whenever I see a post reminding me of mental health issues and making sure we send a simple text message asking those we care about how they are doing, I do it immediately. That’s the whole point of this post. I hope I can remind at least one person to check up on those close to them to see how they are doing. You can never tell whose life you would be saving as a result of such a simple act of consideration.
Hormones are the worst thing to happen to women
When I was at university, a lecturer once said that every woman, at one stage or the other in their life will experience PMS. I laughed in my head because I could not imagine how or why I would suddenly experience PMS when I didn’t have it in my early teens.
According to a UK Mental Health organisation, PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) is a collection of physical and emotional symptoms that can occur in the two weeks before a woman’s period. Common psychological symptoms include fatigue, mild mood swings, irritability, anxiety and depression. The severity of PMS varies, some women experience severe psychological symptoms that impact on daily functioning in the weeks before their period. Severe cases of PMS are sometimes recognised as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), and usually show severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, and irritability before menstruation begins.
So by default, just by being born female, women have to deal with more issues that affect our mental health well-being than men.
The take home from this is: whenever you see any woman acting all ‘crazy’ (for lack of a better word), just offer her support and encouragement. Don’t judge, don’t criticise, heck even ask her if she would like some ice-cream.
How life and my hormones affected my mental health well-being
The worst thing I can say that has happened in my life so far is losing my mother. Looking back now, I wish I hadn’t acted like I was strong, I wish I knew about bereavement support. Why is bereavement support not more widely known? Or rather how come I did not know about it until recently? Maybe I wouldn’t have felt as lost as I did that I struggled to sleep at night. The good thing about that period in my life is it helped me to realise how insensitive some people can be. For whatever reason, people expect you to get over your grief within a set time frame. Someone I used to respect called me a spoilt woman for grieving over the death of my mother for more than one day. His excuse was that when his father died, he was over it the next day. I guess some people thrive on trying to show that they know better.
This reminds me of the saying: If you do not have something nice to say, PLEASE do not say anything.
From battling grief, pregnancy hormones, postpartum haemorrhage leading to amenorrhea for close to two years, then menorrhagia and dysmenorrhea as well as severe PMS, my emotional well-being was at an all-time low.
Last year, a friend of mine recommended I took daily multivitamins and evening primrose oil. To be honest, they actually did help me feel much better. The multivitamins I too had Iron in them, so that compensated for the menorrhagia. The worst thing I did was not continuing to take them when I was feeling much better. I actually started to feel like a crazy person. One minute I was fine, one minute I was angry, one minute I felt like crying etc etc. When I started to feel really physically tired that even a friend of mine told me that I looked really tired, that was my wake up call to do something about it. I went to buy a new bottle of multivitamins and evening primrose oil.
Within 48 hours of taking the first dose of both, it felt like the fog in my head cleared and I could see through crystal clear glasses. Where things were previously upsetting me, they didn’t faze me. When someone tried to pick a fight with me, it was like water over a duck’s back. Like an annoying mosquito that needed to be slapped and not given another thought.
The take home from this is: If you do not have something nice to say to someone, PLEASE do not say anything. If you cannot offer support to someone, please do not criticise. If you think someone needs something, offer it if you can. Don’t act like you are better than everyone else, as unfortunately, not everyone is strong enough to handle your bull!
If you are reading this and life is getting on top of you just know that it is OK to not be OK!
It is perfectly OK to put yourself first
If you have ever flown in a commercial plane, you will remember the safety tutorial were they say that in case of emergencies, you need to secure yourself FIRST before helping anyone else. Well in life too, it is OK to put yourself first. As a parent, we find ourselves constantly putting ourselves last. Well if you ever need permission to put yourself first, well here is my royal decree. A happy parent (mom) means a happy home. Think of it this way, if you are on fire, if you try to help someone else first without first putting off your own fire, you would simply be adding your own fire to theirs.
It is perfectly OK to have days where you feel overwhelmed. If things are getting to a point where you can’t handle them any more, speak to your doctor. If you are a female, do consider taking some supplements and try to eat as healthy a diet as you possibly can.
I know that it has taken me a long time to start to feel like myself and what helped me was surrounding myself with people who gave me positive comments. Everyone who criticised for criticising sake without offering actionable support got cut off.
Misery loves company and that’s how I formed a friendship with my old landlady. She was going through a difficult time in her relationship, so she would reach out to check on me and we would end up having lunch and b!t2hing about all the things that were trying to pound us to the ground. So whenever either one of us wanted a break from our reality, we would reach out to the other. As we were both parents, we understood each other’s challenges too well.
To reiterate, I’m trying to increase mental health awareness today. If you are going through a difficult time know that it is OK to not be OK. Sometimes, you just need to go through the motion to help you feel better.
I love chatting and meeting new people, so if you ever feel like you need to chat with someone, don’t hesitate to drop me a line. In the meantime, please leave a comment below, I would love to know how you cope with all the challenges life throws your way.
Do you need urgent help?
If your mental or emotional state quickly gets worse, or you’re worried about someone you know – help is available.
You’re not alone; talk to someone you trust. Sharing a problem is often the first step to recovery.