Mental Health Awareness Week
Diary of an accidental entrepreneur, Mama and once upon a time Yogini.
Mental health... what exactly is it? For so many we effortlessly slide into a mental funk and that funk is often justified in a lot of different ways. Everything from hormones while you are pregnant, tiredness, weather and an imbalance in seemingly just about anything.
I think most of my adult life I have been unwinding from emotions and patterns that were formed when I was young. Unhealthy compartmentalising and a nervous system that switched to fight or flight mode and then just stayed stuck there. This ingrained pattern remained a habit I wore into adult life and eventually I no longer questioned my state of being, it just became my normal. I was usually outside the box and didn’t identify much with normal anyway. I considered myself 'happy' and life carried me on.
It wasn’t until years later, after the death of a husband, therapy for the obvious grief that consumed me, a move to a new country, a new baby, the stress of a new and rapidly growing business someone asked me a critically important question, “When was the last time you felt joy in your life?”
I remember being stunned. I loved my baby, I thought I loved my life, despite being exceptionally tired I was excited about where life was going. Yes, I was often willing myself through the day and felt like I was in a temporary but long lasting survival mode, but there was a hopeful future. But joy? Unfettered joy of being? I stayed stunned.
At that point I kept forging ahead with all of my ‘should’s’ and ‘supposed to’ and ‘have to do’s’ for the family, for the baby, for the business and time for self reflection was sorely lacking. The talent of compartmentalising was forged in my childhood and perfecting when my husband went into the hospital. My feelings could be overwhelming at times but I couldn’t let them get in the way of getting things done. It was my trusty go-to for getting through.
It wasn’t until a strong bought of anxiety that wouldn’t let me sleep for nights on end that I finally got in tune with myself in a way I hadn’t before. Life had stripped me back to not a lot by this point, and there now wasn’t room to hide. It was a scary time. I kept trying to convince myself that I shouldn’t be scared or have the anxiety I was feeling. I wanted out of my body more than anything, as it felt painful to be in it.
This was the door I finally took that led back to myself.
With my mother feeling helpless on the other side of the Pacific Ocean and poised to get on the next flight, she persuaded me to speak to our family doctor in the States who convinced me to get a prescription for anxiety so I could sleep.
When feeling overwhelmed making sure you are ticking the boxes of sleep, water and healthy food are excellent places to start. It’s often the list I use for my three year old if he has a tantrum and I find it’s a good place for me to start as well.
And that’s where I started this time as well. Sleep and food and water. I remember crying in the shower and that helped as well. Then slowly I started to take stock of my life. My body wasn’t lying. My body was screaming out the truth and would no longer be ignored.
To be honest, I felt kind of betrayed with some of these realisations. I had done plenty of self work, self reflection, yoga, meditation and all kinds of other things. Shouldn’t that have taken care of anything mental or physical ages ago?
But the reality is that it generally isn’t one magic bullet of activity that gets us anywhere. It’s a whole toolbox we develop and pull from and it's in the millions of micro and major decisions we make everyday.
It’s been a process for me to anchor in my body, trust my knowing, balance my life and I imagine it continually will be. The big difference for me know is it doesn’t feel like such a chore. Wellness for me is not a checklist of things I have to do but instead something that constantly changes. It ranges from planting seeds in the garden, a yoga session, Osteo appointment, walk with the dog to a glass of wine, sleep in or a piece of chocolate at 7am. I still don’t always get it right.
Now my decisions are primarily driven by one central question: Does this bring me joy? And that seems to be working for me at the moment.