There’s been a lot of coverage in the media over the past few years about mental health, focusing on those suffering from depression, anxiety and the many other mental health disorders, so I wanted to talk about what I’ve learnt through my own experiences.
Just so I don’t worry anyone reading this that knows me, I haven’t been/or am depressed in any way, so please don’t worry, however, I do feel I can speak from the perspective of someone who has supported someone learning how to manage depression.
Like many relationships, whether it’s friendship, family or otherwise, it’s often only with time that you’re able to put some perspective on situations and really understand what impact the relationship has had on you.
10 years ago I didn’t even know anyone that had experienced mental health disorders, well when I say this, it’s not exactly true. It turns out I did and they were very much part of my life, but like many people suffering, they hadn’t opened up, so I wasn’t aware what they were going through. That’s the thing with depression, it doesn’t have a ‘face’, it can affect anyone, at any time.
It baffles me that you can still hear things like ‘oh she/he doesn’t seem the type to have depression’! Whether it’s caused by a life event/s, family history or genetic characteristics, it certainly doesn’t discriminate, it affects people of all ages, education and social and economic backgrounds. I’ve always had a glass half full type of outlook on life, but that doesn’t mean I’m excluded from ever suffering from mental health issues.
As a woman, I feel a dip every month due to my own monthly cycle and I’m sure my hormones affect my mood more since I’ve got older. Since understanding mental health better, I’ve learnt ways to help support those dips, so I feel more balanced and happy in my own skin and I feel very thankful that they are just temporary dips. I can only imagine what it’s like for people that live with those feelings for a large proportion of their lives.
I know you’ve probably heard this so many times, with the various coverage the media has given to mental health over the past few years, but for me, it’s totally about balance. I’m very fortunate that it’s not something I have to think about intensively, but just to be aware of from time to time. Food and exercise are definitely some of the tipping points for me, but by reading books like Happy Kitchen by Rachel Kelly it has opened my eyes to the benefits food can have on your mood. I grew up with the understanding that food has a huge impact on our physical health but didn’t really consider its effect on mental health until much more recently. I’d definitely recommend this book, as it’s not only full of lovely, but simple recipes but also a fantastic guide to foods that help you feel balanced depending on how you’re feeling.
Running first and foremost makes me happy, not just for the massive rush of endorphins that it produces, but also the way I feel about myself in general. If only the NHS could harness this and work more effectively with the fitness industry I’m sure it would have a positive effect on the country’s physical and mental health problems.
As as I get older I think ‘balance’ is even more important to me and understanding my tipping points influence any dips that I may feel. It could be that I’m not getting enough exercise, not eating the best I could, consuming too much alcohol, juggling too much, or perhaps not spending enough time with those that I love. Managing a sense of balance in my life is really important to me, and although I’ve never experienced depression I’m very aware of how important the health of my mind as well and my body are.
What are your key tipping points? Perhaps you’ve never given it much thought, or maybe it consumes a lot of your thoughts?
I will never forget a very good friend gave me some sound advice in my 20’s, but at the time I didn’t have the experience to recognise its logic, as it was so far removed from how I was leading my life. He was/is a recovering alcoholic and part of his recovery was the focus on putting himself number one. He said their theory was that this ought to be the case for everyone whether they are recovering from an addiction or not. This didn’t sit very well with me at the time, and for many years after as I’ve always been a people person and would do anything for my friends and family, often with my own wellness coming second. However, with more experience, I can totally understand what he meant. Putting yourself first does initially sound a very selfish approach, but if managed positively this could have many benefits, not only for one’s own happiness but those around you. After all, if you’re not fit and well, what use are you to anyone else or to be content within yourself!