In this blog I’ll be exploring mental health, prompted largely by reading David D’Souza’s excellent blog post Weakness.
Incidentally, David – what you describe is not weakness as far as I’m concerned – its just difference, a point you go on to make yourself but I think the blog title is a misnomer.
According to Mind, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, and 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.
These are worrying statistics and there is plenty of research and advice about what employers could be doing to help.
David describes his own situation beautifully and it resonated with me greatly, in terms of how these situations come on at random, often unprompted but sometimes triggered, and how they prevent him from performing at what he feels is his best.
I have similar situations.
At least once or twice a week I will find myself terribly worried and anxious about an unspecified event. When this happens I’m mystified as to what I could actually be worried or anxious about, as there appears to be no specific situation that could cause it.
Symptoms are as you’d expect with worry and anxiety, and they pass after half an hour or so, going as suddenly as they arrive, but the most frustrating thing is that there is no obvious trigger for them and nothing I should be worrying like that about in my life.
Its the sheer randomness that gets me.
I know that when I interact with people when I’m experiencing one of those episodes, I’m tense, like a tightly coiled spring, and don’t give my best.
I also have, less frequently and something like once a month at most, a brief experience of high intensity emotional overload and I feel like I could burst into tears at the slightest thought. These episodes last about half an hour too and then they’re suddenly gone, and much like the worry episodes, there is nothing happening at or around that time that could trigger or prompt these.
Again, the randomness gets me the most – not knowing what causes it.
I know that when I interact with people when I’m experiencing one of those episodes, I don’t give my best either as I want to go and sit in a quiet room alone somewhere until the feeling passes.
But the nature of my work means that that is rarely possible and, like David, I have to work through it.
One of the best things happened earlier this week when I was sat experiencing one of these emotional episodes. My wife took me aside, told me that I wasn’t OK and asked me to tell her about it. Rather than asking if I was OK, to which the default answer is always “Not bad thanks”, she pointed out that I clearly wasn’t, and that prompted me to deal with it rather than sit wallowing. Talking about it helped the episode to pass quicker, and within half an hour I was fine again.
Earlier this year I did have a very specific situation that did cause worry, anxiety and strong emotions. It has passed now but I wonder whether what I’m now experiencing is the after effects of that – occasional resurfacing of the feelings despite the actual trigger having passed. Earlier this year I experienced a mix of mental and physical symptoms. Physically I had chest pains and difficulty breathing at times, along with headaches. Mentally, I suffered from lack of sleep, slight depression, severe lack of confidence, regular worrying, and an overall sense of lethargy and feeling of inadequacy.
The usual things helped me. Exercise, the support of my wife, spending time with my family and, also, the regular and continual support I had from my network. Some expected sources and some unexpected, but all with the same messages of belief, understanding and concern – and without exception they were well timed, well received and extraordinarily helpful. I am grateful to you all.
It’s important to be able to talk about mental health issues. One of my closest friends has recently opened up about some issues they have been having and that has prompted others in my social circle to do the same. And David covered similar ground in his post, for which I was grateful and which gave me encouragement to do this.
It’s hard. But we are not alone. And it is most definitely OK to be not OK.
Till next time…
PS in other news, my youngest daughter finishes nursery next week ahead of starting school two weeks later. Since my eldest daughter was in the same situation about 10 years ago, I’ve forgotten everything about starting school.