This is a story about how I manage my mental health. It’s a story about death, illness and relationship breakdown. It’s a story about life.
We all have problems but I seem to have been dealt a lousy hand in the last five years.
In quick succession my grandfather died and I lost my dad to dementia.
That was followed by my former partner’s diagnosis of cancer. She thankfully made a complete recovery but our relationship broke in the process.
Here’s the thing. I’m not alone. This is the story of modern life for many people in their 40s and 50s.
We’re the generation sandwiched between young families and aging parents and grandparents.
Just when you think you’ve cracked it with your relationship, family and career; life slaps you in the face and pulls you up short.
Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel sorry for myself. But I have made some poor choices because of my mental health.
This isn’t an article about woe, but it is about finding help and building mental resilience. It’s a living will.
The first thing is recognising that you need help.
In my case that was easy. My mental tells are anger, anxiety and melancholy.
You can only rage at a situation for so long before your behaviour gets called out as unacceptable.
You can only wake up in the morning fretting about the day ahead for so long before you need to get help in order to function. There’s a contradictory force at play in my life. I’m a workaholic and so have frequently used work as a means of escape.
Finally, you can only cry so many times before someone steps in and offers support.
Vulnerability is a powerful state. I reached out to my network and asked for help.
Whenever I’ve done this I’ve always been overwhelmed by the response.
I’ve had some wonderful heart-breaking and heart-warming conversations with men and women simply by recognising a shared experience and asking for help.
There’s a misperception that men don’t like talking about their emotions. It’s very wrong. We want to talk but conditioning and society tells us that we need be strong. I’m not strong.
You have to find a safe place where you can be vulnerable and share what’s wrong.
I’ve a new found respect for my mum. We’ve talked more about our emotional wellbeing in the last two years than we have in the previous two decades.
Your mum, and if you’re lucky your dad, are the only people that will love you unconditionally. Please nurture these relationships.
Ultimately l sought professional help from a doctor who referred me to a psychologist.
Over weeks and months he helped me tackle my emotional wellbeing and begin to make better decisions. We still check in from time to time.
It’s difficult to underestimate the power of professional counselling. It’s extraordinary value and has been a turning point for me.
In time this professional relationship has made way for a new personal relationship.
You’ve met the Posh Geordie in previous blogs. She’s had a different but similar life experience. As a result we’ve put emotional support and wellbeing at the core of our new relationship. It works although performance indicators and quarterly reviews aren’t for the faint hearted.
There’s any number of ways of improving your mental fitness but I’d suggest that addressing the root cause should be your start point.
I’ve tried most things: art and craft; growing and nurturing plants; meditation; and nature. They all have a place in helping take care of yourself.
Exercise is powerful as it improves your personal wellbeing as well as your mental state. I’m 10kgs down from my peak weight and a hell of a lot fitter.
Explore and find something that works for you.
A word of warning. Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. At best they are a place to hide and a temporary mask. They’ll almost certainly make a bad situation worse.
If there is one single thing I’ve learnt in the past five years it’s that you can’t be anybody but yourself. But you should be the best person that you can be and that means taking care of your mental wellbeing.
Thanks for listening. Please take care of yourself.
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