Back in June I posted this on Instagram:

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I really like what Hayley Williams said here.

Despite the substantial progress we’ve made in recent years, I think many of us still struggle with talking about mental illness – which is why we talk about ‘mental health’ instead?

And, like Williams, I think we do tend to polarise the issue – categorising ourselves and others as either completely healthy or sick – but surely there’s a whole lot of space in between these?

Our physical health fluctuates – some days we feel better than others, sometimes we’re a bit ‘off-colour’, or we might be injured – and at other times we have a (permanent or temporary, diagnosed or undiagnosed) illness.

So why can’t the same be true for our mental and emotional state?

And being the integrated, holistic creatures that we are, changes in our circumstances or environment and how we are physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually often impact on the other parts, too.

So whilst some of my clients do come to me with mental health (or mental illness) diagnoses from their GP (such as depression or anxiety), and sometimes these diagnoses or ‘labels’ can be helpful to their understanding and/or to accessing help and support, many of them could be described more simply as ‘people who are currently having a really tough time’.

And, unless we lead a charmed life (and I’ve yet to meet a person who does), we all encounter a struggle from time to time. Sometimes we feel able to cope, and sometimes we don’t.

If we’re not coping, it helps to catch this before things become more serious and get some help (from a friend, family member or a professional) to work out what it is that’s problematic…

Maybe it’s something that’s happened, happening, or soon to happen – to us or to someone else.

Maybe some of our past experiences, hurts or fears have re-surfaced.

Maybe people we’ve relied upon previously aren’t now able or available – or no longer around at all.

Maybe there’s a pattern.

Maybe we feel overwhelmed.

Maybe what we’ve always done in the past just isn’t working right now…

So we need to find another way – but we have no map with which to navigate this new and scary place.

If we can admit how we’re feeling and have the courage to explore:

  • what’s going on
  • what we think it means
  • how it’s affected us (and maybe those around us)
  • what else it could mean
  • what we want instead
  • how things might look from a different perspective
  • what we could do differently

Then we stand a good chance of turning things around – and learning from the experience.

And then next time we feel scared and confused (and chances are that we will, because stuff happens, life changes, and it’s all part of the human condition and process) we’ll:

  • recognise the signs (maybe earlier, too)
  • know more about ourselves (what we’ve learned, what we are able to do for ourselves now – and when we still need help)
  • be better able to make choices (knowing what resources are available to us – internally and externally)

and either:

  • manage things ourselves this time (because we recognise and understand the situation and our reaction to it)
  • or reach out and seek help (to untangle a new puzzle – or another old one that’s as yet unresolved)

and work it out…