September 29, 2014

It’s come back again

The pit in the stomach. Amirah The realisation it has come back. I feel ashamed, annoyed and angry at myself. How did I let this happen? Why have I let this happen?

I’m talking about depression. That feeling of not wanting to wake up in the morning. Not wanting to make small talk and isolating yourself. Not wanting to get dressed or do your hair. Finding your appetite has gone and you no longer find joy in cooking (and anyone who knows me, knows I love cooking).

That’s the thing with depression. It’s like a cancer. It can come creeping up on you and before you know it, it can affect you physically, behaviourally and emotionally. Depression isn’t something which goes away and stays at bay.

I wrote the above in my journal 5 years ago. Yet some of these words stay with me to this day. They offer me meaning of how important it is to reflect on my feelings, to think about my thoughts and to be kind and compassionate to myself.

You can’t have mental health problems, you’re a therapist!

I decided to write this blog because I have had numerous conversations with colleagues in the mental health profession about wellbeing. We see great importance in self-care (which will aid us personally and professionally) and we are passionate about our work with people who have mental health problems. Mental health problems are very normal (they affect 1 in 4 of us at any one time) and they can affect us in different ways. I know for me, I initially found myself putting much expectation and pressure on myself to not think about the times I have experienced poor wellbeing. However I have learned to be compassionate and focus on what I can do, rather than holding unrealistic expectations.

I recall pondering about my past experiences after returning from an appointment recently. I hadn’t left the house in just under a week and it dawned on me, I began to remember the time I felt anxious being out in public. I was worried what people were thinking, I thought everyone was looking at me and I remember thinking that I did not want to be out in the world; I wanted to lock myself in my house. Although in the present day my isolation was attributed to being inundated with work, I was reminded how important self-care is. When we enter therapy, when we read self-help books, when we see friends and feel supported we receive reminders of how important it is to make the time to go for short walks, to go and get a coffee and read a book, to experience a change in environment. This acts as a reminder to take 5 minutes every other day to engage in mindfulness; to be mindful of my emotions and mindful of my thoughts.

Let’s end the stigma for good

I chose not to receive support from my GP or mental health services in the past for my wellbeing. This was mainly because I thought I would be held in a secure hospital and I was scared. When at the age of 16 my GP asked me if I was hurting myself I was embarrassed, ashamed and mortified. This led to me wanting to leave the GP surgery as quick as possible, not to mention denying it and never returning. As part of the training programme I am enrolled on, I too attend my own therapy. During this experience I’ve come to place great emphasis on an awareness that wellbeing can affect any of us; psychologist, GP, banker, cashier, teacher, mum, or brother. It’s important to be compassionate; compassionate in the relationship we have with the self and with others. By talking about our wellbeing we find ourselves giving ourselves to others. We give share empathy, compassion and experience and this I have found leads to us not feeling alone, or abnormal (when we find ourselves feelings low in mood, anxious, etc).

Having worked in Children and adolescent services and adult primary and secondary care services I now know and would like to share that there really isn’t anything to be scared of when you consider accessing therapeutic services. It is unlikely if you disclose experiencing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or self-harm you will receive a negative reaction. Just like you, mental health professionals are people too. We experience low mood at times, we also may have a history of mental health problems which we have overcome, and we also care about you.

I believe it’s time for us to work collectively to eradicate mental health stigma and I believe we can start doing this by not only letting clients, family and friends know they can talk about their wellbeing, but speaking with colleagues, and speaking out about our wellbeing. I want you to know, it’s time for change.

Amirah says: "I considered writing this blog anonymously as I thought about past, current and future clients having access to it. I then considered that this may make me vulnerable to clients and colleagues assumptions being made. I welcomed this reflection. This reflection contributes to the worry some of us in mental health may experience, we worry what others may think when we discuss our mental health. I identify as an advocate to bust the myths surrounding mental health, and to get people talking about mental health - this can happen, if we all start talking about our own, if we can relate with others, if we are personable. Thus I concluded, I don't want to be anonymous, I want to invite discussion and conversation, I want to invite change".

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