One thing I am incredibly familiar with in my life, are the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety.
There is a slide within my presentation that names some of them up – things such as feeling irritable, changes in sleep, losing interest or withdrawing from our normal activities. After reeling a few of these off to the audience, I always say, “we will all feel these across our lifetime, and that is ok! But what isn’t ok is when they linger for longer than two weeks, get in the way of daily life, or they simply stop you from doing things you love and enjoy. When these things happen, that means it is time to talk to someone about why you might be feeling those emotions or feelings”.
I have always kept these insights in my back pocket, determined to always identify within myself that if “bad days” start to pile up, I know it’s time to talk about how I am feeling.
But… we are all human, and when our days are full and we are distracted by life, the priority of acknowledging how we are feeling and dealing with those feelings can go out the window.
I won’t lie the last 6 weeks have been big in the world of mental health and suicide prevention. We had RUOK Day at the start of September, Mental Health Week last week, and most recently World Mental Health Day.
Since the Tasmanian COVID-19 restrictions have eased our team have been in high demand. We have been presenting and educating groups all across the state. So it has been a busy time for all of us, and I know there weren’t actually too many opportunities for us to stop and check in on ourselves across this busy period.
RUOK Day is a day that I always love being part of, in years gone by I get around it more than other days on the mental health calendar. As a Community Ambassador for RUOK, I love their simple yet effective messages, and the history on where and how the organisation was founded really resonates with me.
But this year for RUOK Day …something wasn’t right.
I remember starting our schedule off at Blundstone Arena. As I got out of the car I yawned and said to myself “geez… I cannot be bothered today”.
However being a busy day I just dismissed the thought and got on with it and achieved what I had to across the day.
Since RUOK Day, approximately 6 weeks ago, I have had many more “I can’t be bothered days”. So much so that it dawned on me that maybe I’m having too many of these days… far more than I should.
My energy levels have been low and I have been tired a lot, excitement levels were low for most things, I was moody, grumpy, and to be honest not the best version of myself at all.
It all boiled over when a couple weekends ago, on a Sunday, I received a beautiful email from a stranger here in Hobart. She emailed me about the tragic passing of her son. She shared with me her sadness, grief and devastation both her and her family were experiencing.
But what she also shared was that her son had been buried next to my brother Ty. She shared that her family were very grateful for this and felt they could sleep easier knowing he was resting next to a beautiful boy like my brother.
Whilst it was such a beautiful and heartfelt email to receive, that type of email would crack anyone’s heart open with sadness. So reading it opened up a can of worms for me that night, more so than I had experienced in the last while.
I took the Monday morning off to go for a walk, to breathe in some fresh air and give myself a very long overdue assessment of my own mental health. Because it had now dawned on me that I was sadder and lower a lot more lately than I should be.
The feelings were lingering, I wasn’t getting joy out of the usual things, and my mood was low across the board. Essentially, my signs and symptoms were lingering and not going anywhere fast.
So as hard as it was to do, I realised I needed to get off my ass and practice what I preach.
Across the next week I made a GP appointment, got a massage, went to the Chiro, and I’m also not afraid to say I booked an appointment to see a counsellor through my Employee Assistance Program and headed off to talk about how I was feeling.
Going to a counsellor wasn’t the easiest thing to do, I hadn’t done it since 10 days after I lost Ty. But I knew I was bogged down. Leaving all my negative emotions in that room allowed me to recognise that how I was feeling was normal, and that talking about it all was absolutely ok.
Now I am not going to sit here and say I am back to 100%, because I’m not, and although I have taken action towards feeling more like myself, I recognise this will always be a work in progress. With everything that we all face in life I don’t think we can expect to always operate and be at 100%, there will always be ups and downs.
But what I did, and continue to do, since recognising how I was feeling has definitely made me feel better.
The past 6 weeks would usually have been an exciting time in my work life, but upon reflection this year those feelings I usually experience weren’t there at all, and all it seemed to do was bring me down.
I’m so glad I took the time to check in with myself and reflect on those changes in my thoughts and feelings.
I know I’m no good to anyone if I am walking into workplaces promoting self-care and mental health awareness if I am not even doing it myself. So my commitment is to do this more often. And the best part is, the experience was nowhere near as daunting as what many of us think.
2020 has and continues to challenge us all, in both big and small ways. But it’s not about removing the challenges, but more about making sure we take action to support ourselves during those tougher times. My biggest learning/reminder from 2020 is that mental health issues don’t discriminate, anyone at any time can get weighed down in negative feelings and emotions.
We must take action when we experience negative emotions, both big and small, It can make all the difference!