For Mental Health Awareness week, I thought I would share a little story of my own. I believe the theme this year is being kind, and it was being just that which turned my life around 11 years ago.
To the outside world I was a pretty caring person, walked the extra mile and defended fairness with a passion. But when it came to myself, I was the biggest, nastiest bully around – out to shut myself down and prove myself wrong. I couldn’t do it or I was useless: again and again, self-abuse and torment.
I demanded I had to be a certain way and told myself life only treats bad people the way I believed it was treating me. I held no respect for myself, often allowing others access to use and abuse.
Life changed when 11 years ago – after a good 35 years of mental torture – I was introduced to self-esteem. From the bottom of the pit, I was encouraged not to shut myself up or run from my feelings, but to listen to them and show myself the time and empathy I showed my friends. I learnt that the bully in my head was defenceless to truth, so over time I started to learn to tell the truth, and replaced the lies with facts about myself and life: making friends with feelings, eliminating the labels of good/bad, positive/negative and experiencing them without fear. And the demands that I had to be strong, hard, work harder, do everything, fix it, be perfect – well they all became lies too.
I have a pile of tools I use to process, and to catch when the lies niggle in my head.
I’m sure you too know the bully I refer to and how it will rise in power when something doesn’t go to plan. What you hear are the lies. They are generalised statements: always/never/no one/nothing/any/useless – all non-specific.
Next time you hear it, ask yourself, is that fundamentally true about me or life? Is it true nothing goes to plan?
When you discover you are not what you accuse yourself of being, you no longer have to meet your mind’s demands to avoid them. Instead you can choose. Choose because you want to, and not because you have to in order to be who your mind demands OR to avoid who you accuse yourself of being.
Being kind was important for me and through being kind to myself, I have been able to develop and gain skills and insight. I now support others through workshops and training because I choose to.
So, what will you choose for you today? Because like me, you truly are an amazing human being!
If you’d like to contribute to a wider conversation on mental health, take a look at this survey and share your experiences and thoughts. It’s completely anonymous.
Each week we’ll be sharing a range of strategies and resources to help you build mental and emotional resilience during the Covid-19 crisis.
This is just as important as our physical strength if we were planning to run a marathon! And just like our physical health, taking care of our mental health is about establishing good habits as part of our regular routine.
We’ve been hard at work updating the Resources section of the Good Mental Health Coop website – these are resources you can use to build your mental and emotional resilience during these testing times. The Resources are divided under 4 themes – Meet, Relax, Learn, Create – please take some time to browse and check them out.
This article was originally published as a newsletter. Check out the Good Mental Health Coop website, where you can sign up to receive Carolyn’s weekly mental health updates by email, and find out more about the amazing work the Coop do. You can also follow the Coop on Twitter and Facebook, and you can read all of Carolyn’s articles for S&C here.