Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s focus has been on answering whether we are surviving or thriving. I think that this is a question that we all need to ask ourselves. Is ongoing stress the price that we have to pay to keep our lives on track or is it time to challenge that assumption and ensure that we prioritise good mental health?
It seems like such a simple question but up until last week I had never really thought about the difference between surviving and thriving. On reflection, I’ve realised that up until the present moment, I have just been surviving and that itself has been a huge struggle for me and something that I’m hoping therapy will help me overcome. From a very young age I remember having very little control over the big decisions in my life. My life had been mapped out by my family and other outside conditions. I would study hard, get high grades at A-level and then attend university, and following graduation I would get a corporate office job in London and then marriage and a family were left to achieve. Those are huge life-defining choices that I didn’t decipher. I was doing things that were expected of me without questioning if these were making me happy? My existence was for others, so with a mental disorder added to the equation, I can now start to rationalise certain triggers that contributed to my severe crisis episode last year.
I’m currently working extremely hard on my recovery. The first 6 months of my recovery was ensuring my survival. In fact that was solely what I was doing. I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping, I barely spoke and I wouldn’t leave the house. Instead, I was sat on the sofa opposite the TV, not absorbing anything that was on the screen but fully consumed by the most intense self-destructive thoughts that you could ever imagine. To be honest, my memory of that period remains to be very hazy.
The last six weeks, since being discharged from Lambeth Hospital’s Home Treatment Team, has been a daily challenge as I had grown accustomed to twice daily visits by doctors, nurses and psychiatrists. Then, suddenly that life-line was taken away from me and it left me in a state of shock. I’ve been working on creating a routine for myself which includes certain practices of self-care such as eating well regularly, sleeping well, getting out of the house for a short period of time and exercising. This is something that I’m continually putting all my efforts into so it’s been a pleasant surprise when I have had those better days when I’m able to focus a little bit more and get on with my blog or do some artwork. I’m putting my energy into doing activities for myself and I’ve been told that as long as I focus on self-care, therapy and my recovery in general, I will eventually thrive. Of course there’s that negative voice in my head filling me with doubt at the possibility of that ever happening so for now I will continue to take it one day at a time.
So now that Mental Health Awareness week 2017 has ended, what next? We will continue the conversation surrounding the deteriorating state of our mental health. Personally, I will try my best to think of how else I can thrive and I want you all to also ask yourself that question (let me know with what you come up with).
Please do check out the Mental Health Foundation’s report on ‘Surviving or Thriving? The state of the UK’s Mental Health’. It’s certainly an eye-opening read.