I’d like to share my mental health journey with the view it’ll help you if your curious but anxious regarding seeking help. I feel professionals, especially within dentistry, aren’t so keen to seek help even if they are advocators of treatment for other people.
This may be due to a multitude of reasons. Perhaps a fear of what our patients may say, or our colleagues or family. It may be due to a fear it appears self indulgent. A fear perhaps to explore trauma. It certainly can be challenging to explore the darker issues. Often suppression can be easier. Sometimes its a lack of knowledge about what it entails – and a worry that it’ll end with us blaming our parents!
I’ll like to de-mystify a lot of these notions and help you, if you’re going through a difficult patch in your life, to get to a place thats empowered, healthier and connected.
My personal journey with mental health started over a couple of years now. I had a very low mood. I didn’t feel excited or have a clear vision of my future. I was going through many changes, which felt very de stabilising. I was suffering some social anxiety – something that was alien to me before. It was becoming increasingly difficult to concentrate at work. I was finding that I was going through a rollercoaster of wide ranging emotions. It all left me feeling very unsettled. I wanted to desperately escape – just be as far removed from the circumstances I had found myself in.
This was all triggered by my divorce. Despite having a strong network of family, it just wasn’t enough confiding in them.
My first step was cutting back my hours. I went from full time to working 4 days and realised that it was definitely a win for my mental health!
I then thought about getting professional health in the form of psychotherapy. Instead of seeing my GP, as I didn’t want to wait for treatment, I googled therapist and BPS in my local area. I had a fairly clear idea of who I may engage with the best and after a bit of time searching, I discovered my therapist Anne and dropped her an email. We then touched base and immediately on the phone I felt like she had put me at ease. I went to my first intro session and from then a series of sessions lasting 2 to 3 months.
I can’t stress the massive difference therapy made to my life! It was the best life hack! There are lots of types of therapy out there and luckily I managed to stumble on the one that fits me so well- gestalt therapy. This focuses on promoting self-awareness without judgement. I found it a very empowering experience and found that through understanding myself better, I was able to then make better, healthier choices then on.
The key things I gained were – learning more about upping my coping strategies to help my depressive symptoms. This involved learning more about depression through listening to podcasts, many TED talks and The School Of Life videos.
Mindfulness was another key component. It wasn’t an avenue I had explored and found mindful practices super energising and calming. Being out in nature, was the easiest way for me to personally practise mindfulness.
Positive affirmations were also key. I was recommended affirmation cards and bought mine from Amazon by the late Louise L Hay who is an authority on the power of affirmations in changing your world. I carried these cards with pretty illustrations and positive statements and re-read them throughout the day. I then went from using stock phrases to creating my own. For me, soothing statements were most effective because I felt so unbalanced and that my world was shifting.
I found myself going back to journaling as a way to make sense of my emotions and feeling much better for it. Writing may be something new for you but its very therapeutic. You’d be surprised how your stream of consciousness pours out onto a page if you just allow yourself the time!
Exploring my creativity was also very useful. I started evening art classes, learning how to paint with acrylics. Being lost in paint and just the focus of attention on something new and colourful, was in itself therapeutic.
I had so much more time on my hands. I discovered that I was very good at up-cycling furniture. I started numerous projects – from painting frames pretty colours to morphing my Ikea stool to a Mexican tile colourful side table. One project saw me ordering Frida Kahlo print from America to upcycle my late grandmothers chair. It felt so good seeing an idea come to life and feeling a sense of achievement.
I also learnt about self love, which involved ways in which I can look after myself better, and setting healthier boundaries with others. Self care for me came in the form of taking time out to go to a park, listen to my favourite music or ensuring I sleep enough. These little things are essential but sometimes forgotten in stressful points in our lives. Showing self compassion is very important. I try to not be too hard on myself!
All of these things combined really helped me unpack some very difficult emotions. I felt more hopeful of my future. Just the act of purely talking and labelling my feelings, I was able to own that emotion and helped me move past it. There was of course days when I was actively grieving but therapy definitely empowered me to move forward. I can not recommend it highly enough!
So if anyone is on the fence and concerned, please take my advice and seek help. Its not half as scary as you may think it is.