It’s Candice here, a Therapist from the land down under who uses hypnotherapy and mindfulness-based therapies (amongst others) to support people with anxiety and trauma. But I’m not wanting to chat so much about therapy today so much as have a general discussion around mental health. – Why? Because for those who are struggling with their mental health I want them to know they aren’t alone, and to give those who are fortunate enough to have great mental health a little insight as to what might be happening for a person who is struggling in a high functioning way.
In Australia we have a marketing campaign designed to support our mental health. It’s the “Are you okay?” campaign. The concept is simple, ask your friends, “Are you okay?” I both love it and dislike it.
Absolutely I love and support people checking in with one another and getting the conversation around mental health started, but is this the right question? Because I can say with 100% certainty when I was struggling with my mental health, I would have told people I was great – goodness there was even a part of me that probably believed I was fine.
Like so many strong independent people, I grew up as the ‘good’ girl, I was strong, independent, and okay all of the time because that’s who I was told I am. I am not someone who likes to disappoint so this really did become my identity. Strong, independent, and always okay, on the outside at least. No one would know that often there was a war going on inside my head firing with anxiety, overthinking, insecurities and basically a scared little girl who felt alone and didn’t know what to do and wasn’t allowed to ask for help.
I could have been a finalist in the Golden Globes for the Faking It Till You Make It category. I’m not proud of this now, but at the time I secretly wore it as a badge of honour.
I heard a mother speak after losing her son to suicide talk about the question “Are you okay?” and she said that she believes the question should be “How are you coping?” It’s a great question. It implies more so that it’s okay not to be okay. It feels a little warmer.
But if someone asked me that question when I was in the thick of it, I would still have lied and said I was coping great.
So, what’s my point? There are no great questions, and we should all give up trying to normalise mental health conversations – NO WAY! I love these questions, keep them coming! But let’s get comfortable going a little deeper both when having conversations with others, but also getting comfortable going deep within ourselves. Because there are proud, strong, independent people out there, like me, who are too stubborn for their own good.
People with high functioning mental health conditions are more common than you think. On the outside life looks great, kicking goals, loving life, and with a smile on their face. But on the inside, it feels like you are using a teaspoon to empty water from a sinking ship.
The other part I wanted to touch on is self-reflection. It’s all well and good to feel confident having these conversations with other people, it’s a whole other thing to have the conversation with yourself. Am I okay? How am I coping? What’s my mental health story, honestly? It can feel super confronting to have these conversations with yourself and at first it can feel like opening a floodgate on years of suppressed emotions and experiences. You do need to be gentle with yourself! But emotional honesty is essential for healing and growth.
Okay, now you have had the conversation with a friend or yourself and turns out they, or you, are not coping – now what? You seek help. Talk to your GP, find a therapist, don’t feel you have to do it alone. There are people out there who have traveled the road before you, who have studied and learned how to help – not only that, they WANT to help! They can help you process what needs processing and teach you some tools that will help you navigate life.
Let’s get sharing about our struggles in a constructive way that might empower someone else who is struggling to take the steps they need to in order to feel happier and healthier in life.