It was recently (10/10) World Mental Health Day. This is a great initiative, and to be celebrated for raising our awareness of things that need to be at the forefront of our attention. But seeing it posted on social media got me to thinking … What is the purpose of these special ‘days’ and what do we do with the problem once they are over for the rest of the year?
World Mental Health Day raises our awareness of the huge and growing fact that is ill mental health in our society, and the fact that whether it be our physical, mental or emotional health that is suffering, ill is ill, and people need support.
The issue is clouded by the definition of what constitutes ill mental health, and I feel we have lowered the bar on what true health and wellbeing means, and are willing to settle for mere function as being healthy, rather than not resting until we restore true wellbeing and vitality, for us and for all.
Are we saying we are healthy and well but barely getting through each day, waking up exhausted, getting going only with the needed support of coffee, keeping going with sugar and more coffee and the promise of a drink at the end of it all?
That is certainly how I used to live and I thought I was doing ok. Not great, but ok, given that I was working as a doctor, running my own business, and raising two small children.
Looking back from where I stand today, I would say that that me was exhausted, depressed, and addicted to alcohol, coffee and sugar, without which I could not function.
But when I ate sugar and drank alcohol, my relationships changed, with myself and with other people and this definitely affected my mental health.
When I drank, I would think, say and do things that made no sense at all.
When I ate sugar, I would be irritable with my husband, racy and edgy.
And when I came down from alcohol and sugar, I would feel depressed.
For me, ill mental health starts with my physical health, including what I put into my body to fuel it and how I treat it, physically, mentally and emotionally. This includes the thoughts I feed myself, and giving myself a hard time used to be the greatest poison of all. If I treat myself with disregard, sooner or later that disregard ends up affecting others, which is an awful thing to feel.
Now, I can say that I do feel great – not all the time, but most of the time. I sleep well, wake up early, and work from early in the morning to late in the evening without the need for coffee, sugar or alcohol. I eat well, exercise regularly, and have great relationships with my husband, family, friends, workmates and patients.
All of these things matter and if I drop the ball on any one of them, my health suffers, including my mental health. I notice that if I get too tired, and my energy levels drop, I start to look outside me for fuel to keep me going, in the form of food, drink and unhelpful thoughts, rather than going deeper in to resource the fuel that truly fuels me.
But more than all of the physical things I do, what has been instrumental in me making the changes to come to where I stand today, has been the development of my purpose in life. I now know who I truly am and what I am here to do and that inspires me to take care of myself so that I can keep doing it, day after day, after day…
Do you know what your true purpose is in life?
Coming to understand the meaning and purpose of life and my place in it has changed everything for me. I live a much bigger life now, knowing that it is not just about me, but about all of us, knowing that me living in a certain way reflects to others that it is possible for them to live this way too, free of all the traps and trappings of this earthly plane, while still able to enjoy everything that human life offers.
Having purpose gets me up in the morning, keeps me feeling full, energised and focused through the day, and supports me to take care of myself, including resting in the evenings to prepare myself for sleep, understanding that in sleep I resource what is needed to live the next day.
Living in this purposeful, meaningful way allows us to source an energy that sustains us throughout the day without the need for external stimulants, dramas, or distractions, so that at the end of the day we feel tired, but complete, and ready to rest, rather than seeking more from outside ourselves to make us feel fuller.
Which kind of life would you rather live?
One where you need coffee, sugar, alcohol, TV, gossip, dramas, excitement, distraction and escape from a life you are barely coping with?
Or one where you feel steady, settled, full, energised, vital, joyful and ready for anything?
For us to be truly healthy, truly well and truly vital, we need to find our true purpose in life, which inspires us to care for ourselves in a way that we can do what we came here to do, today and every day.
I don’t have to think about the answer to your last question Anne, as I know it in every particle of my body – it’s the second one. I have finally come to know that if I honour my body I honour every part of me and in turn, my body supports me back in many wonderful ways.
I know, me too, Ingrid, but I do love a rhetorical question!
Anne, thank you for this inspirational writing regarding mental health and true health and well being. Your openness and honesty about your personal experiences bring real meaning to your article.
I too have experienced mental unwellness and grapple constantly with an overwhelming amount of current information and dare I say, non evidence based propoganda related to mental illness, diet and medicines.
As a person working in a health profession myself, it is difficult to sit back and observe and feel the stigma attached to mental health issues.
I consider that your philosophy of finding a purpose in life and being able to care for yourself in a truly holistic manner is a beautiful one.
Thank you for prompting me to search more deeply for some answers to my life purpose.
Thank you Carol for taking the time to write and for your beautiful words of honesty and appreciation.
The more we can open up to each other and be truly honest about how we are feeling, the more we can support each other in a system which otherwise offers little true support.
And the more we can learn to truly care for ourselves, the more we can offer that same level of deep care to each other and everyone we work with and meet.