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Crappy World Mental Health Day Everyone! - Sarah Askew

My mental health was really crappy, and the irony of it being World Mental Health Day was not lost on me!

My anxiety was through the roof from the moment I woke up, and I found it almost impossible to get going or to motivate myself to do anything.

My usual default is to get everything done on high speed auto pilot, and I know I am capable of being highly productive and self motivated. But recently I have been unable to be that same conscientious person that I have become known as.

The anxiety did lessen slightly as I somehow made it through each job I had to do, but it eventually culminated in my need to re-do the cleaning my boyfriend had already done in an attempt to help me by doing some of the things that I usually force myself to do.

But no, it wasn’t good enough. I had to clean more, make it more perfect, burn more calories, punish myself more. More, more, more…

My chest hurt and it felt like I was having a heart attack. I was starving and my stomach was cramping, but I couldn’t relax enough to eat or to get the pains to stop; not until I knew that the hairs that my boyfriend had just moulted from having a shower and getting changed, had all been eliminated.

And then I felt bad for not trusting him or appreciating his help; for making him feel scared to shower- or even move- in his own home.

This manic cleaning spree also meant that I had less time to sit down and write, which I consider an act of self care; something I could really have done with! But the anxiety took over and nothing but obsessive cleaning would make it go away.

This recent increase in my anxiety has me worried for several reasons:

If I am incapable of completing even the simplest of daily tasks without crippling anxiety; if I am scared to go to work, no matter what that job is; if I cannot bring myself to get out of bed; how will I ever be able to live and work to the best of my ability? How will I make myself credible to any potential employer, let alone as an entrepreneur, supporting others as well as myself?

This is why I cannot wait for my appointment with my local mental health team next week, where I will finally (hopefully) be getting the support I need- whatever that may be.

All day, I scrolled through Twitter, wanting to post something profound to mark World Mental Health Day. But it had all been said so powerfully, and by so many others, what could I possibly add? I didn’t want to just re-hash the same old messages that are repeated so often we become immune to them.

And, if I am brutally honest, I am still scared of who will see that I am struggling with my mental health right now, as opposed to it being something I have been ‘cured’ of and is safely in my past. I am worried that it will somehow come back to haunt me.

Oh, the conflict of wanting to raise awareness of mental health, and to decrease the stigma surrounding it, whilst still fearing that this very same stigma will make others think the worst of me and further limit my life.

But if we don’t talk about it - the reality of it- and be honest about what’s going on right here, right now- how will we ever make it ‘OK not to be OK’?

If I judge myself for struggling with my mental health, how can I expect other people not to do the same?

We need to remember that we all have mental health- just as we all have physical health. Therefore, we will all have times when our mental health is crappy, just as there will be times when we feel physically crappy.

Also, the symptoms of mental ill health will vary between individuals, just as symptoms of physical ill health will vary. One person may be prone to earaches, while another tends to get a lot of migraines. I happen to get severe anxiety, while other people get really, really depressed.

And then there are chronic physical conditions such as diabetes and asthma, and chronic mental illnesses such as eating disorders and OCD. It’s all the same but different, just as all humans are the same but different. We all get ill, but we can all get well too.

And we all have our own preferred ways of staying well; eating a balanced diet, practising yoga, walking regularly, listening to music, limiting alcohol, mindfulness, creative activities…all of these things improve both physical and mental health.

For example, writing this has made me feel better. Just the act of expressing myself, getting my thoughts out of my poorly brain, and being honest about who I really am and what I am going through has made me feel ‘heard’ and accepted.

And even if that is not the case and no-one ever reads this, or if I am seen by some as ‘weak’ or ‘unsafe’ because I have admitted to having current mental health issues, at least I have expressed myself and eased my anxiety- for now.

(NB: It is actually scientifically proven that, not only can writing about your feelings improve your mental health, but being honest in general also alleviates symptoms of stress and anxiety.)

So there you have it: Be honest, and open up- even if it is just to yourself. Maybe you can help others to do the same.

Maybe, one day, we won’t need a dedicated awareness day to talk about health: the good, the bad and the crappy.

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