In chapter one of my first book, I discuss the fact that people who have a ‘great life’ on paper are not immune from depression and anxiety. These mental health conditions do not discriminate. As I carry out extensive research for another book I am currently working on, I have started to explore the following question at a deeper level:
Why do people who ‘have it all’ get depression and anxiety?
I know this is a sensitive subject and that many have been told they are simply genetically wired to struggle with depression and anxiety, due to a chemical imbalance. In that case I may as well have written myself off as a teenager, accepting that I was going to live with intense anxiety for the rest of my life. I am pleased I didn’t. I have been a mental health researcher for 5 years now and the more studies and investigations I look into and the more people I interview and data I capture, a pattern becomes very clear. First off, I strongly believe that everyone could benefit from therapy sessions and part of the work I do is to normalise therapy. It’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of because we ALL have a mind that can be naughty. A mind that needs trained. If I can train my anxious mind that was prone to terrifying me then anyone can, trust me. I shared a powerful quote I love on my social channels recently which goes like this:
‘People in therapy are often in therapy to deal with the people in their lives who won’t go to therapy’.
So, if in doubt – go to therapy. What’s the worst that could happen? Yes, it can feel uncomfortable but in the end you will feel happier and lighter and so will those around you.
I love people. I love to listen and to learn. We all see life though a different lens and happiness is personal. You could be confused by someone deeply depressed who lives with a fun and supportive family in a stunning sea view house with an infinity pool. Yet perhaps that person feels isolated or they lack freedom in their job and/or relationship. Perhaps they need talking therapy to deal with issues left unresolved. There are many people with a sea view who struggle with their mental health. The issue isn’t the sea view. As much as the issue for many parents struggling isn’t their magical, healthy kids that they are so blessed to have. Opening up and working on our minds involves judging people less.
I did a poll last night, asking if people are aware of their key personal values. 55% said they were unsure. I get that. In such a frantic world, it can be hard to find the time to reflect on the big questions. But if our mental health is at the heart of the nation, then surely it’s worth it that we take the time? I can tell you right now that freedom is one of my core personal values. Freedom to express myself, freedom to make choices, freedom to dance and sing however I want. Freedom of speech, freedom to travel, freedom to not have to cover up the tattoos that I chose to have on MY body. If my freedom is suppressed, it impacts my mental and emotional health. A lack of freedom for me is a dead weight. Once you truly understand what your personal values are, you can take time to explore ways in which you can grow and live a happier, more fulfilling life.
I spoke on my stories this week about our intrinsic values. What brings you joy? I’m not talking about the things you may do for approval, status or to get something from someone. I’m talking about what makes you feel good. If you are struggling to think, I am going to put a list of some of mine below. I hope this list starts to create some positive feelings and inspires you to think of your own.
Making people feel good
Laughing with friends and family
Deep conversations and connections
Speaking on stage
Swimming in the sea
Infinity pools with a view
Walking or running in nature
Freshly painted nails
Getting my makeup done
A bouncy blow dry
Sitting by the fire
Vlogging and blogging
Sitting in a soft velvet chair
Lying on a boat
The sound of the waves
A sensual fragrance
Watching a good movie
Plants and flowers
The crunch of orange leaves in Autumn
Listening to ‘Oh holy night’
A warm bath alone
A bath bomb bath with the kids
Driving whilst listening to good music or a great podcast or audible
Baking with the kids
Doing plays with the kids
Watching sunsets and sunrises
Hide and Seek
Moving my body
Playing dominoes and cards
Listening with an open mind
Learning to push the ego aside
Playing the piano
All of the above are genuinely some of the things that bring me joy and I strive to get the right balance of them in my life. Now on the flip side, what drags me down? What makes me anxious, low and sad?
Well of course, not enough of the above but especially not enough sleep, connections or balance and a lack of movement and music! Some other things –
Allowing my ego to take over
Saying words I regret
Being too busy
A lack of feeling present
Too much noise
Not feeling heard
A lack of connection to myself and others
Feeling suppressed or controlled
For my own emotional and mental well-being, I am very aware of this and I do the work.
Value how you feel. If you are unsure and have got used to the auto pilot, value yourself enough to take some time out to answer these important questions that we are often too busy to think about. Take the time. Find the time. If it feels impossible then it’s all the more urgent that you do it. Don’t let someone pigeonhole you as ‘having it all’. Their perception of you has nothing to do with your mental health.