Mental Health: There is nothing to be embarrassed about and you shouldn’t feel ashamed about asking for help

This blog post is a little different. Rather than writing about my thoughts or experiences, I wanted to share something my husband posted. This post is about mental health, something we’re both very passionate about.

To provide a little background, my husband is currently completing his final year of a psychology degree. He also personally suffers from depression and anxiety. This is what he had to say today:

So today I did tough mudder classic, something I’ve never done before or sure whether I would definitely do or not. For those that don’t know, it’s a 16km cross country run with 25 obstacles. It took about 4.5 hours to complete and was undoubtedly one of the hardest physical challenges I’ve ever done in my life…

Today on the run, I had a lot of time to think and am grateful for the support and encouragement of my team mates – Aaron, Kim, Zac and Sam. Thanks so much guys… This post however, while involving tough mudder, isn’t entirely about tough mudder but something much larger and more important. Mental health.

Perhaps it was ignorant luck, coincidence or serendipity, but tough mudder was sponsored by Beyond Blue; a not for profit organisation advocating for mental health awareness and education. Recently I’ve been coming across a lot of content from various esports personalities (Redeye in particular for those who know him) and friends on Facebook promoting open discussion about mental health. Today before the run began, the race start announcer said something that resonated with me more than any Facebook post, reddit discussion or TV ad advocating for the open discussion of mental health…

He said ‘there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about needing to ask for help or talk to someone when you’re having a bad time’ (with your mind).

A little under 4 years ago I had my first anxiety attack. At the time I had no idea what was happening to me though… I was at work and all of a sudden felt an absolutely all encompassing need to leave the building. I packed my stuff, told my boss I had to leave (without explanation) and headed for the lifts. By the time I was in the lift I had what felt like zero control over my breathing and by the time I made it to the (nearly) ground level and escalators, I was shaking and crying in public. I called an Uber and went home for the day…

I wasn’t happy with my life at that point and so I got in contact with the Beyondblue online support service and booked an appointment with my doctor for a referral to a psychologist…

Over the next 3 months or so, I saw her regularly to squelch my anxieties and eventually got back to normality and a feeling of capability to handle life once more. Just before I’d begun seeing her regularly, I was in the middle of university applications and intending to study education and become a high school teacher. During that time I’d made the decision to adjust my application and study psychology…

Over the last 3.5 years I’ve enjoyed my degree and learned a whole bunch. I really do love the mind and just how powerful it is. But, as one of my lecturers has frequently said, ‘knowledge isn’t sufficient’…

Over the past two months or so things have gotten bad again I’ve been dealing with fairly debilitating depression and anxiety again. So much so that some days (especially on days where I should be doing uni work or at uni itself) I would go catatonic and just lie in bed for 5+ hours and either sleep or lay and ruminate my thoughts churning over and over and OVER again. I frequently thought to myself, you’re depressed again. I knew this, because I’ve acquired the knowledge. But again ‘knowledge isn’t sufficient’ to fix the issue and make positive change…

Back to Tough Mudder and what the race announcer said today about ‘embarrassment and shame’. Over the last 3 weeks (maybe 4), on top of constantly feeling depressed and generally lacking any joy, I’ve been feeling constantly embarrassed and ashamed that I’d let myself get back to this point again. And even more so embarrassed and ashamed that I wasn’t able to ‘fix’ myself. I would say ‘I have a lot of the knowledge now right? I should be able to fix myself and pull myself out of the rut’.

Psychology and mental health is such a fascinating area of study because despite having the tools, knowledge and awareness of it all – it still got me. The chemicals still did their thing in my brain. My personality still managed to tick along and fuel the bad thoughts. Life still kept happening as usual and any little thing happening that felt remotely ‘bad’, something a mentally healthy person could move past, would absolutely floor me…

At the start of this week I got some bad news about a friend and it negatively affected me a lot more than I would have normally expected… It was the final trigger.

Two days ago, once again I saw my doctor and told him I hadn’t been feeling great lately and that I’d had 3-4 breakdowns in as many weeks. My wife, Kim, had been encouraging me to see someone again for at least the last two months and I’m really glad that things are in the works again to get myself back to being mentally well and healthy…

My doctor reminded me that sometimes people just have personality traits that makes them more prone and vulnerable to mental health issues throughout their lives. Sometimes these traits, high neuroticism and conscientiousness, can push me to do great things such as high achieving grades at uni, engaged parenting and supportive husbanding (not sure if that’s a word but you get the idea)… Those same traits however, can also be the catalyst to trigger bad mental health when left unchecked…

Those traits can draw you to set your self- expectations too high and poorly influence your own judgement on performance for whatever it is your role is, or whatever else it may be that you’re working on. For me it leads to exceedingly high self-expectations and to poor judgements on performance against these expectations as a student, father and husband…

My over arching point of this (long) post is this –

Sometimes in life it may feel like you should be able to handle everything yourself, especially your own health. That’s silly. Your mind, body and personality have much greater influence than most of us give any credit. Even with knowledge It is still possible to be susceptible and fall back into old issues. There is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about regarding your own mental health.

The main reason I made this post is this though… Today some random guy announcing the start of a gruelling cross country race said something that resonated with me. I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me. It’s likely we’ll never meet or that he’ll even see this post. I don’t want more internet points or anything like that, but to anyone that recognises the importance of mental health, please share. I might have said something, maybe, that will resonate with someone else and make them feel less embarrassed and ashamed about their own mental health issues the same way the race announcers words resonated with me. I hope this resonates so much so that they get their own help. I’m glad I am…

If you know someone this post may help, please share it. Thank you once again to Beyondblue and Tough Mudder for providing help and spreading awareness about mental health.

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

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