Last week was mental health awareness week - with the theme "Let's Get Physical!" You can find out more here.
The first mental health awareness week was in 2000, and focussed on stigma and discrimination. Even 13 years later though, there is still a lot of discrimination against those who suffer from mental health problems, and a lot of fear and worry even about admitting you have had difficulties. There are still people who don't understand the very real affects that mental health problems can have on our health.
About 10% of us will suffer from mental health problems at any one time with many people suffering long term effects.
I suffer from bouts of depression. Even writing this is difficult because of my fears about how people may react when they read it. "But we thought you were happily married" or "But you're a Christian" as if depression is some kind of negation of the good things in my life. It isn't. It is a darkness lurking within, moving in the shadows awaiting its moment to strike. Most of the time I can cope, I can keep the darkness in check, and no one knows of the periodic battles within. But there are times when the battle is a struggle, and there are even times when I am almost overwhelmed. Luckily I have my family, and I have my faith, and I hold on; the darkness recedes, and the light returns.
What sets me off?
Stress, tiredness, overwork, fear of failure, shock, helplessness, rejection.
How do I manage these?
I know enough by now to keep my self-esteem and self-worth in the places that are strong, in the places where I am affirmed and loved no matter what. With my family and with my God.
I know enough to view careers, and hobbies, and political action, and even churches as places where I might be let down, as places where I might meet the darkness, and therefore as places where I must not spend too long. So when the darkness approaches, I withdraw, I retreat to my strongholds of my family and my faith.
There are always those who don't understand: "you don't work hard enough", "you don't put enough effort in" and so on. They don't see the darkness and some of them wouldn't care if they did, for in their ignorance all they see is weakness.
So next time you see someone struggling with stress, or anxiety, or depression, stop and think.
They need your support, and care and encouragement, not condemnation.
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