Mental health is one of today’s biggest challenges. We live in a time where more than ever there is a deep sense of recognition that with all the technological advancements, we have around us we as a people are facing an existential issue. Loneliness, isolation, disconnected, feeling overwhelmed to name a few. What makes us happy? Is happiness something innate? How do we face our challenges whilst maintaining a healthy outlook on life?
2020 affected 7.7 billion people in varying degrees. It took us all to dark places, even those who might not have struggled with depression in the past surely felt moments, if not months of darkness. I myself have always tried to use the tools in my own toolbox to break through those voices and dark clouds that often sabotage the inner self, self-esteem and positive vibes. Exercise, reading endless books on how to stay positive, finding the spiritual path to happiness, chanting the Buddhist Lotus Sutra and drawing strengthen from the universe have been some of the tools I have tried to use. But all that was deeply challenged over the course of the last 14 months.
We all need a sense of support and community and many unfortunately do not feel they have this. Even those who do have struggled to reach out for help in their darkest hours. I personally have had many moments when I might not have acknowledged being ‘depressed’ yet with little to look forward to, and not even a glimmer at the end of the tunnel, I wondered will I ever be fun again? What is there to look forward to? What happened to my sense of joie de vivre? Having gone from planning ahead and looking forward to even the smallest things to living a day at a time without any idea of how long the darkness will linger was a gruelling exercise. And yet in the midst of all of this I have learnt to draw strength from others who have shared their struggles. I have looked to the smallest things I once took for granted to realise the blessings that surround me. To be grateful and show appreciation and to realise just how much there is that is beautiful.
I recently read Tina Turner’s new book, Happiness Becomes You – a great read by the way, but one point resonated. She speaks about turning poison into medicine. I found that very powerful as I reflected back on so many challenges, ups and downs of life and realised that the only way to keep swimming and overcome those pitfalls of darkness is to realise that out of darkness comes light and beauty. The Lotus flower is symbolic of this as it is the one flower that thrives amidst the muddy waters. It is not easy to see the positive in things that seem awful, unfair and painful. And yet, they say God only gives you what he believes you can handle. Whatever faith you may follow or whatever spiritual inclination you have I do strongly feel that with the bad comes the good. Often it is a time to learn and take stock and it is the universe’s way of asking us to grow and challenge ourselves to be better. Be more compassionate, more understanding, more kind and to be the best versions of ourselves. By being your true best version, you can inspire others to change how they behave. We all wish people around us would do things differently but the only power we hold is to change it up from our end and hope that in doing so it will lead to improvements all around.
I am a mother to a 13-year-old son. Not a day passes where I don’t feel eternally blessed for being his mother and for embracing the learning that has come from being on the job for the last 13 years. I am more aware that his mental health today is more important than what grade he gets in his exams. As an educator I have always believed that happy, healthy children perform better so making sure he is grounded and compassionate, respected, trusted, loved and heard is my hope that the rest will follow. Children are a blessing. They guide us to be better people and challenge us on a daily basis. I am the woman I am today in large part to my parents, my experiences but also because of my son. I realise that I cannot be his strength if I am drowning in my darkness. I have had to rummage in my toolbox to find ways to cope with loss, grief, sadness and disappointments. I have sought help when my own toolbox was empty or missing key components to achieve this.
We all struggle with challenges that life throws at us. How we deal with these challenges is what is important and helping others in their times of need is vital. Building a support group of friends and loved ones has helped me and there is no shame in crying out and asking for help. I have often needed help and looked to various supports in my dark times. There is no shame to ask for help. In fact it takes great courage and I strongly believe as quoted by poet John Donne, ‘no man is an island’. Ask for help, don’t hold back because there is always hope and light.
Personally, I feel that staying in positive mental health calls for a combination of daily things that together work their magic. Eating healthy foods, daily exercise, reading about the lives of others, chanting, finding moments to turn down the noise and volume of life, laughing and nurturing close friendships with loved ones have been my way to navigate the bumpy road of mental health.