The Many Masks of Mental Health - #WorldMentalHealthDay

 
Naomi Aidoo
 

The words ‘moderate depression and anxiety’ followed by a prescription for some pills were certainly not what I thought I’d be left with as I exited the doctor’s office. I wasn’t suicidal or anything like that, I was just uncharacteristically low and seemed totally unable to ‘snap out of it’. I didn’t know that sort of thing had a diagnosis. In fact, I thought it was just how the majority of the working world lived. Life was stressful after all, right?

Well, that was over 10 years ago. And after taking those pills I was prescribed for 6 months or so, I took myself off of them and never went back to the doctors for more. Is that what I advise? Absolutely not, I am NOT a medical professional and this message is simply one in which I’ll share my journey with mental health. It’s not a journey to be mirrored.

Mental health. Two tiny words with such a giant stigma attached to them. Yet two words which affect us all. Literally defined as a person’s condition defined by their emotional and psychological well-being, mental health is something we must all be aware of. It’s something we all possess, after all.

And so why, when mine wasn’t so great, and I received a doctor’s diagnosis, did I feel embarrassed and awkward to tell anyone? Why did I take way longer than I needed to hand my boss the note which signed me off from work for 2 weeks? Why was no one else apparently talking about it?

The truth is, since that time over ten years ago, people have started to talk about it more. What’s also become apparent is that there are far more people suffering with mental health disorders than anybody ever realised. In fact, only today, on World Mental Health Day, The Guardian* has defined it as a ‘crisis’ and an ‘epidemic’.

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And so what’s the solution to this epidemic? Millions around the world to be handed a bottle of tablets in the hopes that that will be the solution to the problem?

I don’t think so.

I think that mental health wears many masks. Equally, so do the options we have to shift our own.

Yes, some people should take medication for their mental health. Yes, I say this even as Bible-believing Christian who absolutely stands on faith. Not everything is a spiritual matter. Some things are psychological and offers to ‘pray it away’ are not helpful in those instances. (This point is shared powerfully by friend Susanna Wright in the short film she wrote and directed in partnership with the Mind and Soul Foundation**.)

Speaking on faith though, I DO believe that there’s so much about our mental health which we can self-regulate with the right support, structures, and self-care. The sad truth is, I didn’t know how true this could actually be until I started my own business.

Prior to starting my online coaching business, I found myself almost eerily back at where I’d been some ten years earlier, holding a bottle of pills. Except this time, there was no doctor’s diagnosis – just a stark realisation of my current reality which looked like redundancy in one role and what felt like resistance and rejection in another. I’d been a Secondary School Teacher for seven years and had had some real ups and downs during that time. I knew that being a teacher wasn’t fully ‘me’, but I had no idea what was. And so when I was left with no other option but to work it out once I was laid off, it came as quite a shock. Happily, I began working at my church in a role which I believed was tailor-made. After a year of trying to get it off of the ground, we came to the realisation that perhaps, it wasn’t.

At that point, I was desperately disappointed. I felt as though I didn’t ‘fit’ anywhere and that the gifts I had were no good. I remember a friend at dinner commenting that I ‘didn’t seem myself’. The truth is, I wasn’t myself and I didn’t know how to get back.

That is until I focused on what God HAD given me in that season as opposed to what He hadn’t. That thing was time. That time saved me from another trip to the doctor’s office, because what I was able to do with it, literally changed everything for me.

For some people, I believe mental health can be regulated by plugging into purpose. Your God-given purpose and reason you’re here on this earth. As human beings, we’re wired to make a difference, we enjoy feeling significant – even if that’s just to one person. All of a sudden, when you realise that your life matters and that you can indeed help someone else because of something YOU have – it changes the game.

Writing a program for Christian women about the fact they’re chosen by God for such a time as this, exactly as they are, was, in hindsight, probably just as much for me as it was for them. It was me re-writing truths I knew but had buried. Truths like I’m not defined by my past and that I’m dearly loved by a holy and perfect God, exactly as I am. When over 30 women bought it from all over the world, despite the fact I’d never sold a single thing on the internet before, it served as generous confirmation that actually, I did have something to say. It provided me with the green light of permission I’d been looking for to keep going with what had previously just been a sporadically contributed to blog I’d started back in 2011.

Plugging into purpose can do a whole lot for your mental health. It can remind you that your contributions are valid and that people want to hear what you have to say when you’re truly speaking it from the heart.

 
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But of course, mental health doesn’t just start and stop there. It’s not a simple as pills or purpose and then you’re cured. It’s something we have to KEEP revisiting. We don’t just ‘crack the mental health code’ and move on. What about the days of insignificance? Lack of motivation and purpose? What we've got to do consistently is to become aware of the tendencies we might personally be susceptible to (for me it’s anxiety and over thinking mostly) and then we do what we need to do in order to continue to look out for certain thoughts and circumstances which might trigger certain reactions and behaviours. That’s what I mean about us being able to self-regulate some of the time.

The mind is powerful beyond any of our comprehension.

Which is why understanding the way we think as individuals is something which I believe to be crucial. By far, the highest investments I’ve made in my business (and the ones I continue to make) are to do with my mindset. It helps that my coach is also a chartered psychologist of course! But in all honesty, if you knew you were susceptible to weak ankles, for example, you’d get the right support. That’s what I’m doing with my mind – the most powerful thing I’m in possession of.

Building my business has brought me back to myself, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Waking up everyday and doing what I love is something I would have seen only in my dreams back when I was a classroom teacher. But that doesn’t mean everyday is ‘up’ and that you never face difficulties. In fact, sometimes business brings up some new ones which can also have an effect on your mental health.

Loneliness, for example, another ‘epidemic’ in a world which has never been more connected. Seems ironic, right? Now, as I’m living out my purpose, I do so most days from my own home. Sometimes that can feel massively isolating and yet somehow safe – safe enough to perpetuate day in and day out… and therein lies the loneliness.

We’re made for connection and too much time solo reminds you of that.

If you’re in business yourself and have resonated with any of this message, I’d love to offer you a free resource to support you in managing your own mental health. The more aware we all are of our own minds, the better.

Writing out affirmations was a weird concept to me when I first heard of them – the idea that you write out things as if they’ve already happened seemed a bit suspect to me… until I started doing it and once again realised the power of our mind and what it does when we make an effort to process positivity instead of the opposite. 

That’s why I’ve created this biblically rooted affirmations downloadable and supporting mindset mini-course, to help you manage your mental health every single day. To access the downloadable affirmations, and receive day one of the course directly to your inbox, just click below. 

* Click HERE for The Guardian article.

** Click 
HERE for my friend Susanna's film in partnership with the Mind & Soul foundation about how NOT to pray for someone with mental health issues.

The world is waiting for your work.


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HEY! I’m Naomi, Business Coach for High-Level Female Entrepreneurs & Founder of Living Word League. 

I coach, write, teach and run programs which infuse practical strategies with Biblical principles (which I personally think is the best rule of thumb for success.) I moved from a 7-year High School teaching career, to building and scaling my business after starting out as a hobby-status blogger in 2011. Within months, I was able to go totally full time and haven't looked back. My success, as someone who previously would have never seen myself as an entrepreneur means that I'm now beyond passionate about business being an expression of Kingdom-building here on earth. Hobby status and inconsistent feast to famine months aren't cutting it for you anymore right? You're meant for a business which has faith as your foundation AND soars with success. That's where I come in.

Click HERE to learn more about working with me.

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