Pic taken February 2020, Siem Reap, Cambodia

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS… so last week was #mentalhealthawarenessweek and it is something that I mention openly in my posts. I was also made aware, through the magic of social media, of the Applause For Thought organisation who advocate for this issue particularly within the arts. So I’m signed up for their next course taking me on my way to be a mental health first aider. 

The causes or triggers for any issues are wide ranging and can sneak up on you at any time. Personally I went though many years of eating disorders as a result of pressure from ballet training and, frankly, I don’t know anyone who has been though dance training who isn’t paranoid about their weight at some stage. However, it may all too often be dismissed as an “artistic temperament” in performers, but dancers tend to be high-achievers and, statistically, this population are more susceptible to OCD and control issues which often then revolve around food. It isn’t just dancers who suffer with this, but it is an easy trigger and prevalent in the whole industry given the nature of the craft. Right now, my personal struggle comes from dealing with chronic pain and the medications I have been trying. It is exhausting and can easily get on top of you if you are not regularly checking in with yourself and practicing good #selfcare .

It’s easy to associate mental health issues with just “crazy people” or some murderous psychopath you heard about on the news, but I think the quieter issues can be all the more damaging and sadly, there is still such a stigma in society when we may go though a time of needing some support. This is what I am aiming to equip myself to help with. Obviously I am not a doctor but I can be there for someone unsure of how to reach out when they are struggling.

I have often wondered why we have called it ‘depression‘. I have noticed a recent shift in that more people openly reference their anxiety because that seems easier to understand. Feeling anxious is relatable and I think if people are taught to deal with it properly then it manifests in fear and possibly violent responses to unfamiliar situations can be limited. However when we think about ‘depression’ we tend to be less sympathetic; people are expected just to “cheer up” or are told “what have you got to be depressed about?”. But depression has nothing to do with melancholy and should not be confused as such. Whether it may be triggered by a traumatic event or personal loss or if it has no cause at all, it is still a mental illness that someone can’t just shake off. Sometimes medications are needed but pretty much ALL the time, talking therapy is also invaluable, however hard it may be to begin.

As with my approach to all therapy, the solutions and/or management programmes for these issues must be personal. I really take issue with anyone who thinks they have the cure-all for anything. Our life paths are different, our genetics have a huge role to play in this and, of course, our personality and personal circumstances will never be the same. Beware of brushing things under the rug because you may think it’s not “that bad”. These things have a funny way of building up and can become overwhelming if left unattended. There will always be someone better of and someone worse off than you, that does not make your situation any less real or your feelings less valid. Everyone’s problems are their own.

So do speak out. I am looking forward to honing the skills I need to be able to properly support anyone I can though my work. I do encourage my massage clients to share their stress with me if they feel comfortable (then I end up making friends with my clients – more on the issue of boundaries in the next post!!). I do feel that unless you tell me what it really bothering you then I can’t fully get to the bottom of those aches and pains. Especially during lockdown, my FaceTime consultations have been around some strange “injuries” popping up seemingly for no reason, but our bodies react to stress in all sorts of ways! You may not make the link between lockdown and that shoulder pain, or the lack of sleep and your back-ache but it must not be underestimated. I’m here to listen as well to stick my elbow in!