Emotional Wellbeing Month 2022
Has anyone ever told you that you need to work on your resilience? How about giving you an array of tips on how to ‘bounce back’ during tough times? Annoying right? Look, it’s meant with good intentions. But sometimes, when you’re in a low place, seeing the wood for the trees isn’t as easy as 1,2, namaste.
My own journey with ‘emotional wellbeing’ came into play around 2014. Something wasn’t right. I had a great job as a primary school teacher, a supportive boyfriend who I have since married, a gorgeous little dog, and I lived by the seaside. I had time for gym, socialising, holidays, you name it, I had the freedom and perceived life to enjoy it all. But still, something wasn’t right.
I like control, and I am not the best at reaching out for help. I totally see the irony that my job is literally helping people. So my go-to, when things are out of balance, is to focus on my wellbeing, alone. At that time, that meant running a lot, eating well, and drinking less. But still, something wasn’t right. Days pushing the feeling of imbalance turned into weeks, and then months, until eventually I had a full-on breakdown.
I did all I could to sabotage myself. I tried to finish my relationship, I closed down comms with friends and family and I stopped eating and looking after myself. I descended into a pretty dark depression where I thought all kinds of horrible thoughts, which I’m sure you can imagine. I felt like hell and I was confused, but then I remembered I’d encountered this feeling before at university. One sunny afternoon, I walked into my professor’s office and I started crying and I couldn’t stop. He walked me very calmly and gently to the counsellor’s office where I proceeded to start my journey with therapy. In 2014, that memory stirred me to make an appointment with my GP, where I then proceeded to do the crying thing for some time until he gave me some pills and advised that therapy thing again.
I won’t lie, antidepressants really helped clear the fog. But what I really needed was behaviour change, some kind of tool I could use for myself to ready the storm when it came again. (spoiler alert, another emotional earthquake rocked me in 2021 but this time I was way better prepared for it)
It’s helpful for us to understand exactly what emotional wellbeing is. It’s defined as the ability to produce positive emotions, moods, thoughts and feelings and adapt when confronted with adversity and stressful situations (BetterUp, 2022) This really, in essence, is resilience. Antidepressants were there to help me correct the chemical imbalance I have in my brain, but I needed something else to help me correct the emotional imbalance. How I deal with tough times is critical to whether I am going to ‘bounce back’ from something or not.
So how have I done this? I’ve literally made it my mission to check in with myself, learn about emotional resilience, and try as much as I can to take better care of myself. It starts with looking out for yourself, in all honesty. It’s knowing that when things feel weird, you need to dedicate some time that day to working out what or why, and actively help yourself find healthier ways to move through that experience. When it happened again in 2021 I knew what to do. I was straight on the phone to the GP where I was honest about every feeling, thought and emotion. I also paid particular attention to the environment I was in both physically and mentally, opened up more to friends, and spent time on myself. I’ve since learned that mental health and emotional wellbeing imbalances run in my family, and by being open to what’s happening, I’ve found so many more of my closest friends have struggled with their wellbeing too and we’ve been able to share that experience together.
For me, it’s being okay with the fact I am on antidepressants again after a 10-year break, and it’s not giving myself a specified timeline as to when I ‘need to come off of them.’ There is nothing wrong with meds, they can really help. It’s knowing that looking out for me means I can be a better mother and partner, a better friend, a better colleague even. It’s getting out of the damn house every day for a walk, even if it’s just 20 minutes. It’s responding instead of reacting, and being deeply in tune with my emotions so that when I’m feeling strongly about something, I am creating space for myself to explore why. I am trying, as much as possible, to not bury or ignore and to ensure I work on my emotional wellbeing with others as opposed to alone.
Some great links for further reading: