• Jennifer McLeod

Mental Health Awareness 2019

This week I’ve got chords being struck at every turn. Everywhere I look online, various articles, posts, comments, and campaigns are plucking my strings and creating a symphony of emotions; validation, thankfulness, worry, peace, and torment – it’s a mixed bag, for sure.

The mental health awareness message hits home for me. Closer to home than I’d like. And in the interest of transparency (because honestly, the world needs more of it and that’s what awareness week is all about) this post is about to get real. I struggle with mental health, mostly anxiety, and sometimes when I do, it’s very difficult for me to maintain the growth and healing that I’ve worked so hard to achieve. When I’m at my best I feel great and capable and talented and driven. And when I’m at my worst, I feel sad and overwhelmed and worried and lost. That’s the reality of the ups and downs of anxiety and depression.

Today is a down day. No, correction, this day SO FAR has been a down day. I’ve learned how important it is for me to acknowledge that this feeling lives in this moment and does not need to define the entire day’s mood. It’s difficult to describe how these days feel but it’s like a dark cloud moved in and is following me around to cast a shadow on my energy, my thoughts, and my life. I come from a wonderful family and now I have a loving and supportive family of my own, but mental health does not discriminate. Despite my world being generally positive and happy, the darkness creeps in sometimes and reminds me of my vulnerability.

And you know what? It’s okay. I’m not broken or damaged. I’m not “less than.” I know this. But, tell that to my anxiety! Sheesh.

A big shift that’s happened for me over the last two years has been building a career that allows space for the normal ebbs and flows of my energy. (Yeah, that’s right, I said normal. Let’s all drop the negative labels, shall we?) First on a self employment venture and now with a lovely, supportive team, the value of a human-centered work culture and authentic relationships is not lost on this girl! A quick internet search shows that I’m not alone in recognizing the need for allowing different work styles and energies to co-exist within an organization. More and more research is indicating the benefits of a positive work environment, flexible work arrangements, and a fair approach to vacations and time off.

What’s the point of this blog I almost didn’t write? At first, I wasn’t sure; maybe I just needed to get this feeling out, and at the end of the day I guess that IS the point – mental health is something we need to talk about. It’s a worthy conversation and not one to shy away from having. The bottom line is that we’re all different, and we all have gifts and challenges. Let’s be open and loving about what brings us down and when we can, look for ways to build each other up. If you’re struggling, don’t hold it in; find help where you can through family, friends, community resources, or a counselling professional if you need a few more coping tools in your bag. It’s okay to struggle – just don’t do it alone.

I took a little extra time getting in to the office today. My dog came with me and he’s currently sleeping next to my boss’s desk. I’ll go home later to pick up my daughter from school and when my husband gets home, we’ll have a family supper. Yes, I feel a little down – and also so very grateful.

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