I have recently been told by my work colleagues that I am brave.
I am brave because last week I spoke up about my struggles with my mental health.
When I sit and try and think about when it first started I can’t identify a particular event or flick of the switch moment, but I know that for most of my adult life I have experienced poor mental health on and off through the form of depression and anxiety.
I’ve always considered myself as open to talking about my personal experience but what I’ve come to realise is that there is a BIG difference between mentioning ‘I struggle with depression’ or ‘I’ve had problems with anxiety in the past’, and announcing my current mental state on a call with 24 colleagues staring back at me.
Now I am fortunate. I am part of a team of compassionate and supportive people who really care about each other. But it got me thinking, with the conversation around mental health coming on leaps and bounds in the last few years, why do we still struggle to be open about it in the workplace, and in the fight to #endthestigma what is still holding us back?
These questions have led me to reflect on my own experience with mental health and the workplace, and why for some it could be still be keeping them silent.
Being presented with questions such as ‘What would make it better?’ (answer in my head ‘I wish I had a clue’), or at the end of a conversation ‘Are you feeling any better now?’ (verbal answer: Yes, thank you…. In my mind: NO!), whilst to the observer it might seem helpful and supportive, in all honesty it often just really isn’t.
What I’ve come to realise is I can hide away my truth and not be honest with those around me but as a collective that encourages the status quo. However, if I decide to be open and talk freely about my mental health then I am part of something much more powerful, I’m part of progress. Maybe my challenges with my mental health are my gift, a gift to others to create an environment where its ok to not always be ok. This might encourage someone to talk or it might just let someone know that they are not alone. And that is a beautiful gift to give.