Are Mental Health Difficulties About Other People?

It can be very hard to understand a hidden condition if you’ve not experienced it yourself.  That might be a physical condition, such as Diabetes or Arthritis, a mental health condition such as depression or bipolar disorder or what I define as an emotional health difficulty such as feeling upset, overwhelmed or unappreciated by the people close to you.  In this mental health awareness week, we are talking about the conditions which constitute mental health difficulties but do you relate to them or do you think mental health difficulties are just something that other people experience?  Sometimes we don’t see the things we’re struggling with until we reflect on them.  Mental health difficulties aren’t just about the more severe aspects of mental health, low mood can be defined as a mental health difficulty.  Maybe by focusing more on the term emotional health, you can consider how good self care will support your wellbeing and help you to recognise difficulties in the people around you.

Mental Health Vs Emotional Health

The mental health charity Mind has a list of mental health conditions on its website (link here) and feeling upset, overwhelmed and unappreciated are not on the list although you could factor those emotions into many of the conditions listed of course.  Many of us will think that mental health difficulties are about other people but if I ask you to consider your wellbeing in terms of your emotional health, does that shift your perspective a bit?  I’m certainly not trying to define a problem where there isn’t one but great self care supports great wellbeing, in a physical, mental and emotional health sense so if you think that you’re well because you have good physical and mental health, which is fabulous, just check in with your emotional health as well to see if you need a little more self care than you’re giving yourself right now.

Evaluating The Problem – Possibly Helpful

In 1967 Holmes and Rahe developed a stress scale (link here) which gave scores to a range of life events to include the death of a spouse, moving home and starting a new job.  All things which can create a level of stress and emotional upset.  Holmes and Rahe defined scores which gave a sense of where a person’s stress level might be if they had a number of events happening at one time, and while that was useful, the only flaw in my view is that the scoring system basically says that we’ll all be ill with stress at some point in our life.  While that may be true it doesn’t have to mean it’ll be to the extent that we need medical help in order to deal with those events.  Many, many people work through significant, difficult life events with no medical intervention or support.

Even if we don’t need medical intervention and support to work through the life events defined by Holmes and Rahe, each of those events will affect us emotionally, it would be highly unusual if they didn’t.  To start a new job, which might be a promotion from your last role so elements of self-doubt might creep in, with a new group of people who don’t know you and you don’t know, is bound to impact on you emotionally to some degree.  You are bound to question your decision-making, especially if you are looking to make changes when others are saying “we’ve always done it like that”.  It would be highly unusual if you went home from work in those first few weeks thinking “I’m smashing it!  I’m doing this amazingly well, right from day one!”.  If you are thinking that you might want to look up the definition of egomania, that might resonate! 😉

They Look OK

The spectrum of more severe mental health difficulties can leave many people thinking that they and their network of family and friends have never experienced a mental health difficulty.  Which is why it can come as quite the surprise when someone has the courage to admit that they’re struggling.  It can be very tempting to assume that people are fine because they look fine but our emotional health is very rarely played out on our faces and in our actions.  Or if it is, we hide those actions such as eating or drinking too much, gambling or engaging in high-risk behaviours.  We, as human beings are not made of wood; we are emotional beings and as such might do well to pay more attention to our emotional health.

The Value of Support

In the past I’ve struggled with periods of depression, which I would definitely define as mental health problems and I’ve taken anti-depressants to help me make my way back to good health.  But I’ve also had periods of difficulty with my emotional health.  I might not have felt stressed, anxious or low but I’ve felt upset about something or confused about how I’ve been treated and that has definitely affected my emotional health.  Did I seek support from my GP during those times?  No.  Did I seek support from my loved ones?  Yes, because I needed to know that I wasn’t losing perspective on things to an extent that did constitute a mental health difficulty.  That’s what our loved ones are for isn’t it?  To help us make more sense of what can sometimes seem like a very dippy, doolally world. 

You have emotions and so sometimes you will feel emotional; upset, confused or overwhelmed.  Angry, disappointed or hurt.  Does that mean you should ring 111 to speak to an NHS advisor or make an appointment to see your GP?  Possibly not but recognising the emotional impact of your day, if there is one can inform your decision-making for later that day or the weekend, or influence plans for your next holiday.  You might think “it’s been a difficult week so I might not get all of the to do list done this weekend.  That’s OK.”.  By raising your emotional awareness, you can be kinder to yourself when difficulties occur and that will help you to build your resilience.  It doesn’t mean you’ll never experience a mental health difficulty necessarily but you will have a great overall view of your wellbeing and that can help you negotiate and navigate this very dippy and doolally world more effectively.

Take good care please, check in with your emotional wellbeing and have a great day.

Best wishes, Karen