It’s not always what it seems

As this is mental health awareness week #MHAW17 I thought I would share a story with you.

Last July I had a small mental health crisis – a kind of a breakdown. I now see it as the breakthrough I needed to move forward but at the time it was scary and I wasn’t sure how my future looked.

To the outside world everything looked normal; I was functioning as a member of society, still attending meetings and going to the gym, but inside I was in turmoil. One of the biggest challenges of suffering from poor mental health is that you look perfectly normal.

Over the previous few months before this episode, I had felt like I was ready to break; having run my own business for five or so years the pressure and stress of it all was starting to get to me. This is mainly the pressure I put on myself rather than other people’s influence, but pressure nonetheless.

One of the main things was that I felt I was being dishonest and anyone who knows me knows I’m a very honest person. This basically boils down to the assumptions other people were making about me – these were all good things such as running a successful business, exuding self-confidence and belief and so on. However, I didn’t feel any of these things were true!

Ever since I can remember I’ve been very good at putting on my ‘mask’ or ‘game-face’ and portray a very positive and together image of myself and my business even when I haven’t been feeling it. What I do as a business means that it is expected for me to be positive – my strapline for my business is sparking business energy and you can’t do that if you glum!

This lead to be having some very dark thoughts, which is something I’ve never experienced before. Yes, there were times when I felt down but this was magnified by thousands; basically I didn’t want to be here anymore and I thought the world would be better without me.

Having never felt like this before I wasn’t sure what to do but I was brave enough to reach out a few people (who I will forever be indebted to) to help me get through this crisis before I did something stupid. Over the week it happened, I spent a lot of time at home in bed; it was the only place I felt safe and knew I couldn’t do myself any harm. During one of the chats I had it was suggested that I read the book The Dip by Seth Godin which is all about quitting. It’s a small, easy to read book even for someone with dyslexia like myself. By the time I finished it I knew I had to quit thinking the way I was thinking about my life and the business.

I am a very driven person – once I set my sights on something I go all out to get it, but this had lead me to become very blinkered to the world around me.

The business sector I work in is Workplace Health & Wellbeing; this is a real passion project for me as it fulfils all the things I like to do and fits very nicely with the skills I’ve amassed since leaving school. However, it’s an area of my business that had yet to deliver any kind of business return and this was getting to me.

I’d spent a lot of time presenting and educating people about what I do and when I’m in the room I’d get a very positive response from my audience. I’d follow up as best I could (something I know I’m not great at) and I’d get tumbleweed/deadly silence in return. People would say I was great at what I do yet I still couldn’t seem to make it work; I really was at my wits end. I kept asking myself “What am I doing so wrong!!”
Well the answer was nothing.

I’d just become so fixated on something that I was blind to all the other opportunities that were being thrown my way and because they didn’t fit into my narrow tunnel vision, I simply didn’t see them.

Once I realised this with a bit of outside help, the black cloud lifted enough to see that life is worth living, well not just living but celebrating.

Since my breakthrough as I like to call it (which happened to be my word for 2016), things have changed; mainly the thoughts in my head but this shift has lead me to several new business opportunities, meeting new people and a renewed zest for life.

No one knows what the futures holds; all I know is that when life challenges us it because we need to learn something and without challenge you don’t get change.

None of us know when we might suffer from a mental health issue so let’s keep talking about it. And to anyone who is going through a tough time right now, my door is always open for you to talk to me; I might not be able to fix your issues but I can certainly lend you my ear and time.

Much Love, Rachel xx

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