October was World Mental Health Day. A month in which awareness of mental wellbeing and mental health illness is explained. Mental illness /disorder or condition is discussed to reduce its social stigma and dispel the taboo surrounding it, therefore increasing mental health wellbeing and a more positive life style.
What is mental illness? (I’d rather say un-wellness) It compromises of a range of conditions and severity with different symptoms. But generally mental un-wellness is a misbalance of emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It determines how we feel and act. It effects our choices, behaviour and experiences. In life we experience many forms of mental health problems and it determines our thinking and mood. Mental health conditions ranges from clinical depression, bipolar, schizophrenia and split personality disorder. It also includes stress, « mild depression » and anxiety, eating disorders, panic attacks, addiction, self harm and suicide as well as others.
So put the kettle on love and lets have a talk over a nice hot brew…. I find that a cup of tea always helps…
I suffered from mental health problems or un-wellness, and I still do from time to time. I suffered childhood trauma from being a political refugee and having being followed and witnessing family harassment. I also suffered from depression as a young teenager. I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after being knocked down by a motorbike as I crossed the street to my work place. I have had anxiety issues, stress and depression ranging from postnatal, bullying, unemployment, family issues and post September 11, where I was verbally attacked for wearing a hijab. I was lucky enough to have had access to people whom I trusted for help. I learnt ways that helped me deal with my mental heath issues and tools to strive for mental wellbeing.
Communication, love, time and trust. These four elements helped me immensely in beginning the journey of mental balance. I will briefly explain how I found them a tool to overcome mental unbalance.
Communication, TALK to someone, anyone, spouse, family, friend, helpline or online! Just be brave to utter the words that you feel inside and ask for help. Express yourself in any way you see fit and safe. Talk, draw or write about it. Reach out to loved ones. They care so much about you and you are not burdening them with your ‘problems’. It might be difficult at first but it’s so comforting and really helps, you might find out that you are not alone suffering with this problem or you will find there is another perspective, or just by speaking you will feel better. A problem shared is a problem solved!
Love yourself first. You are worth it, you are the main person in your life, only you know you and only you can provide that essential self-love and self worth that no one will ever give you. Honour yourself. Do not deny yourself wellness in all forms. Your mind matters, make it healthy, make it balanced. The way you think affects you and your decision and how you view life. You are so important you deserve happiness and peace.
Time. It’s true; time is a healer. Give yourself time to heal. There is no magic pill or a magic wand you can wave across your problems and it will make it vanish. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel, hay you can even dwell in it. Make sure you don’t dwell too much though! Make yourself aware that it is now time to move on, to seek help, to shift your mind to a more positive state. Take action to change to a better mental health state and persevere with the action. You are rewiring your brain pattern and it will take time.
Trust the problem and in Allah was my fourth key into elevating my mental health un-wellness. Trust the problem… What does that mean? I now believe that every problem comes as a gift. I trust that it came to change something in my life for the better, even if it doesn’t look or feel like it. How can pain be a gift right? Change is never easy (and I detest it) and it can be painful, but change is certain. Trust that this feeling / problem or mental health condition has come because of something that needed you attention, and by doing so you will steer yourself in the right direction. It took me a while to trust that the problem came as a way to shut one door that I was not supposed to go through, and instead the problem lead to a far better glorious door for me. Trust that you will be okay, why because you are being looked after and guided by a higher power. A most loving and kind power that created galaxies out of nothing, a purposeful higher power that created a world in a world within you and me will never trouble and burden us beyond what we can bear. I trust that this higher power is perfecting me and is elevating me personally and spiritually.
I used many methods to help me achieve mental balance. Here are a few;
-Talking about any problems I am facing and NOT facing. Remember to talk about the good stuff too and be thankful for it.
-Spiritual practice, prayer, supplication and discovering the Quran. This was a great essential key for me. It realigned things in my life.
-Physical activity like Yoga, jogging and walking. Physical fitness has direct result of increasing ‘good’ hormones and improving your mood.
-Doing something that brings me joy. Being creative. So I started art classes, and I start a food blog. I began to cook mums recipe to feel close to home. I became a café explorer in Paris.
All of this and more I integrated in to my life. I refocused my energy on myself and watched how once I am ‘well’ my world and things around me became positive and more calm and happier! Simple things like after my morning prayers I would send out good positive intentions and set two or three realistic small goals for the day. Once I achieve them I give thanks and reward myself. Be it an extra five minutes in the shower with a deep hair conditioner to a bar of chocolate to an extra long hug from my boys. I make sure I do ‘self-care’ daily. A problem presents it self to me now and I am quick to hold myself and my old patterns into dealing with it. I try to understand the problem and not make it personal. I try to focus on how to solve it rather on what it is and how it came about and that what ifs. Also I sometimes just letting go of it all together. Which is extremely difficult.
I now recognise my mood and often ask myself why am I feeling this? I become my own therapist. This helps me to identify the reason behind my problem or feeling and so solving it or finding a way to cope with it become easier.
I wish you all mental wellbeing. I urge you all to love yourself and recognise any mental un-wellness that you are experiencing or others are experiencing. I want you to seek help and advice or give help and advice. Just a simple hug or a txt of ‘how are you feeling today?’ could change everything.
There is so much literature and information and advice on mental heath and how to achieve a good mental wellbeing. Educate yourself and live a better version of you.
Wafa Jawad Abbas