Help Through Mental Illness

As I write this blog on the topic of mental health, my ears pick up the wonderful and intoxicating sounds of the bird songs outside my home and the warmth of the sun that feeds my soul.  But just as the birds sing and the sun rises and sets every day without any thought, people are dealing with, and likely struggling with, a mental health issue, disorder, or varying diagnoses related to conditions of the brain that is labeled one thing or another. Not sure how to deal, cope, manage, and get to a place where they hear and enjoy the songs of the birds and the warmth of the sun, the sounds likely harsh and the sun too bright. People dealing with mental health issues feel so alone yet amongst so many. A person with a mental illness retreats from the world to try to find solace in the silence but the noise and brain clutter can be so loud and overwhelming; it is inescapable.

This was me a few years ago. A seemingly single event sent such strong signals to my body that it decided to shut down- a way to protect from further stress or damage, I became depressed and anxious- signals that something is not right. My body tried to send me the message “Helloooo, we cannot sustain this level of stress much longer…hellooo…”  Elevated resting heart rate, high blood pressure, poor quality of sleep, anxiousness, low appetite, constant nervousness, absolutely no libido, and deep sadness that I could not ‘just shake it off’.  Then there was the deeper place of what I found most disturbing, that I did not feel or care about anything. No laughter, no sadness, nothing.  I just felt numb. You gotta give credit to the amazing body and how brilliant it is. In hindsight, I can see now that all of these symptoms were signals that my body was trying to help me. Strengthening by the day, even in neon flashing Vegas-like signs, surely I’d see there were troubles ahead, surely I’d pick up on that something is not right. Nope. Still in denial of what was going on around me and how my brain and body were losing the battle to cope, I was taken out of the game and found myself on the bench- “You’re sidelined…indefinitely!” Put on stress leave, handed a prescription for an anti-depressant, and told to rest.

Fast forward to today. I am a vibrant and healthy woman in my late 40’s who participates fully in life and with a deep passion.  I also find myself able to be empathetic to others and situations that otherwise may have gone, sadly, unnoticed. How did I get here? For me, and my journey, it started with the decision to be fully accountable and responsible for my health and that healing my brain was no different than how we heal a wound or recover from surgery and, that the brain and body heal together; they are not separate.  Rebuilding my serotonin levels, and other ‘happy’ hormones/chemicals that are normally released with ease, seemed to need a kick start with medication at least for a short-time. Once the receptors in my brain started to work as they should and receiving positive stimuli, the sword pulled out for battle was put back in its’ holster and I took a deep breath- I am going to be fine. The spark ignited a fire and I started to feel better day by day. Then I chose to feel better. I began to do things that supported my recovery: meditation, maintaining my exercise routine, and ate foods that nourished and allowed every cell in my body to recover and bathed them in nutrients that promote health on all levels. As time passed, I sought other outlets of support: yoga, getting out in nature, journaling my thoughts, surrounding myself with positive outlets like the people I chose to be around, the news I chose to listen to, finding ways to contribute to others, adopt an attitude of gratitude, and doing things that made my heart sing.

Helping others find sustainable and vibrant health is one of the things that makes my heart sing.  SLS Health Coaching was created, and exists today, to support people on their own journey to health- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. We employ strategies and evidence-based methods that have been shown to support and facilitate.   We help people build skills, tools, and create assets to draw upon when needed in effect, creating a health toolbox.  At times those skills, tools and assets needed vary depending on what area of health needs tending to so, we pull out those tools from the toolbox. Where our scope of practice ends we work alongside others who have other areas of expertise. Whether it is one-on-one, small group, or corporate, we can support your health needs including those relating to mental health. Check out our approach to health and wellness here as well as our strategic partners and those we work with here.

On February 20th 2016, I was one of two key note speakers at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) annual event Women Wellness where I spoke of my journey and the toolbox I have built to support my health. You can access that presentation here.

Certified in workplace wellness, SLS Health Coaching can also support the efforts of organizations in building wellness for everyone. Mental health in the workplace is steadily taking center stage in priority with HR and beyond.  Considering the volume of people who will experience a mental health issue in the workplace, it needs to become a topic of priority, and we can help. CHMA has wonderful supports that can be found here and here and the organization Partners for Mental Health their “Not Myself Today” program is showing to be popular and useful in the workplace found here.

Support and awareness is growing with the help of large scale campaigns but more efforts are still needed so that we remove the stigma of mental health so that people can be open and get the help they need to access skills and assets that will support their healing and journey to resiliency.  Let us know how we can support you by reaching out to us here.

“When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending.” –Brené Brown