We seem to be more accepting of challenges around physical health. On the other hand, the subject of mental health continues to remain stigmatized.
My personal experience with my mental wellness has led me to come to some broad conclusions and personal truths that have served me well:
1. Like with physical health, I believe there is nothing called perfect mental health.
2. The binary view of being mentally healthy or being mentally unwell is also limiting. I have personally experienced myself moving across a continuum depending on my life circumstances and contexts.
3. My inherent “feeling orientation” has helped me stay acutely aware of how I have felt under most circumstances and that has served as a good barometer of my own sense of wellness. It has also promoted congruence between the way I feel and the way I act. It has also on occasions led me to be guided and carried away by my emotions and not pay heed to other facts.
4. Like all of us work hard to stay physically healthy, I have had to work hard to identify and cultivate habits and actions that promote my wellness. Staying hopeful and optimistic about the outcome of my efforts and the goodness of others and the future itself has been the most important habit.
5. My work over the past 40 years with understanding myself, expanding my awareness and most importantly expressing myself in ways that I can be understood has served me well. It has placed at my disposal an array of tools and methods that help me manage myself – an important gateway to mental wellness.
6. My first experience of my mental health moving down the continuum was in the early 1990s when I found myself in a job situation that was extremely caustic and of course my own coping skills grossly inadequate. I was treated for a few months for my condition. A change in my context helped me bounce back very quickly. I learnt something very important – the work I did and the kind of people I worked with was more important than the the Organisation or pay. That awareness has been with me since.
8. Having a supportive environment has been a huge blessing in my life. My wife and daughters have never ever judged me for my emotional vulnerabilities and that helped me accept that not feeling healthy mentally at a certain point in time is “not my fault or failure”. It is just one part of me needing attention.
9. My ability to be honest and ask for help has served me well. Over the years I have sought help from counselors, therapists, analysts, coaches, Spiritual Gurus and of course friends and family.
As I look back what has helped me is AASHA – Awareness, Acceptance, Seeking Help, Hope and optimism and Actions.