Brave New WorldEducation

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

As part of #WorldMentalHealthWeek, our Head of Development for Education and Outreach takes a moment from the planning of our own Well-Being projects and shares his reflections on the journey he has been through over the past 12 months.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog about mental health. More specifically, I wrote about my mental health. It is after all, the brain I know the best. Since then, there have been some fairly large global events (I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a pandemic going on) and I think it’s safe to say that everyone’s health, mental or otherwise has been put under some sort of strain.

As it happens, the weekend before lockdown came into force last March, I was having a serious dip in my mood. My wife had thrown me an excellent birthday party – a murder mystery called The Butler Did It, set within a butler convention. Genius. But I couldn’t enjoy it. Friends and family were there, being their usual brilliant selves, but I couldn’t be lifted. I wanted to crawl into a hole.

The next day I knew I had to tell my family, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud. I had to write in down and slide the words across the table. As expected, everyone was incredibly supportive. One of the immediate upshots, amongst many grander gestures, was that my mum instantly thrust a bottle of Vitamin D into my hands.

Little did I know that, a week later, the whole world would start taking Vitamin D. Suddenly support, like sunlight, was in short supply. All structure vanished, co-workers and friends became two-dimensional and we started to forget which day was which. They were, after all, pretty much the same.

Like a lot of people, my mood was being played on a roulette wheel, throughout those first months. Some days I’d wake up loving life, the next I’d wanted nothing to do with it. Jumping out of bed one moment, hiding under the pillows the next. Replying to a standard ‘How are you?’ became a case of saying ‘Oh, I’m ‘insert adjective here’ today! Tomorrow, who knows.’

I’ve got to stress that I am very lucky. My life at home is pretty great. I love being around my wife and our boys and, what’s more, they seemed to take to lockdown like a fish to water – like a fish that loves water and is told that they get to swim all the time! If I stretch that comparison, perhaps I was a duck, partial to a swim, but I definitely missed waddling across the grass or stretching my wings.

Over a year on, as we’ve hit our stride and as restrictions start to ease, the mood fluctuations have definitely flattened. Those fish and that duck (yes, I’m going to persevere with them) are on far steadier waters. It feels like we’re moving forward, and – despite the obvious losses and hardships – there are definite positives to take from the last year…

Society has become closer, based on an increased sense of empathy and compassion, due to our shared experience. The pandemic has affected us all in different ways, but there’s a common thread. It’s ok to say you’re not ok. This is no easy thing to say, but it’s almost become a given. Of course no one’s been ok. We’ve all had our struggles and we’ve been allowed to admit it.

A couple of weeks ago I had the sudden realisation that I’d been talking about my mental health with an openness I would never have dreamed of before the pandemic. In fact, I’ve said everything I’ve written here out loud to various people over the last year. My life has been significantly enhanced by those people who’ve listened to me and, in turn, shared their experiences. That’s a definite positive and long may it continue.

Now, I’m off outside for a waddle in the grass…

GSC are proud to run several well-being projects as part of Brave New World. If you’d like more ducks, you can still access our online well-being project Everyday Miracles, including several videos and activities, based around Han Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling.

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