Today is World Mental Health Day. Did you know that the statistics on mental illness are that 1 in 5 Australian’s are affected, yet many fear seeking treatment due to the stigma of admitting they have an mental illness.
How many people in your life live with anxiety and depression and simply suffer with the symptoms? I know I was someone who suffered for many years. That was until I couldn’t anymore. I literally couldn’t function. I struggled to go to work. I struggled to be motivated to do anything. I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t want to get out of bed.
I think to some degree, I have always had anxiety. I can see that my Father suffered from anxiety, his symptoms presented as anger. He would explode over the smallest of things and he would berate my Mother, myself and my Sisters for things that seemed so insignificant to us. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I understood that the way he berated us, was insignificant, compared to his own inner dialogue. That yelling, arguing and his explosions were actually a small insight into his suffering. For a long time, I was set to repeat his story. I was short tempered, a ‘fire cracker’ of a child I guess you would have called me. I then became a critical teen, self critical of course, but also critical of others. Then I became an angry adult. I couldn’t express my feelings until they had festered inside me for so long that they flew out of me and I felt I had no control over their release. I literally felt as though I had no control over my reactions.
By the time I was in my early 30’s living in Sweden I had lived with Anxiety for such a long time that before I separated from my partner I didn’t even recognise that I was unwell. When we separated I could not deny what was happening. I was really unwell. I struggled to function and I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder which required medicating with anti-depressants to help me function.
After a few weeks of taking anti-depressants I felt strong enough to return to Yoga, and it was here that I changed my life. It was by no means an easy or linear path, but it was the start of something. It allowed me to see a future where Anxiety didn’t control my life. It allowed me the space to take a deep breath, and most of all it felt like someone had lifted the storm cloud from around me. Not only did the practice ease the physical discomforts in the body - physical tension and stiffness, but the focus on the breath allowed me to slow my racing thoughts, to ease and calm my central nervous system and to just feel a little bit like I was ok. In conjunction with psychotherapy I was able to stop taking anti-depressants after 9 months, and with the continuation of practicing yoga, meditation and seeking the help of my Gestalt Therapist, I now live a life where I would say I don’t ‘suffer’ from anxiety. I still experience anxiety, but it doesn’t have control of my life.
Today is Mental Health Awareness day, and I encourage all of you to consider the ways in which your life is affected by mental illness, whether it be your own or your loved ones, and to reach out, ask for help, seek treatment or maybe even just start a conversation with a loved one. What if we all asked each other ‘Are you Ok?’ and we really really meant it?
I encourage anyone who has been considering starting Yoga, returning to Yoga or attending a Meditation session to do it. It won’t take the place of a trained counsellor or health professional, but I believe it will improve your symptoms and help you see through the fog. For anyone wanting to start, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any assistance that you might need to getting your yoga journey started.
We also encourage you to get behind the Move For Mental Health campaign created by Kylianne Farrell of The Movement Room.