My mental health journey: the ups and downs
Mariyana Bushara (She/her)
It was a normal day during the October half term, I woke up in the morning and everything felt different. I had no energy or motivation to get out of bed. All my thoughts felt dark and cloudy. It was a strange feeling that I never experienced before. Dragging myself out of bed, I spent the whole day dwelling on past events and worrying about future ones. All my daily activities felt like a chore. I felt overwhelmed with the smallest thing and lost interest in the activities that I use to enjoy. At the age of 14, this was the first time I experienced low mood. Not knowing what it was or how to fix it was perhaps the scariest part for me.
It was that personal experience that fueled my interest in mental health from a young age. Fast-forward a few years and I found myself working in mental health supporting individuals with common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety using Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) principles. As the name suggests CBT looks at the thoughts, feelings and behaviour in relation to a given situation. In most cases, the situation is neither good nor bad, but it’s our interpretation that makes it so. CBT helps address issues by changing the way we think and behave in certain situations.
Looking back at my personal experience of low mood, it was the behaviour part of this model that helped me pull through. Although the feeling of tiredness and lack of motivation was overwhelming, I pushed myself to do the things that made me feel better. Sticking to my usual routine, breaking down tasks into manageable chunks and persevering lifted my mood gradually and I started to feel better.
My work in mental health was one of the most rewarding experiences. I fulfilled my passion of supporting people who needed help the most and shared tools and techniques that I strongly believe in their effectiveness.
As time went on, I noticed the effects of work-related stress on my clients and for some, how this has led to anxiety, depression or both. It was disheartening to see the impact of unaddressed stress and how it took longer for those individuals to go back to mental wellbeing.
This situation became all too familiar, I knew I had to do something, and it was at that point that I decided to pursue a different career route. This time it was about working closely with organisations to help raise awareness of mental health issues and more importantly share tools and techniques to help individuals help themselves. As a result, I moved into HR and spent a few years getting a better understanding of how organisations work, from an employer and employee perspective.
Working in this discipline has further highlighted the prevalence of poor mental health in organisations and the lack of knowledge and skills to address it. And although this was applicable to most sectors, it was more evident in Higher Education (HE). Perhaps because most HE settings focus more on student mental health and although staff mental health was sometimes addressed, it wasn’t given the same attention.
Successfully addressing workplace mental health requires a cultural change, an environment that encourages individuals to talk about their mental health without the fear of judgment or percussions. It’s about treating the roots of the problem rather than the symptoms. This includes having confident managers able not only to have mental health conversations but manage workload accordingly.
This insight pushed me closer towards my goal and despite knowing all of this and having the knowledge and skills to address it, I was hindered by my limiting beliefs that stopped me from moving forward. Thoughts such as ‘you’re not good enough, you’re not going to pull this off, no one is going to listen to you’ was a familiar internal dialogue. The fear of failure crippled me.
In May 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, something changed within me. I saw people’s hurt through conversations, social media and the news and I decided to act, it was now or never. It was at this point that I began my freelance journey. I was no longer hiding behind my limiting beliefs, none of this mattered anymore, all I wanted to do is make a difference and inspire others. Through my work I aim to raise awareness of mental health and share my personal and professional journey with others. I am still at the start of my journey, but I will continue to embrace it, tell my story and inspire others.
On a final note, I thought I would share with you a tool that helped me throughout the years to maintain my mental wellbeing and build resilience. It’s a simplified version on the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). The focus of this tool is to raise self-awareness and develop coping strategies to help address poor mental health at an early stage.
If you would like some further support with your mental health, please head over to the NHS inform website which provides further support and has a wide range of self-help resources based on CBT principles.
If you’d benefit from corporate workshops or one to one coaching then please reach out via LinkedIn or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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