Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Mentally Unwell, Mentally Well and Mentally Fit; What's the Difference?

Question; can you tell in which photo I am mentally well, mentally unwell and mentally fit?
Wait, what? Mentally well, mentally unwell and mentally fit? What do these terms mean and how do they differentiate from one another?
Well, I aliken "mental wellness" to being happy; 'loving life', being in control of your thoughts and feelings, having opportunities to improve your life, still having bad days but seeing them as just that, a bad day and not a bad life.
It wasn't until 4 years ago that I experienced what it was like to become mentally unwell. My stress levels became unmanageable, triggering off anxiety, which coupled with a family history of depression, lead my down the path of mental illness. For me, becoming mentally unwell is your body's way of saying 'hey you, yes you', there's something going on that you are ignoring or not dealing with, that is forcing me to shut down. I am going to make you stop! Becoming mentally unwell strips you back to survival mode; forcing you to re-assess what is truly important in your life. Mental illness is often caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain, triggered by many different things, that makes you feel as though you have lost control of your thoughts, feelings and actions.
During my recovery phase, I came to understand and appreciate the concept of mental fitness. Often when we think of mental health, we instantly think about mental illness, but that is only one end of the spectrum; the polar opposite is being mentally fit. We all know what it takes to be physically fit; engaging in activities that increase our heart rate, eating a balanced diet, and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears! But how on earth do I become mentally fit? Well, it's much the same as physical fitness; it's about engaging in activities that strengthens the mind, so that we can live happier and healthier lives; after all the brain is a pretty important part of your body and one that also needs exercising! Often mental fitness comes from self awareness, and learning tips, tricks and tools to make positive choices in our lives.
So now that you have a better understanding of the meanings, can you pick in which photo I am mentally well, mentally unwell and mentally fit?
Still can't?
I guess that's because mental health is measured more by how you feel and less by how you look.
So I know you're just dying to know which one's which...
ANSWER;  In the first photo I am mentally well, happy and content with life but I'm also a 'yes' girl, putting other people's needs before my own. I suffer from confidence issues, lack assertiveness, and while I have strong relationships in my life with other people, I lack a positive relationship with myself, constantly overthinking things, too scared to voice my opinions and beating myself up about my decisions.
In the second photo I am struggling with depression; feeling low, numb and hopeless. One of my friends literally had to drag me out of bed kicking and screaming to this event, as she knew the best thing for me was to leave the house! While I have accepted my experience with depression, it's still difficult looking back at this photo and thinking about just how difficult that time in my life was.
In the last photo I am the happiest that I have ever been feeling confident, resilient, strong minded, assertive and in charge of my life....why? Because I have learnt the techniques and tools to become mentally fit. I no longer believe that's it's selfish to put yourself first, in fact I think it's a necessity. Everyday I practice mindfulness, I understand that I am in control of my thoughts, feelings and behaviours, I only say 'yes' to things if it's a 'hell yes', I schedule in time for myself in my diary, I make sure that I have at least 2-3 nights home a week, I take my happy pill everyday, I exercise regularly, I speak openly and honestly and I am genuinely happy.
So what caused this big change? How can you too, become mentally fit? Why is it important to strive for mental wellness?
These are all good questions.
I am of the mindset that finding a prevention is always better then finding a cure. We put sunscreen on to prevent skin cancer, we drive to the speed limits to prevent car accidents, and now we can take charge of our lives, and put ourselves first, to prevent mental illness.
We know that 1 in 5 people are mentally unwell - how many people do you think would be mentally well and mentally fit?
After becoming sick I knew that I had to do everything in my power to prevent it from coming back, so I took charge of my life, and I continue to take charge of my life every single day.
I hope to share my journey to becoming mentally fit with you, so that you too can experience what it's like to be empowered, and to feel in control of your life.
So what's the tip to success? It's quite simple really; choosing to put yourself first, and understanding that you, not the external world, are in control of your thoughts, feelings and actions, as well as choosing to put your mental health as a focus, will help you to become mentally fit.
We'll explore this further in the next few weeks...
What do you do to keep mentally fit?
Look after yourself and those around you,
Kirsty xxx

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