For this week’s blog I have a guest contributor, Sarah Steinhofel of The Hive Mind Company. The Hive Mind is all about supporting women with mental health issues. From a place to come and talk, to championing other mental health groups Sarah hopes to bring you positive vibes and support. Historically, being in business meant putting on a brave face, but with more and more people becoming self-employed due to lack of support in the corporate world, that has to change. This is why The Hive Mind is multi-faceted. It is a community interest company, which means the money that Sarah raises is ploughed back into the community to support those who need it.
Sarah wants to be able to support staff in companies and business owners who have their own mental health challenges; and really anyone who feels they need it.
Sarah spent over 18 years working for a multinational software house as a technical analyst, and is now a content manager and trainer with The Smart Bear.
This is the third of my monthly guest contributor blogs focusing on different aspects of maintaining our mental health. You can read the first from Amanda Manson here and the second from Kimmy Drain here.
There are a couple of things that I need to get out of the way before I start. One, I hate the words ‘mental health’ and two, mental health is something that really isn’t a straight path!
There, I feel better now.
But in all fairness, these are really important points. How you choose to reference and approach your journey, in my mind, are the key to maintaining your mental health. Below are the things which I’ve found useful, but first, let’s start with a story.
My mental health journey has been an interesting one. It covers depression, stress, anxiety and burnout. The four horsemen of the mental heath apocalypse if you will. Thankfully they chose not all to appear at the same time!
It was at times the most horrendous thing I’ve ever experienced, but at the same time it’s made me who I am right now. It’s a journey I’ve been on for a long time (most of my adult life) and one where, I now, enjoy the ride.
Yep, you heard me right, I enjoy the ride, but more on that later.
The biggest lightbulb moment on my journey has been acceptance.
Accepting what your brain tries to do to you on a regular, but also annoyingly random basis, can be really very liberating. Once you know what is happening, or why it’s happening, you can most definitely start to create your unique plan for maintaining your mental health.
For me this took a long time to reach, and is something that I need to work on daily. So please don’t think that I am telling you it’s all plain sailing, sometimes it’s not. For many it may mean a series of appointments, prescriptions and sometimes you feel like you’re going backwards.
But I promise you, once you go down the route of accepting what is happening, it really is easier.
We all need support
If you’ve reached some level of acceptance, then the chances are you’re more aware of just how many people are like you! So why not start a support network? That’s something that I’ve done all my life. I’ve actively searched out people who have walked a similar path to me.
Lots of my friends are on similar journeys. We’re not always on the same path, but it really doesn’t matter. If your support crew have similar experiences and outlooks then you’re in good company.
There are so many of us about, so you need never be alone. That is the best thing about support. There is always someone there to lift you up when you’re feeling down. They can literally save your life!
It’s why I started The Hive Mind Company, the need to connect with others that are like us is one of our basic human needs.
This may mean very different things to all of us. The intricacies and contradictions of our own journeys may mean that what works one week may not be at all right the week after. But that is ok.
Personally, I am not one for having long baths and all that traditional self-care stuff. Whilst I love a good Indian head massage, the thought of a day at a spa is not so attractive.
If I am honest, I love to learn, I relax by taxing my brain. But then I also love a good daydream too! It really can be things that seem to be polar opposites.
The key to this is it’s what works for you, not what works for everyone else.
It’s also very much about what works for you at that moment. So if you feel like lying on your bed and gazing at the ceiling to quieten your mind, then that is just fine. That’s one of my personal favourites!
Enjoy the ride
I know you’re probably all scratching your head about this one, but honestly? I do enjoy the ride. If I look back through my 30 plus years of my mental health journey, then I have learned so much.
There were times when I thought that I would not see 40. Actually, I probably didn’t think that I would see 30. But I am still here.
Parts of the ride will be tough. There may be times when you fear you’ll never come out of it alive, or with your sanity intact. But you will. As someone who has experienced suicidal thoughts, I promise you, self-preservation is a much stronger instinct than you think.
Accept that there are ups, downs and sometimes even circles that change your direction of travel, sometimes in just one day!
But enjoy what you learn along the way.
The times that are the toughest generally give us the greatest life lessons. And this is why I enjoy the ride. Looking back at what I have achieved makes me realise just how far I have come!
This is just some of my observations about how I keep myself ticking along, your approach may be totally different. These differences are what keeps me fascinated with how our minds work. The fact that we can experience conditions which, on paper are exactly the same, but live through totally different realities is just as amazing as we are!