Updated: Oct 7, 2020
50% of children will have a mental health issue by the age of 14
75% of children will have a mental health issue by the age of 21
October was #MentalHealthAwareness month, but Mental Health, isn’t a fleeting experience which lasts for a month. It can take many people years to identify, accept and acknowledge they have a mental health issue. And there is more than one mental health challenge in a busy, plug and play technology driven world, like stress, anxiety and worry to name a few. For me, depression has played a major role in my life.
But what is mental health and why is it so important and how does it affect us? Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
Our mental and emotional state is directed by our thoughts and feelings; the people we interact with every day and our environment. Add to this our workplace/study place; social media and the impact of our financial situation. It’s a challenge for so many, every single day.
Let me take you on a journey.
I was around 14 when I first experienced depression, but, 32 years ago, there wasn’t much support as there is these days. I lived in a dysfunctional family and had no one to talk to. There were 5 children in our family, each different and each with their own needs. We had also moved home a year earlier and the transition from a school and environment which I really enjoyed as the subjects were suited to my interests, to a school which was inner city, teachers and pupils I didn’t know and the racial abuse on the way to school, were all too much to handle.
Puberty was in full flow and the drama at home, was intense.
I had severe anxiety through exams. I was one of the guinea pigs for the GCSE’s and I had to pick subjects which I didn’t enjoy: physics and biology as opposed to chemistry, history and german where I excelled. I remember I was watching the clock throughout the exams and couldn’t focus on the papers. My eyes would blur and as I hadn’t been able to revise, due to housework and other chores, coupled with very little time to look at my books, I was sure to fail.
I didn’t know how to speak about it as my voice wasn’t loud enough or even heard. We were not allowed to speak until spoken to. The voices of disappointment in my head, got louder and the day I received my results, was a day I could have slashed my wrists or taken an overdose. Mum cast the brown envelope before me. A big fail. I felt like the biggest failure and disappointment in my Mum’s life. Doomed. Her comments where unkind. No compassion or empathy. She wasn’t taught that. Many Indian parents were not taught that. There were expectations that I simply couldn’t achieve as I had no support.
I got up and carried on with the household chores. I slumped deep but couldn’t tell anyone.
I had failed.
Life continued, I applied for many jobs until I managed to get a YTS scheme (apprenticeship), for an oil company, I loved it! I enjoyed meeting new people and experiencing new things and it was always busy. I felt I had a new lease of life. I used to go in super early and give it my all. Talk about slave labour though, I worked 35 hours a week for £42! I was however welcomed by the company and at 17, was offered a permanent job with a good salary.
However, a year later, I was made redundant as the company was relocating its Birmingham office. I wasn’t allowed to move to Manchester. I wasn’t allowed to work anymore either. I had a younger sister to look after as Mum needed to go to work.
Life continued in the family home. I did the housework; the chores which needed to be done, as much cooking as possible and became a Cinderella.
Eventually I could start work again and I found a job as an administrator. It was exciting and involved filing, processing and logging data. But the drama continued at home. I had only been there 3 months when the depression crept back. I was 19. I wasn’t sleeping. Thoughts were invading my head. I couldn’t cope. I couldn’t see the numbers on the pages I was collating, and I spoke with my colleague about a situation at home, she did her best to support, but I couldn’t do the work properly.
I had by then, a warm relationship with an Aunt. She better understood depression and suggested I went to the doctors. She agreed to come with me as I felt too ashamed to speak with my own Mum, and I didn’t think she could support me. I went to see the doctor and was signed off with depression and a bottle of anti-depressants.
I was off work for a couple of weeks and although the ant-depressants allowed me to sleep, I still had to go to work.
I was called into the office when I returned. I had made so many discrepancies in my filing, that I was made redundant instead of fired. I could have died there and then. I can still see the disappointment in my Line Managers face. The MD spoke with me, he was compassionate, mature and empathic. He said I was a lovely girl and understood there was much turmoil at home and he would pay me an extra month’s salary to help me through.
I had failed them.
I emptied my draw and left. I had yet to face the disappointment in my Mum’s face. I had failed my family.
The anti-depressants where my escapism from a barrage of negative thoughts. My past always came up to say hello. There were times my sister got me into trouble and these reminded me of my inability to speak up or stand up for myself. The times I was mocked and ridiculed. The times I was naïve and said the wrong thing. I wasn’t good at anything but housework. The voices in my head telling me how stupid and ugly I was. Nobody would want to be with someone like me.
I sank deeper and deeper.
I lived in my own bubble. I overate comfort foods of chocolate, crisps and biscuits. They were my daytime happy pills. I had put on weight and life was a blur. There were times when life got so unbearable due to the dramas at home and voices in my head, that I would take a few anti-depressants in the hope that I would gently fade away in my sleep. But death wasn’t on my side either.
I had no idea what impact my mental health had on my family. I only new I needed to do my chores and do them well and then escape to my room. I wasn’t allowed to listen to the radio and used to make up my own songs or listen to whatever my brother was playing.
The wake-up call came when I was 20 and I received a letter from the Mental Health unit at the Psychiatric Hospital. I was stunned to act. I wasn’t mental! No!
It was as though I had awoken from a deep slumber and had lost sight and control of who I was.
I had visions of being in hospital ward with lots of patients with mental health challenges and that would have been the death of me. I had to change. I didn’t want to go there.
I began praying every day. I needed something to believe in. I started eating healthily. I started a martial arts class. This gave me focus and confidence. I started singing again. I weaned myself off the anti-depressants and in no time, I was healthier, fitter and I needed to find a job, so I could get out of the house.
I began by taking temporary placements with agencies which increased over time where I received regular assignments.
I wanted to live! I learnt I was responsible for my own happiness and I was a social person and wanted to learn more about life and people.
It was this self-belief, and reconnection of my faith in a Higher Being, which lead me to want to leave home and explore life. I wanted to live and if I stayed in my family home any longer, I would most surely have committed suicide.
But not many people have this awareness. Not many people have the support around them to recognise there may be a mental health issue. And I find more so, in parts of the Indian community especially, mental health is simply not validated. Women are suppressed and not allowed to speak up. They are subjected to ridicule if they do say a word, and the poor girls who have been married into older generation in-laws, receive the beatings and shame, if they utter a word or challenge the elders’ word.
We have a world of unhappy people, who pretend to be happy on the outside, but the sadness and sorrow continues within.
I have spent many years understanding the workings of the mind and learning how to better navigate my thoughts. I have found which foods support my health and wellbeing and have nurtured the relationships which support my growth and social life. It’s been a very challenging and somewhat traumatic journey, but equally rewarding too.
It is my personal responsibility to take care of myself. By having an awareness of myself and that which does and does not support my emotional and mental health, I have been able to navigate through my life, ore effortlessly.
If I dip, I know what to do. Do you?
Mental Health is on the rise. Depression is something to talk about and seek support. From my own experience, it is also something which can be overcome. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
We are fortunate to have many charities ad organisations which support good mental health.
I am Kam Birdee-Wright a Wellbeing Coach and Mentor supporting people in becoming emotionally resilient, mentally balanced and confident in making the choices they need to create a life of freedom and joy.
If you suffer with poor mental health, go and seek help as soon as possible. There are lots of people who are willing to support you and guide you to a path a of wellness.
How can I help you? Connect with me and we can explore your needs further.
With love and grace
Realigning You to Your True and Authentic Self