This is where I talk about why this exists. It exists because I am curious. About a lot of things, but this is the big one. Mental Health.
Why is it such a minefield? We all want to be happy and walk through life feeling enriched and joyful. Yet we all have the ‘should’ list in our heads, leading us down a path of who we ought to be. I guess what I have discovered is, there is no ‘should’. There is no prescribed way of being. Our time is short. Our happiness is important.
More than that, happiness is vital to our existence. If we are not happy in what we are doing, and who we are, it is painful. We work so hard to find happiness, in careers or through partners and family. But happiness isn’t actually linked to our people or achievements. It is something else, external to our daily lives. It is practicing contentment and presence in the moment, allowing space to breathe.
For every person, there is a story behind the mask. The perception that other people have of us can be so far off the mark sometimes that it is astounding. A good friend might tell you, years later, that when you first met, they thought you were quiet, boring, obnoxious, or rude. These first impressions are one thing, but the habitually hewn impression’s, the ‘should’ we create for others, is another. The one you strive to keep fixed, exhausting yourself more than you can know in the process. This is where the dark thoughts and emotions fester, hidden from the world through fear.
Yet we all need the contrast of light and darkness. One cannot exist without the other. Darkness is also a tool that makes moments of comedy richer. So here we are, and it is my desire to draw them both out, the lightness and darkness that exists inside our minds. I want to study them curiously, sometimes idly, always playfully, forever joyfully.
I am a person who has always struggled with my own mind, my self-worth. I have doubted and thought myself a waste of space. I have set limitations and created boundaries that I could not overcome. Sometimes without knowing it. This came to head when, turning 30, I moved away to a new country and hit a rough patch mentally. I doubted myself more than I had in years. Maybe there is no reason why this happened now, and I am not one to sit under a bad feeling anymore. I have armed myself with a wealth of combative techniques learned throughout my twenties. I read and write, practice Yoga, socialize, I monitor my thoughts with an open mind. I aim for balance, in all things. Still, I was left reeling, struggling to come to terms with these emotions. Failing to name these emotions and speak up to some of my closest friends. I was afraid of being thought of differently, being seen as weak.
Increasingly, we find issues around mental health becoming less taboo. Famous people in magazines or on our TV screens talk about their struggles. Mental illness is not to be denigrated, because even our most revered have been through the mill. Just like us. A self-constructed mill, built with the bricks of our own doubt and limiting beliefs, cemented with the messages we receive from the media. The powerhouse within works our minds tirelessly, conditioned to never take a beat, to never find peace. As though if you find that peace you have failed. Keep working and thinking, keep suppressing your emotions to support the machine of your own achievement. But for what?
And this is the point I have come to. A point where my own machinery feels like it has ransacked me. I have felt like a failure; like I have nothing to show for my life. I doubt if I had achieved some sort of greatness in a career or through family life, I would feel any different. So what is this feeling? Why am I so ashamed of it?
My desire, now, is to understand it. I want to chip away at the ‘should’ and replace it with all the ‘could’ out there. To create a space where we all can let it in, have a discussion with this other, in all its forms. To reach out to this depression, sadness, anxiety, fear, all of it. I won’t call it therapy, but curiosity. Not an enemy, just an unknown being we call into the light, to see it for what it is. It is not the shadow that looms behind. I do this not least to help heal myself, and those who need it, but to help others to understand mental health issues. Those loved ones at a loss when faced with mental distress or mental health, in all its myriad forms.
We are all people, wearing masks and performing to each other. Why are we shocked when the mask slips and someone allows you to see their true self? Invite yourself to be free of that mask for a minute, or an hour, or a day, and see how you change inside.
This is where our journey begins.