As Mental Health Awareness Week comes to an end I just wanted to tell one last story. Last week was my birthday and my twelve year old daughter created me a personalised photo collage birthday card. One of the photos she chose, that I include with this blog, was of the two of us. Taken at a Mother’s Day assembly about five years ago, in it you can see the poem she has carefully written and decorated, which she read out to me in front of the whole school.
Yet this beautiful photograph of my daughter and I, doesn’t fill with me with the nostalgic sentimentally you would imagine, because what this photograph doesn’t show you – is the heart pounding overwhelming sense of panic and anxiety I was feeling inside.
I had managed to get some time out of work for this special assembly, which was in actual fact, a guilt ridden hour and a half and every moment that ticked by fuelled my stress levels and exacerbated my sense of panic. There are other occasions I felt the same, legging it out of work for a Christmas lunch with 163 infants and parents squeezed into a tiny hall, clock watching, eating under cooked sprouts and jostling for chocolate cracknel before running out of the school hall and back to work with a party hat still on my head. I will never have these moments back and I wish I had been more aware of how taking care of my mental health would have provided me with the solutions that I so obviously needed.
These moments, events, concerts, sports days are special moments to cherish, yet I was so busy taking care of other people’s children and trying to prove how dedicated I was to my job role, that I hadn’t noticed the stress slowly taking over and over spilling into every aspect of my life, spoiling these moments, allowing paranoia and negative thoughts to take over until I was operating in a constant fight or flight mode.
My point is – we all feel stress. It’s how we manage it, notice and take care of it that counts. Stress – is mental health, and if we don’t manage stress levels effectively it can lead to illness – both physical and mental. Self-care is not just the latest buzz word that gives you an excuse to eat that whole family size chocolate bar to yourself! It’s about identifying things that can help you relax, deal with stresses and strains and seek out solutions, both at home and at work.
This weekend, like so many others, I have soaked up every little moment of the Royal Wedding. I have laughed, cried, oohed and aahd but my stand out moment I will treasure is from the Bishop Micheal Curry, when he so enthusiastically empowered us with the importance of Love, and it’s message is a simple and important one;
“Love god, love they neighbour and while you’re at it – love yourself… for there is power in love”.