When you are involved in the mental health “sector”, space, world or whatever you want to call it, it can clearly and ironically be challenging (understatement), and detrimental to your own mental wellbeing. I can attest to that on the daily. I know full well I often choose the hard path when Easy Street is right in front of me.
BUT, no satisfaction comes from doing the easy thing. And the payback can be worth a trillion times more than a new trinket, car, holiday or wad of cash / digits on your screen.
Now take into account the human that is suffering with poor mental health and there is no adequate way to describe the pain, confusion and uncertainty.
So sometimes you have to just laugh, adopt a wicked, sometimes darker sense of humour to release that tension. And as hard as it can be, make fun of yourself of course.
In recent years for me at least, my challenges have moved more so from darkness of depression to bouts of relentless rumination and “changing my mind”. It can be an internal struggle to reign in that wild horse, no matter how calm externally I may appear.
It's also difficult to emphasise this when the external world sees productive activity, when I actually see that I am working to a smaller capability and at time expending most of my energy into the abyss, jumping from task to task to idea to idea.
One aspect of my life that’s hard to understand and complex is work. Up until 5 years ago I was coasting in my job, earning well, was disciplined with it, not working ridiculously hard but gaining zero purpose and started to question everything around me. When I left that job things changed somewhat, to a period of discovery.
I experimented big-time and ultimately decided no more settling for what didn’t feel right. This change in my work approach at times had pros and cons. I could be super flexible when my sons were born and work on things I enjoyed, with the flip side financially life was/is less stable.
This has worked out well recently as I am close to fitting the jig-saw of life together as best I can, with a fraction of my creative endeavours paying off (thank you to my wife for being the most patient human ever). I will never tie work to my identity ever ever again and that feels damn good.
But it doesn’t always feel so pleasant. In the midst of the less certain times and rising and falling levels of interest in rapid succession, I would scour Seek.com and LinkedIn on my work commute, hoping to see something of interest.
Or I would delve down a rabbit-hole of industry research. Then, one day in the height of a deep, anxiety-fuelled bus-commute search I decided I would be a great Private Investigator.
The thought process went something like this:
“I am pretty handy at research.
I know my way about the internet like a black-taxi driver knows London.
I find things that are hidden like a needle in a haystack.
I document things like a boss.
I dislike traditional working hours.
If I am in the zone I will work at any time, anywhere.
I love true crime and am relentlessly curious.
I kept my mental illness secret for a lifetime so I must be good at being conspicuous too.”
A few internet searches later about courses, qualifications, licenses, forums and more, the buzz subsided. Later that day I also thought I would be a great Sydney tour guide, for those that know me well are aware of my penchant for quirky history.
The hilarity that came later when I recounted this story to my Psychologist was welcome. It didn’t matter that I thought this, it mattered that I not feel excessively uncomfortable about it.
Which leads me to a quote I see regularly and chant internally, whether I am right, wrong, or if even that exists, in the good times, the bad times and all the times in between:
“Don't believe everything you think”.
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