Sharing my mental health struggles makes me feel uncomfortable


Am I right to feel this way?

I want to end Mental Health Awareness week 2023 by sharing my own experience of what it is like arm wrestling mental health issues.

I will be honest, I always feel uncomfortable publicly sharing my experience.

Mental Health is complicated. I lean more towards focusing the mind away from constantly discussing issues like anxiety. For obvious reasons. If you join a mental health forum and all you do every day is talk about your mental health issues, well, let me ask you a question: Do you think that discussing anxiety every single day will focus your life on being anxious or away from being anxious?

If I was to equate the word "Anxiety" to an "Elephant". What are you thinking about from this sentence to the next?

The elephant in the room isn't a frivolous statement:

Hopefully you can see my point. If you have mental health issues it is important you see my point. If you make your mental health issues the elephant in your life, it will make all the other things in your life shrink, they will be dominated by the elephant.

The solution is simple. Make the elephant something else more positive. For example, if you are feeling agoraphobic, the best thing you can do is to start a hobby that gets you outside. A hobby that allows you to mix with other people. If you love skateboarding then go to a skateboard park, if you just love walking and are an intorvert like me, then go for long walks, but walk some of the time through busy areas so you get used to being around other people. Make your new "HOBBY" the elephant in the room.

Agoraphobia - What's it all about?

Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is a type of anxiety disorder. Agoraphobia involves fearing and avoiding places or situations that might cause panic and feelings of being trapped, helpless or embarrassed. You may fear an actual or upcoming situation. For example, you may fear using public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in line, or being in a crowd.

It took me almost 50 years to realise I was challenged by agoraphobia. Back in the 1970's "Anxiety" and "Panic Attacks" (which was the new term on the block) were thrown at me. I have also arm wrestled (mentally of course) with the terms, "Claustrophobia" and "Emetophobia". I think time has packaged everything under the label of "Agoraphobia". Finally understanding my thoughts and feelings has led me to this healthy point in my life.

What is it like to live with Agoraphobia?

Okay, so, for example, let's say I have an interview to go to. How does my thought pattern react if left completely unchecked.

From the point of knowing about the interview my mind will start chewing on negative thoughts, such as:

🤕 You will make a fool of yourself!

🤕 You are going to vomit right in front of the interviewers and they will think you are useless!

🤕 You are going to have a heart attack and nobody will be able to help you, if only you stayed at home where it is safe!

Okay, I think that is enough. The thoughts can get extremely irrational and bizarre. Their aim is to grow a bomb of anxiety which can be ready to explode at any point throughout the run up and or at the interview.

I have been sitting in interviews and have not heard any of the question I had just been asked because my mind is throwing so many negative anxious thoughts at me. It is exhausting.

This is where it gets interesting, because an "Interview" is an obvious place to get anxiety. However, those same feelings can happen with basic things like going shopping or eating in a restaurant. It also impacts your love life. For example, if I have to go on a date I can feel like this scene from Mission Impossible most of the time:

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The good news is over the years I have learnt to tip the balance in my favour. I have made peace with agoraphobia and am getting pretty good at silencing any irrational thoughts (Note, I share tips from time to time).

Thankfully, I have mostly controlled my mind and have had a successful career, presented to board meetings, travelled alone in planes and have faced many fears. Most people who have met me would not have a clue what was going on inside of my mind.

The irony is, for many people living with phobias, they can come across as confident and the last person you would think has any mental health issues. These are the type of silent sufferers that concern me. They are the type who you suddenly find out have committed suicide. Everyone is shocked. How could they? Yesterday they were the life and soul of the office party.

It is important to realise that EVERYONE deals with mental health issues. If they say they do not then they are lying and could be one of the silent sufferers.

It must be understood that "Mental Health" is just that. It is something every living human needs to address to keep their mind, well, healthy!

This is the point I want this path to underline for anyone reading this who is struggling with more persistent mental health issues that are impacting their life negatively.

You are not alone ❤️

Even if you think people do not understand. Have faith and peace knowing that when those people walk away, they do contemplate your wellness. They do care even if they may never admit it.

As much as I have already mentioned the elephant in the room analogy which is asking you to try not to focus all of your attention on your mental health issues. It is important to connect with someone. Whether that be a loved one, a professional therapist of some sort, your doctor or a website community. If you feel you have to reach out for support then reach out. But all the time remember, do not get too focused on the mental health issue so much that it consumes everything you do and think about.

This is how you stop it being your elephant in the room. Control how much time you give it by using a calendar! I totally recommend that you set aside time in your calendar for focusing on whatever mental health issue you are going through. If you are really up against it, then maybe you need an hour morning, noon and night, to discuss what is going through your mind. But if you can, try to only book a short time each week to focus on it. The rest of the time you should focus on something that is going to make you feel better and walk you away from even contemplating the mental health label you might be associated with.

And finally...

I just want you to know that you are definitely not alone. There will be others who will connect with your circumstance. And even if your circumstance is unique they will care and be able to help you through it.

The truth is, although sharing my mental health struggles makes me feel uncomfortable, I am always glad when I do because I know someone, somewhere will benefit from knowing they are not alone. Most importantly, to benefit from knowing that it is a fact people with the same issue have mastered it and have learnt to live a contented life. That means you will too.

And remember, yes life gets tough, but YOU are ALWAYS in control, even if the negative voice in your head tries to make you think you are not. Time, too, has your back, and in good time (growth starts now), you WILL grow into the most wonderful person as a result of being humbled by mental health issues. It is a blessing and one that shows you really care.

Take care of yourself today.

Christian Jacques Bennett
Please comment below on what you think about this path...

Search Terms: Self Improvement, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Phobia, Fear, Phobias, Anxiety, Depression, Mindset, Mind, Wellness, Health.
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