Mental Health Conversation
It’s hard starting a series of posts about mental health with a title like ‘some days suck’.
But I’m going to, because I think this is important to acknowledge.
I want you to know, that I know, that some days suck!
Plain and simple.
I hear you.
I see you.
I came into 2020 optimistic and hopeful – metaphorically I was kicking 2019 in the arse. Last year had a number of suck days for me and my family and I have tried really hard to let those days teach me about what it means to sit with and process emotional difficulty. That has meant finding ways to own it, feel it and talk about it. Gosh it’s so much easier to write those words than it is to actually live them, let me tell you! These very actions though have been critical to my mental health and show up in how I parent, run a business, be a friend and how I contribute to life in meaningful ways. More importantly facing the suck days has helped me to be more at peace and tolerance with difficult experiences and the big feelings that are often attached to them.
So, here are a couple of my personal suck day stories from 2019. They have pushed me to find strategies that have genuinely made a difference to how I now manage the suck days of 2020 – and let’s face it, this pandemic has taken its toll on everyone, in one way or another.
Suck Story #1
Last year we had to cancel our Fiji holiday when we all caught influenza B and were so sick that we couldn’t fly! I remember that day so clearly. It was Saturday and we were due to fly out on the Sunday. Caleb (6) was not well so I thought I better take him to the Dr and see what he advised. It should have been obvious when he vomited all over the Dr when we entered his office that our holiday to Fiji was going to be cancelled but somewhere inside of me, I still held onto hope. I had planned that holiday for a year, saved hard for it and longed for the down time from a busy and difficult year.
The Dr handed me a letter stating that we were not fit to fly.
I remember trying to be brave for Caleb as we walked out to the car.
But the tears just started flowing.
I couldn’t hold them back.
Caleb knew. I knew. We were not going.
We both sat in the car that day and snot cried together.
Our expectations shattered.
Some days suck.
Going on a holiday is a luxury and a privilege. This I know. You see leading up to this holiday was a series of already cancelled holidays. In the last 5 years, I have cancelled more holidays than I have actually been on. I still remain hopeful but already in 2020, I have cancelled 3 major holidays.
Some days definitely suck.
Suck Story #2
Exactly one year ago Matt, Caleb’s dad, was visiting us from New Zealand and had gone out cycling with some friends. I remember the moment the phone rang. I knew something had happened. I was shocked to hear that Matt had had a serious accident and was being air lifted to hospital.
That day sucked.
Those phone calls definitely suck.
In the days that followed the accident, the seriousness of Matt’s injuries became evident. With a broken back, shoulders, ribs and little ability to move at all we knew it was going to be a long road to recovery. Along with his history of bi-polar disorder and the associated challenges he faces maintaining his mental health he now had added significant physical injuries too. It was a real blow.
In the months that followed, I supported Matt in his recovery, as I continued to be the best parent I could, run a business and manage my own mental health along the way.
I remember one day feeling overwhelmed leaving the hospital, with Caleb in tow. This experience and those big feelings were catching up with me, I could feel it. Keeping all the balls in the air was having an emotional impact. So, on this day when we left the hospital, I sat on the side of the road in the city and cried. Caleb sat with me. I explained to him, as I cried, that I was feeling sad and needed a moment to let my sadness out and then I would be able to gather myself. He told me it was ok to feel sad and that daddy would be ok. Of course, his empathy and compassion made me snot cry, but at the same time my heart smiled at his response. I knew and he knew it would be ok. But it was a suck day and it was ok to feel it.
It doesn’t always feel comfortable to cry in front of our children, but like anything else they learn about their emotions and the expression of them from their most influential role models. I knew it was ok to cry, to reassure him I was ok but also wasn’t in that moment.
These two stories have contributed to me recognising and finding these strategies:
· Suck days will happen
· I can face them
· I can feel them
· I can label them
· I can voice them
· I can share them
· I commit to learn about them
What does a suck day have to do with good mental health you might be wondering? I can honestly say that it is through adversity that I have gained a better insight about myself. We grow through difficulty if we are willing to face it, feel it, label it, voice it and share it – ultimately learn from it. I mean without sadness we would never know happiness.
Suck days relate to good mental health because when we can learn to identify and express our feelings in appropriate ways, particularly the more difficult feelings like sadness, it builds a healthy relationship with others and with ourselves.
This in turn has a direct effect on how we parent our own children or even how and what we choose to teach children in a classroom. If children in our care are having a suck day we are more likely to recognise it and be able to help them to face it, feel it, label it, voice it and share it – not avoid it or suppress it.
Suck days will happen so these are regular mental health conversations worth having. With ourselves, with our children and with those who are close to us.
**If you are having a collection of suck days where it is difficult to manage the feelings that come with it, I encourage you to reach out for professional support. Make an appointment with your local GP or:
· Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au
· BeYou https://beyou.edu.au
Buy Mental Health Conversation Cards
By Kelly Goodsir – Box of 24 cards, illustrated with descriptions, questions and explore and engage ideas. For children 3+ - suitable for families, teachers and educators.
A book I found helpful:
Brackett, M. (2019). Permission to Feel: unlocking the power of emotions to help our kids, ourselves and our society to thrive. Quercus-Publishing London.
A podcast I found helpful:
House of Wellness – Jo Stanley & Emma Murray