Paragraph five (I'm getting uncomfortable now, but this might just help a lot of people, so I'm hanging in there). My own battles have been like a double edged sword. Though my brain is on overdrive, I often notice things that others don’t, and often these things are a great source of ideas. Though I sometimes feel great sadness, I also feel great highs and I connect with people on a deeper level and with great empathy. It gives me a humanity I’m grateful for and a deeper understanding of the human condition. My anxiety makes me conscientious and diligent in my work. But I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. While people say how lucky I am to have a creative brain, I often think how lucky they are not to. For me I cannot unlink my creativity with these conditions, they are one and the same. I often wonder if it were more acceptable to think a little differently whether the battles that many creative people face would feel less of a hurdle.
For those of you who are wary of people with mental illnesses, here are some of the things that people with mental illness CAN still do: Produce good work, meet deadlines, form good relationships, be professional, be rational, handle criticism, be fun to be around, be empathetic, be healthy, be leaders, be confident, be good at public speaking, be great listeners, learn new things, apply for jobs, be good at sport, eat jelly snakes without pretending to be Medusa….
I could go on. I’m not being flippant about those who may have struggled severely with any those things, but my point is that we need to stop jumping to conclusions about what someone with mental illness is like. People who struggle with mental illness are from all different walks of life, it's not always a result of something bad happening or an unfortunate life situatuon. You don’t have to talk to people with mental illness like children or assume people with depression aren’t capable of doing their jobs without sobbing over the 3D printer.*
*You have a 3D printer?! You have NO right to be depressed (just kidding).
Some people joke that sufferers are simply jumping on the mental illness bandwagon to avoid all responsibilities and get some sort of sympathy, yet I know very few sufferers who are like this and, if anything, most are too diligent, take on too many responsibilities and try to disguise their illness at all costs for fear of judgement. With one in four who may be affected, it's all the more important that workforces are finding ways of supporting one another in order to have a happier and more productive workforce. This isn't just about helping people with illness but considering how developing better mental wellbeing benefits the workforce on the whole.
Here are some of the things that I’ve found helpful:
- Write small achievable lists of important things for the day and tick them off. (Be content not to do any more.)
- Take a nap. Take a shower. I feel like those things kind of reset your brain and I always think clearer, a bit like starting again. Admittedly those things are hard to do if you don’t work flexible hours or don't have a shower in the office…
- Make sure you don’t work hungry.
- Do stuff despite it: Have a panic attack. Take a deep breath. Go give your presentation anyway. I’m not being flippant, I know how hard that is, and it doesn’t always work out, but for me thinking how I feel after I’ve done something is a big incentive to keep going.
- Be kind to yourself.
- When you’re around people, choose good ones.
- Be an encourager. You will notice that when you genuinely encourage other people, it takes the focus off you and how you feel about yourself or your work. They get encouraged and you feel encouraged as a result. It’s this weird edifying little circle.
- Accept that you think differently and use it to your advantage - work out your best times of day, how you work on projects better, how much space you need etc.
- Call a spade a spade. You know deep down when a thought isn’t healthy, call it out for what it is. You’ve not failed because you thought it again. Don’t give up.
- Take the piss out of your mental illness. When you hear those negative voices, do a little mental dance and stick your fingers up (or a real dance for that matter, but not in Tesco, you wouldn’t want people thinking you’re crazy now would you?!).
- Don’t spend too long on social media. Stop comparing your work/life to others. Read a book or write instead. Writing has been an unbelievable help to me.
- Find someone to talk to and don't be afraid to be honest.
- Find someone/something to listen to: music, birds, someone funny.
- Get outside. Walk. Run. Climb a mountain.
- Make a wig out of jelly snakes.
If you’re reading this then I wrote the full blog post. Then I clicked publish. Shit.