If you haven’t heard already, this week is all about Mental Health Awareness. In writing this week, it got me thinking: what do people see when they look at me? Do they see someone that is:
- Walking around with a smile on their face?
BUT they do not see what lies below the surface. I often like to explain how I feel (or come across) by thinking about a duck sitting on water.
On the surface, the duck looks calm and smooth. However, below the surface, the duck is kicking like crazy.
Like the duck, I often come across calm and collected. I always like to be positive and to help, where I can, the people around me, and for those that I work for. Sometimes this can be to my own detriment because I forget about my own needs or try to fit too much in, leaving me exhausted. Because of this, it is often not apparent to those around me that anything is wrong: how much fight it takes to face the day, the crippling anxiety involved with dealing with our stressful (but fulfilling) jobs, and how to juggle all of that with my recent diagnosis of ADHD.
Mental health problems are, by their very definition, hidden. You cannot see them like you do with a broken leg, or a bump to the head.
You cannot see that anything is wrong on the surface. With me, this is made worse as I have developed a number of high coping mechanisms over the years.
One in four of us will experience a problem with our mental health each year. Let that sink in for a minute… 25% of the people around you will go through something quite scary and likely to push them to their limits on a very regular basis.
Mental health does not come with a label. There is no one size fits all. There is STILL a huge stigma attached to mental health, which is part of why I am prepared to share my story. AND it has been quite a challenge and scary to write this all down…
“Coming out” with my diagnosis of ADHD to my loved ones and firm was genuinely terrifying. However, it has genuinely changed my life. Even over the last few months, I look at the highs and lows; to how much I have learnt and changed; and the positive impact that this has had on me and my outlook – in and out of work. I genuinely could not have done this without the support of my loved ones and firm.
Having a better understanding of my neurodivergent brain has allowed me to tap into my “superpowers”, to recognise the pitfalls, and to change when I face these. I admit, I don’t always get this right, but the hard work and reasonable adjustments has helped me on my way.
I know I am near the beginning of my journey and recognise that this will be very different for everyone. However, it all started with being brave and being open. So, if there is one thing that you take from my column today, I would ask you to start talking about how you feel, to reach out to those around you, and to be honest about the challenge(s) you face so that we can start to bring these into the open and make them more visible. For today, I leave you here with:
- I am Sarah
- I am a Daughter
- I am a Sister
- I am an Aunt
- I am a Dog Mum
- I am a Lawyer
- I am a Trustee
- I am a hockey player
- I am an Ironman
- I have been diagnosed and I am living with ADHD
Living with a mental illness does not define me. It is a part of me, and I am stronger for it.
So next time you see me in the office, walking down the street, going to the pub, or out training for my next triathlon, please remember not to make assumptions, to be kind, open, and honest as to what we all could be facing just below the surface.