An unexpected diagnosis
I never used to think about my mental health that much in all honesty. I knew that I had good days and bad days, and that sometimes the bad days outweighed the good days. In general, I thought of difficulties that I had with my mental health as my character traits – ‘tightly wound’, ‘a bit overly-sensitive’ and ‘introverted’.
All of this changed when going through a series of conversations with GPs and Neurologists in the process of an epilepsy diagnosis. When no clear identifiable physical trigger could be found for seizures that occurred in my mid-20s, discussions shifted to my mental health. From this, I learned that the parts of my personality that I considered character traits were not the norm and were in fact signals of mental health issues and, subsequently, I was also diagnosed with anxiety. This was, as it turned out, completely unrelated to my epilepsy but it took a major event like the development of epilepsy to have the conversations with the right people.
This experience opened my eyes to the world of mental health struggles, treatments and resources – thankfully, there are a lot of the latter! One of the most helpful ways in which I have been able to look after my mental health is through education. This is by no means the answer for everyone, but I think it’s a helpful starting point for most. A combination of recommended resources from medical professionals, industry resources and self-reflection have all helped me learn different ways to manage my mental health. All of this is what inspired me to train as a Mental Health First Aider at OMD, to be able to help other people take small steps that can help them out.
Unfortunately, my story is not unique, and it is all too true that men are much worse at seeking help, which is why the Movember initiative is so important. However, I don’t think we should be talking about mental health in just one month. I think the best way to stay on top of your mental health is to take care of it on a regular basis; whether that’s chats with your mates/family/colleagues, hobbies, exercise (if that’s your thing), reading/learning about mental health or just taking a minute for yourself. In the MHFA Training we were told to take an hour for ourselves in the evening to do something that made us feel better/relaxed, for me it was sorting out my houseplants while listening to music – and it really helped! I know it’s often hard to carve out 15 minutes in the day sometimes, let alone an hour, but it really does help!
If you are struggling with any aspect of your mental health on a regular basis, don’t put off speaking to someone or waiting until something happens that makes you talk about it. Thankfully there are a lot of resources out there to help; from adland specific resources like speaking to a Mental Health First Aider at work or using NABS’ wide range of support, to support through the NHS (speaking to your GP or contacting Talking Therapies in your area). We are lucky enough to have a lot of options for support available, you just need to ask for it.
If you have difficulty with social situations, a book that helped my was ‘Captivate – The science of succeeding with people’ by Vanessa Van Edwards. She also has a website with loads of interesting studies and blog posts.
If you want to go a bit deeper into treatment for anxiety, ‘Retrain Your Brain – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in 7 weeks’ by Seth J. Gillihan might be for you.
If you just need help with taking a step back and re-balancing yourself, the HeadSpace app is a great free resource.
Whether you have difficulty with mental health issues or not, sleep is super important for everyone and finding what works for you to enable a good night’s sleep is so helpful! NABS host a variety of sessions to help with mental health but one that I attended that I can’t speak highly enough of was a Sleep School by Dr Guy Meadows. Everyone is different when it comes to sleep but what helps me the most is taking the time to unwind and reducing the amount of light that I’m exposed to close to going to sleep, which means less time looking at a screen! Also, I’m a massive advocate of a SAD Light/Daylight Light lamp – maybe a great way to spend your John Lewis voucher (other retailers are available) if you struggle with sleep!