The UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 started today.
At 11am almost all UK radio stations joined together to broadcast a minute of focus on mental health, with Stephen Fry and Prince William taking the microphone to ask “Are you listening? Are you really listening?”
Statistics from MIND show that 1 in 4 of all UK adults will be affected by a mental health challenge in any given year. And of course the battle when you are injured and in pain is more dramatic.
But it can be so difficult to talk about. Hence the importance of working out ways to talk about it and raising the thought in all of our minds with awareness weeks like this. Just being there and listening is really, really powerful and supportive. Overcoming our shame and embarrassment to have meaningful conversations really matters. And we do not have to have any answers or solutions – just listening really helps, plus there are a number of great charities to support any of us when we are in a difficult place.
The twitter feed is full of good advice from these brilliant charities and also experts in this area, and I have tried to retweet as many as possible (see the @AthleteInjured feed). I hope that you find support, kindness and love within them.
I have just tried to pick out some themes from my own experience of living with injury and pain, in case they are helpful:
- There are moments when you feel so alone, and possibly rebuffed by people who you hoped so much would help, but there is always someone or some people who will support you. Keep looking!
- There can be times in your treatment that make you feel ashamed or humiliated. Work actively on putting them out of your mind and focusing on something more positive.
- Even the most left-brained and analytical people in the medical profession are starting to talk about the BioPsychoSocial model –so what and how you think are a big part of your progress and recovery from any injury. Keep searching out and holding on to reasons to believe that you can recover.
- We are all conditioned to want to hear the simple redemption/resolution story with the linear beginning-middle-end narrative of (i) something happened, (ii) it was tough but I got treated and (iii) now I am stronger and wiser than ever before. Even people who write this story in their autobiographies are usually honest enough to admit that this not how it happened and that recovery was a messy path of a step forward and many back, having to knock on lots of doors and keep holding on to hope.
- Worrying is really toxic. Whenever you can, remove yourself from the source of worry and replace it with things, thoughts and places that make you feel good. And even when it takes a superhuman effort to do them, make yourself do one each day.
- Find the moments to cherish. Even in a terrible day, there is something that is worth cherishing, Write it down in a diary or a gratitude box and relive it when you feel low.
- Lots of people will ask you how you are (and actually when you are injured I found that many stop asking!) Find those who genuinely want to listen, and for the rest develop an honest one-sentence answer that lets them move onto the conversation that they want to have, without discomfort for either of you.
- Be kind to yourself. Pushing your body and mind beyond what it can do generally leads to a really unhealthy ‘boom and bust’ cycle that is physically and mentally damaging. Find things that are within your limits and spend time on them.
- Ask for help on the things that have to get done, but are currently beyond you. It is really hard for friends to be mind-readers, so ask for the help that you need. And if you cannot quite work out what the problem is, write it down on a piece of paper until you get to the bit that really has to be solved and then write down every possible solution that you can think of – even brainstorm it with a friend, and choose the best approaches.
- Loneliness is a real problem. Even if you can no longer keep up with your friends because they are all so into their sports, set yourself a goal of getting together for a nice chat with a friend at least once per week.
#YouAreNotAlone #ItsOkNotToBeOk and #NothingIsForever