I have long had the urge to talk about my own mental health. It is a shame that it has taken Mental Health Awareness day to finally get me there. But, it may also be the extraordinary non-depressed feelings I am having that is bringing me to share all this.
I had my first nervous breakdown when I was 18. But it was never diagnosed as that. I was simply a matric scholar with difficulties. Difficulties that had me quit school as soon as I had my exam entrance number. Back then you would write prelims and then get accepted to write your final exams based on that. Knowing I would write finals, but needing to get away from the whole 6 distinction pressure from my teachers, I simply stopped going to school.
I had a major breakdown in 2012 and had to take a few months away from work. It was there that sewing and quilting drew me back to the real world. Of course, not long after I was back at work full time, and being the high achiever that I am, I was soon climbing the ladder again. But this was again at the cost of my mental health.
All the stress and hard work meant another breakdown. Two in as many years. I was devastated – I mean, how can I work in a demanding environment and not keep my head in the game? Though the mental fatigue was not as serious as before, I took time off work again.
It took a few weeks, but when I started feeling interested in life again, I picked up textiles. And yes, I was quilting again. This time when I returned to work, I was determined not to let the balance go. I worked hard at maintaining a healthy balance between the left brain work I was being paid for and the right brain stuff I was doing at home. And I found a way to include creativity in my work with Lego – you can laugh, but it is a wonderful tool to get people talking and think differently. With Lego, I found many different solutions to problems in the corporate environment that would otherwise have taken years to come to the fore. And it again put me in demand. This of course was not a good thing for me mentally, because I wanted to be everywhere, helping and solving problems. I was good at my job, but my mental health was always the cost.
Obviously, I’m not in corporate anymore. I chose to leave when I knew that the next mental breakdown was imminent. Choosing to take voluntary retrenchment, I started Lavender Quilting Farm. Though that has other costs too. Life is hard. I have days where I want to disappear. I also have days where I want to sing and create. I just take it one day at a time.
But the sad thing is that it is still not okay to talk about it. Society is still not accepting or adjusting to accommodate the fact that so many people are genuinely ill. I told a celebrity recently (not directly, obviously) that it’s only okay to talk about it when you’re famous. Then people think you’re brave to “come out”. But for the rest of us, it isn’t. Most organisations are not accepting of it, and consider you a liability.
Maybe one day. Maybe in my life time. In the meantime, consider your words when you talk to people. Words have a lot of power.
Take care of yourself, so that you can take care of those around you.