The lady on Facebook was really going for it. Reading her words was almost uncomfortable as you felt like you were inside someone else’s mind. As a coach, I appreciate it felt so awkward because it sounded like myself 14 years earlier when my own mental health was at risk of killing me.
I will be honest and say a tear fell as I felt for this stranger sharing her thoughts that sounded like “this is it, I quit, get me off” and having been in a comparable situation I knew what that meant. I didn’t want to start speaking to this person in the group chat.
For me social media is a perfect example of the double-edged sword;
In one way social media connects us, takes away our isolation, shares knowledge, ideas, laughter, cute puppies, chuckling babies and heavenly vistas around our planet.
However, on the other side of that precarious edge social media can make us feel isolated because everyone else is happy, and “my life stinks”, we scroll through endless posts of happiness, fun, success, joy and creativity and think “wow my life sucks!” so when someone is brave enough to paint a true picture of their life they can become inundated with #Love #hugs #keepbrave and lots of other sentiments that are a bit like a motivational guru day – awesome while you are there but forgotten before the journey home has finished.
And within a few weeks, all that positivity has been reduced to inaccessible ideas stuck behind a thick wall of ice that can’t be melted. You are back to being alone and worse of all, so many people shared ideas and love and you have the audacity to still not be well and happy, what’s wrong with you?
So, then you pour on another dose of inadequacy and lower your self-esteem just a bit more and the ability to feel mentally well seems a distant unachievable dream. Therefore, I didn’t reply publicly to this person.
I messaged this stranger and said “I just saw your post and I’ve been in a similar place. I’m not there now but that’s a story for another day. I’m only supposed to give chapter 2 of my book to “people of influence or celebrities” however if you feel it could help you, I’d like to send it to you. You don’t need to speak to me ever again, I just thought if you felt it could help. I’d send it. Thinking of you, remember you really are not alone, people do care, Mandiexx”
And left it at that.
I got a polite reply saying yes please, sent the chapter over and heard nothing for 2 months until this arrived;
“Good evening Mandie,
I want to first start by saying thank you!
Your book was just what I needed, my friend has also read your book, and now look how far we have come!!
I am now the organiser for a World Record Charity Event!
Without your book, I would not be stood this tall!
Thank you so much Mandie!!”
I thought that was really cool until this wonderful lady went on to tell me that years of acrophobia had taken their toll on her life and it had been tough. Really tough. And I share this now because as we talk about mental health I want us also to think about moving forward into a happier life. That there really can be an after that is happy and joyful.
If my mental health illness 14 years ago had not nearly cost me my life (I attempted suicide twice) then I would not have trained as a coach and the UK’s top nonfiction publishers would not have asked me to write Fight the fear. The beautiful thing is that while this book was originally aimed at people wanting to achieve more, the world record chihuahua organiser is not alone in sending me a message to say that their anxiety, depression, OCD etc is now more under control because of my book.
As a writer you want to see your book on a bookshelf in a store more than anything, however to know that my own horrific journey that nearly cost my children their mother has turned into a tool that is added to people’s toolkit to feel well around the world is the most wonderful news I could hear.
I learnt the hard way and then by coaching thousands of people that we all have hidden fears. Some are obvious however others are so subtle, and we are so used to being like zombies following automatic pathways of action and thought that we don’t notice the way these fears are hurting us.
The top fears I talk about that I see impacting on us all are;
1. What if someone finds out who I really am?
2. I’m scared of setting goals
3. I don’t want to appear arrogant
4. I don’t believe I can succeed
5. I don’t ask for help
6. I’m scared of saying “No”
7. I’m petrified of public speaking
8. I hate phoning people
9. I don’t want to look stupid
10. I can’t stop scrutinising what people are thinking
11. I’m scared to ask for what I want
12. I can’t take time out
And I will be honest and share a secret; my top fear that I have to use my own toolkit on is fear Number 10. For me, because I suffer from Lupus I sometimes can have days where I don’t leave the house and then the negative voice is allowed to slink into my head and start telling me random untruths that could (If allowed) start to impact on my beliefs, my thoughts and ultimately my mindset and results.
I think if I could ask you do one thing from this article it would be to remember that only you can control what you choose to think and that in turn changes the way you feel and act. Here are 3 top tips to help you do just that;
Thoughts have power
While it is not a case of thinking something and it will appear (I tried, my teenage kids didn’t suddenly load the dishwasher without being asked to and I didn’t get my own Unicorn!) it is the case that what we choose to think impacts on the way we act.
Right now, as you read this try and be angry. Can you do it? No, because you need to think something that makes you feel angry so that you can create the emotions. And if you allowed that to grow it would then impact on the actions you chose to take to. Be aware that you are giving every thought power to exist.
What thoughts and feelings are you empowering? Do they make you feel happier? In control? Capable? Or do they make you feel insignificant? Useless? Worthless? By becoming aware of your thoughts, you can learn techniques to help you change them.
Your own force field
Alas in life we can’t prevent bad things from happening or having to put up with moaning people, negative energies that sap the life out of us. People that always complain and find nothing good to say. It would be great to be able to have some Harry Potter skills to convert this into happiness and positivity but that’s not likely.
You could try talking to them and sharing your view on their behaviour and attitude, you could choose to try and get away from the bad stuff and negative people however as the saying goes “into every life a little rain must fall” and as such if you can’t control what happens and what people say you can control what you allow yourself to process.
Many clients have successfully created a superhero style force field that they initiate when confronted with the people and environments that they know damage their positivity. Behind the idea of this, is the thoughts they are choosing to think instead, ie when they know they are going to bump into Mr or Mrs Monday Morning Grumps at work instead of hearing them moan about their kids/dog/work/house/activities that weekend in their head they are hearing “I hope this person finds a way to happiness” or “I’m glad I had a good weekend doing xxx” or “I’m looking forward to doing xxx later this week” So that their negativity is allowed to stay around that person, however, it can’t saturate your mindset and thus impact on your day.
Know on a good day how to get through a bad day
Because I know that fear Number 10 can make me feel inadequate and can start up the Imposter Syndrome I have a plan of action that I could list for you right now of all the physical things, ideas, and actions I would take when I start to notice the less than positive thoughts sneaking into my head. They include aromatherapy oils, weeding a small patch of my garden, getting certain songs on full blast, messaging certain friends on Facebook and so much more.
Create a long list of things that you just can’t help smile and feel good when you do them. Remember this is private and confidential so you can write anything you like. If you love eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the bath, who needs to know? If you love playing (badly) your guitar singing along thinking your Dave Grohl, go for it!
This is about ways to get your brains chemicals working for you to help you get through a tough day. If it doesn’t hurt anyone else, makes you smile then add it to your tool kit.
You see these ideas are about enabling you to find ways to keep going. No matter what we have to do that. And we need to know that this doesn’t mean being super human and doing it all alone. If you need to share with someone, it’s not moaning it’s halving the load. If you need some space, it is not you being selfish and insular it is you protecting your mental health so that you can be there for others while respecting your own needs. Learning to reframe your needs can be a great way to ensure that when you create your tool kit you have created faith and trust that it will work for you.
You never know what you could end up doing, even a world record chihuahua party attempt!