The Mental Health Awareness Week this year focussed on young people and mental health in a changing world. The statistics coming out make concerning reading. 20% of all 14 year old girls have self harmed according to a Children’s Society report. Eating disorder hospital admissions in England have doubled in 6 years, according to NHS Digital. Stress is at epidemic proportions and children in primary school are being treated for anxiety.
What is going on?
What if our focus is in the wrong direction? What if we’re not seeing the innate mental health and wellbeing in our young people? What if we’re focussing on what’s not working rather than what is working? What if we’re looking for answers and solutions in the wrong place?
In the book my daughter, Bea, and I have written on her recovery from an eating disorder we point to a different way of understanding how the mind works which transformed what we saw and understood about mental health.
What if we all have innate mental health?
What do I mean by this? I mean that by our very nature we have mental health and wellbeing. Innate means that it is who we are, it is our default setting. We all have access to innate wellbeing, it is what we were born with. The only thing that keeps us from mental wellbeing is our thinking. A bold statement but one I’ve seen to be true time and time again.
Peace of mind, clarity, wellbeing is who we are, it is our natural state. Every human being has the capacity for wellbeing. Knowing that changes everything, for everyone.
Let me explain it using a simple metaphor. The sky is always blue, even behind the darkest clouds, and the wildest weather. We know that once the weather passes we will once again see the blue sky. We never doubt this, we don’t question it, even if we’ve not seen blue sky for days. We don’t panic or try to fix the weather, we know that we simply have to sit it out, keep dry or out of the wind and someday soon the blue sky will return.
We are the same. We are metaphorically the blue sky. Our natural state is one of mental health, wisdom, resilience and clarity. We do not have to be defined by the internal weather that passes through us. Sometimes that weather looks like stress, depression, addiction, an eating disorder, lack of confidence, panic attacks. It is not who we are. It is never who we are. It is what we are experiencing and at times this can look very real and frightening.
We are all okay and well at a very fundamental level. It is only ever our thinking that gets in the way of us seeing this. Whatever you are believing about yourself right now that is keeping you from innate wellbeing does not need to define who you are.
For a long time I felt defined by the crushing depression I suffered. I thought it was who I was, because that’s all I could see. I work with clients who feel defined by their anxiety, their disorder, their habit or addiction, because that’s all they can currently see.
What if we got curious about looking in a different direction because the current direction just isn’t working.
If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. ~Dr Wayne Dyer
My mother has advanced dementia, she has a diagnosis of mental illness. Yet the moments she and I are dancing around the room, singing our hearts out with smiles on our faces and giggling like girls, does she have mental health or mental illness?
Beneath the diagnosis I see a woman who, when living in the moment is finding joy in the simplest of things. Shouldn’t we all take a leaf out of that book?
Recovery From Within, a mother and daughter’s journey through anorexia (to be published soon) — is a story of hope and one we wish to share with mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends and anyone in the grip of an eating disorder.
The original of this post was published by Rebecca Perkins on Medium.