Finding the light: Part 1

Finding the light: a journey of self-acceptance, self-discovery and community awareness – part 1

I want to gain acceptance of myself (all of me) and with that discover how to live and breathe easier and give others the possibility of the same vision.

Success is a complicated and largely misunderstood concept to me that has been influenced by my upbringing and culture.

Emerson declares about success: what is success?

  • To laugh often and much;
  • To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
  • To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
  • To appreciate beauty;
  • To find the best in others;
  • To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch
  • or a redeemed social condition;
  • To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived;
  • This is to have succeeded. 

When I was at The University of Texas at Austin, there was a leadership group that met and had a ceremony of sorts to commemorate our contribution to the university.

In the ceremony, we lit a candle,  the flame represented our ongoing passion and commitment, and the future initiatives we (all 20 somethings) would be involved with over our lifetime. 

Since then, light has followed me...or I have followed the light? But of course, there has been a  darkness too.

I, like many, have suffered anxiety and depression, and have felt deep shame for not being "strong" enough. 

My diagnosis of generalised anxiety has come with a mix of obsessional tendencies that are sometimes challenging but yet isn’t all bad.

It’s partly what has enabled me to travel and study internationally, attain a PhD, work in the public and private healthcare sector, teach at university, own and operate a yoga business and in the midst of that, having a family of 3 boys and a husband who is literally a backbone for all of us.

It has also fuelled my passion for public health and personal self-care and I continue to have a strong desire to find a cure, read something, learn some new theory or approach that will bring comfort to me and others.

To share the experience of a mental health condition is all ready to label something that perhaps doesn’t have to be labelled.

We are living a human existence and that includes suffering. As a human, we all share a mix of emotions ranging from joy and elation to the depths of anguish.

Some of us feel more deeply than others. At various times, we are happy, sad, lonely, angry, bored, unmotivated, nervous, excited. This is to be expected as a human.

Part of my mission is to communicate how mental health affects everything and that our first world’s greatest quest is to be able to contend with our mental health.

Most people are affected by someone with a mental health condition since the statistics are that 1 in 4 has a mental health condition during their lifetime.

Part of the process is acceptance.

People don’t want to talk about anxiety and depression because let’s face it’s not a fun or comfortable topic.

I’m in the business of self-care and looking after oneself yet have the very same personal challenges day to day that periodically makes me unable to ‘give’ back and I become insular, withdrawn and sick. It is part of my reality, and part of the things I need to manage for my self-care.

To accept of ‘all of me’ and being authentic to myself and my children and family and friends and community, I want to start talking about it. If I talk about it then maybe I will not feel as ashamed as I do covering it up, and maybe by talking about it, I can help others too.

So why can’t we be more open and accepting of our mental health? Because society still deems it weak and being vulnerable is largely seen as a weakness even with renowned author and researcher Brene Brown maintaining that it is strong to be vulnerable. There is growing acceptance of mental health conditions that many organisations have helped to debunk like Beyond Blue, Headspace, Smiling Minds and many others.

So when do we talk about it? How do we talk about it? How do we destigmatize it? When I started Community Conversations at my children’s local school a few years ago, my vision was to talk about real issues affecting us as humans including the pointy end of the issues to do with mental health. I was not game to bring it up as a topic and therefore we started talking about other issues – easier issues.

But today I want to talk about it. Can we come together and try to be honest about the hardships mental health has on us, our family, community and society, and how we can better support one another.

What has been your experience? I would love you to share your story.

Deb xo

Deb Roberts