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On Mental Health Breaks

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I’d just to like come straight off the bat here and apologise for the fact that the last time I logged onto here was the 2nd June – my regular posts are clearly not working for me at the moment. But, luckily for me (maybe unluckily for you), that’s precisely the topic I wanted to talk about today – I say topic, but really I mean a loosely related theme which I’ll probably waffle about until you’re bored half to death – taking breaks in life, and the guilt that accompanies it.

2016 was a good year for me. I was in solid employment (at multiple places), had started the first year of my undergraduate degree, and just really solidified my priorities in terms of the future and the people I care for. All in all, I was in a very good mental space. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for this year. 2017 has already dragged me through the trenches and thrown me under more than a few double decker buses. For the sake of my own sanity, I took a mental health break in about January 2017 from all my forms of employment (as a special needs teaching assistant, tutor, child-minder, and event planner – please do not ask me why I chose to work so many jobs at any one time, I myself do not know the answer) and decided to focus my energies solely on my academic interests and those within that circle. Having made this decision about 6 months ago now, I really should have found it in me to get back up and start piecing my own world back together again.

The thing is, the break should have been good. It should have felt amazing not to have to worry about waking up every morning at half 5 or 6 to get in my routine before leaving for work, and then powering through the day only to get to the next job, and then get home to catch up on uni work. In theory, it should have been a breeze. But, I am me and let me just say, folks, I do not know what it means to not be restless. From the moment I sent in my letters of resignation to this very minute I spend typing this, I have felt an intense sense of regret over my decision to do nothing.

Obviously I know that the break was necessary and this overworked self was taking it 5 years too late, but there was this thing deep inside of me that was just gnawing away at my decision and making me feel like somehow I’m less of a person because I am not in this cycle of employment. And that’s just it, isn’t it, no matter how many times you tell yourself that the only person worth comparing to is yourself, you find yourself judging your pace in life with that of others. As cliche as it sounds, you really do end up matching your day 1 in life to someone else’s day 100 and it does nothing but make you feel absolutely useless.

When you say it out loud, it all sounds a bit fickle and unnecessary but there is a real stigma attached to taking mental health breaks and it is doing us no good as a society. People, like myself, after much deliberation choose to take time out for themselves but instead end up using that time worrying about what other people might be thinking of their decision to take time out for themselves – do you see the problem here? I know it’s not something we can fix overnight, but it’s high time we start addressing mental health in the same way we do physical health. Both are equally important for the functioning of the human body and both require an equal level of care. We cannot continue to hold one in higher regard than the other simply because one is a visible ailment and the other is not.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, we need to normalise the discussion about mental health in the same way we have done physical health. There is no good to be done if we continue to brush these issues under the carpet and act like they don’t exist, especially when employees are dropping like flies due to the lack of interaction between employer and employee with regards to mental health. We need to stress the importance of caring for mental health in order to strive towards a balanced brain. I know I’ve spoken a lot about employment, but that was just one example. We need to have this conversation in our homes, in social situations, in schools, in hospitals, everywhere.

This conversation needs to be vocalised as far and wide as possible and mental health needs to be given a bigger voice and platform to stand on. The only people we are hurting without doing so are ourselves, so let us stand together and rise up against this stigma.

I found these great videos on the Time To Change site and I think they’re a great starting point in opening up to mental health, so have a quick look at them before working your way through the site:

Matt and Tim:

Yvonne and Birgit:

Becky and Jo:

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Ayesha Khanom

Sometimes a teacher, sometimes a student, but mostly caffeinated. This blog is a terrible attempt at writing out my thoughts - think of it as the 'comments, complaints, and suggestions' section of my brain. Nevertheless, I hope that some of these words will find a place in your heart and will stay with you even when I do not. If you'd like to get in touch, send me a message on Instagram or leave a comment on one of these posts and I'll get back to you at the best possible time.

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