A perfectly acceptable question for a new colleague to ask after a few bottles of wine on a night out. A great, getting to know you better, question.
One for which there are multiple socially acceptable answers that I could have given, my kids, walking, sewing, I mean I have hobbies.
But no, this is me and time for me to perform at my usual height of social awkwardness.
Here’s how it went …..
Colleague I Don’t Really Know Very Well Yet: “So Jo, what are you passionate about?”
Socially Awkward Princess Jo: “My mental health”
Queue awkward silence where we both realise I have just diverted the conversation from the light hearted chit chat we were both expecting, into a deep conversation about my personal, mental stability.
To make it worse, my brain seems to have this belief that when it has pushed me into a slightly uncomfortable situation, the best thing to do is to JUST … KEEP….GOING.
You know, don’t divert quickly to something less awkward, no Jo keep going, this isn’t nearly awkward enough.
To be fair to the guy, he handled it with aplomb (the wine may have helped) and the conversation moved forward into some interesting territory the chit chat would never have reached.
But the truth is, I am passionate about my mental health, obsessed by it almost.
I am incredibly lucky that I have never had to experience true mental ill health, but 4 or 5 years ago I was close. Life had challenged and my brain was responding with anxiety and it was getting hard.
We’ve all had it, that shortness of breath, difficulty sleeping, worry, worry, worry. Well me too and it was overwhelming.
I got through it, I have a logical and methodical mind, and I was able to use this to develop thought patterns and exercises to change the way I thought.
The one thing I knew then and know to this day was how lucky I was to turn it round. I will never take for granted the place I am in now and will do everything I can to make sure I don’t go back to where I was.
So I am obsessed, I look after my mental health as if it was a flower in the garden that without care and attention would wither and die.
I work at it every single day.
If you know me well there’s a good chance that at some point or another I will have recommended an audio book, meditation tape, or made you listen to one of my terrible analogies. Because you see the thing is I am not only obsessed by my own mental health, I am also obsessed with yours!
I am desperate to share what I’ve learnt with anyone who will listen because if it’s helped me, just maybe it might help you too.
The truth is I shouldn’t have felt awkward at all, why feel embarrassed telling people I spend money seeing a hypnotherapist, but have no embarrassment at all recounting that I get my nails done twice a month.
Why is investing in our appearance considered acceptable but doing the same for our mental health an extravagance?
Because doing so implies weakness, that you are not just naturally mentally strong.
So here’s the thing, without the gym my belly wobbles (actually it wobbles with the gym too but don’t tell anyone), without glasses I’m blind as a bat and without my hairdresser you might get to see a little grey. Every aspect of our life takes effort and help to be the best it can be, let’s stop being ashamed about the fact that includes our mental health.
So would I answer the question any differently if I could go back? Hell no! I am proud of the effort I put into my mental health, and if you think that makes me weak, just try telling me that to my face and you’ll soon find out how strong I am.