Over the last twelve months, Covid-19 has made life difficult for a great many people, who have, maybe for the time in their lives, needed serious support. Some will have asked for help; others will still be suffering in silence. 

When we’re going through hard times and our income, home, relationships or lifestyle are under threat, we know we need to be at our best. In reality, however, it’s often the time when we’re at our lowest and worst. When we feel anxious, depressed, stressed and completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems we have to solve. For some people, knowing where to start can be the hardest part. For others, it can seem like there’s simply no point; that it simply isn’t possible to change anything.

Sitting in the centre of what feels like our world collapsing, we pray for a miracle; whilst we’re praying, we hide and make matters worse. 

I know from experience how it feels to be in this situation. I understand the affect it can have on your mental health, drive and your enthusiasm for life. How difficult it can be to regroup and get back out there when your life’s imploded. The older you are, the more difficult and frightening it gets. If you’re on your own, it’s even worse.

At such times, the emotional and mental strength we show when helping others, goes out the window. We can’t seem to draw on it for ourselves. Because family and friends are used to us being a strong, problem solver, it’s hard for them to believe we can’t solve our own. To them, on the outside, everything’s fine; on the inside, we’re slowly falling apart, unable to show a different side to ourselves – perhaps one that others would rather not see.

We all fight for survival in some way and survival doesn’t always mean money. If you’ve never had a mental health problem, then, for you survival probably means just that. For others, the battle they have constantly raging inside them adds to the pressure of making a living and paying your way. When things are going well outside, the battle inside is easier to deal with but one small blip and that battle can turn into an internal nuclear holocaust that to the ‘soldier’, is unsurvivable.

In the medical world, there’s a lot of talk about mental health issues being related to emotional weakness. In reality, it is, more often than not, a sign of emotional strength. It’s important to recognise this for yourself, as the ‘soldier’, i.e. that you’re not ill, that there’s nothing inherently wrong with you, that it’s your strength that’s the root cause of the problem.  

If you’re a soldier, suffering with an internal battle or crisis of some sort, it’s not sympathy and ‘help’ with weakness you need, it’s insight into your strength; what that strength is and how it’s causing you trouble. You need to think of yourself as a Ferrari who needs a mechanic – every performance vehicle needs one!

The starting point is to get a Reality Check, sooner rather than later, BEFORE YOU THINK IT’S NECESSARY.

When it comes to reality checks, we’re NOT going to get what we need from our family or friends. Either they don’t take us seriously because their perception of us as the ‘superhero’ is fixed or, they don’t want to hurt our feelings or appear to be ‘negative’. They want to believe life is good and that there are no health problems; which is why it comes as such a shock, when the reality dawns – in the form of suicide or health conditions, like eating disorders, that lead to our death.

‘Tough Love’ – for ourselves – in the form of talking about our situation, is what’s needed; it trumps delusional positivity and ostrich mentality every time. It also changes the dialogue, moving it away from clinical medicalisation towards something more empathetic and practically constructive.

We might not like talking about ourselves but as a super-hero soldier – we’re more than capable of doing it. We just need the right person to talk to. Having experienced it all myself, ditched medical opinions and come through, I can offer insight, perspective and understanding about what’s happening and why. It could be the tough love reality check you need to turn things around.  

Helen Wingstedt

Ex-Soldier on the front line, now a mechanic maintaining Ferrari’s and horse-powering performance!

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