Lean on Each Other: Reflections on this World Mental Health Day
I’m not an expert on mental health, nor do I pretend to be. It’s complex, nuanced and deeply layered. It’s certainly not talked about enough, especially given that, according to the World Health Organization, close to two-thirds of mental illnesses go untreated. Wow.
The thing about mental health – and more specifically, a person who is struggling with their mental health – is that it has no face and it certainly does not discriminate. It could be the person sitting next to you on the bus; it could also be the employee who is the loudest in the room or a teammate. It might be the funniest person you know, or even your favorite athlete. It could be something they are born with, or suddenly emerges with trauma or loss. It could be chronic, or episodic. It could also be your friendly HR representative, penning this blog post.
If you are fortunate to live a lifetime void of any mental health issues, you are probably the exception to the rule. Personally, it very much felt like I was living in “Barbieland” until 2018. I was cruising through each day with little adversity and a “roadmap to life” that was unfolding as I had planned. I was a year and change into my new career at Prosek, I had a toddler that brought me so much joy, and everyone in my orbit was happy and healthy. Then, it all changed with one conversation. After an easy first pregnancy, I was told by my doctor that I wouldn’t be able to carry a second child.
For anyone who is preparing to start or grow a family and simply cannot, it’s a gut-punch. For me, I felt like a failure. The weight of societal pressure collapsed on top of me. I saw my dreams of a family of four crumbling before my eyes—it was identity crisis of sorts. Who am I if I can’t give my child a sibling? What ensued was a complicated journey, made worse by the dark days of the pandemic.
Being the pragmatic optimist that I am, I kept telling myself to be happy for having one healthy child. I should be grateful, right? I also kept reminding myself that so many others have it worse. I felt guilty for feeling this way and tried to convince myself that I’d eventually “get over it.” But I also realized that minimizing my feelings by using a mental health yard stick was damaging. I felt alone on an island and desperate. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t present. I needed love and support. I needed encouragement. I was spiraling and I was struggling to show up for my family, friends, work and most importantly, myself. This was my mental health crisis. A moment in time, but still, a crisis.
So I got help. And I leaned into my support system – therapy, family, friends, and yes, my Prosek coworkers. In fact, I wouldn’t have been able to get through those days without my team. They gave me the space to deal with my emotions, the hugs I needed when the news got worse and worse and eventually celebrated with me when my second son came into this world.
I’ll wrap this up similarly to how I started it. We are not experts on mental health and nor do we pretend to be. As I look around the office, I know that there are many happy people with happy lives, but I also know that behind some smiles people might be deeply struggling. Just know that you are not alone, and we are here to listen.