My mental health journey

I am ready to share more of my own mental health journey in the hope that something here will resonate with my clients and you, dear reader, who might be navigating your next steps to support yourself.

Pay attention to your nervous system

As a Life Coach, my approach of tackling issues through the lens of mood, body and language (a reflection of the nervous system!), making shifts and paying attention to my own nervous system is crucial. Before I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2021, we as a family and as a province/world had undergone so much stress already. In some way, we were (and still are, at times) living in survival mode. With Covid and the riots in KZN, we were collectively challenged. Then I received my cancer diagnosis, went through treatment, had a very sick one-year old and continued to navigate other changes.

At the time of treatment, I felt held in using my own life coaching tools and going to therapy. I didn’t think I needed meds and was keen to try natural means. I wouldn’t say I was depressed, but navigating the normal ups and downs of trials. However, about 6-9 months later, I started to notice a lingering sadness/low mood that persisted. I noticed my energy levels would dip easily and my capacity was low. I wondered if I needed meds or if I could cope using my own strategies. I decided to give it some time, speak to friends objectively and to change therapists to find an approach that resonated with the season I was in. About 6 months later, I decided to approach medication with curiosity – as another tool… And I felt proud of myself for exploring this option even if it wasn’t going to be (and it isn’t!) a fix-all.

As a society, we seem to celebrate when the journey is ‘over’. The moment you’re ‘strong enough’ to go off medication. The moment of reaching the finish line. But what about being proud of starting the journey? Of starting medication, of starting therapy and/or life coaching, of starting something new? The courage of first, small steps ought to be celebrated too.

Add tools to your toolkit for life

One thing I am passionate about is using practical tools to support my mental health. As a Life Coach, I aim to leave my clients with one tool they can use until I see them next. These tools are part of the puzzle – medication might be another piece. We all need to feel actively empowered and not rely solely on medication. As psychiatrist, Dr Legg (@mymentalhealthclub), says “You can’t medicate your job away!”

Never say ‘never’

Be open to various means of support available to you. After my cancer treatment, I considered that being out of my comfort zone for a prolonged period meant that it might be more harmful to not try meds. How healthy can it be to constantly be in a state of ‘high alert’? Yes, there are natural methods available and I am a big fan of functional medicine which seeks to address the ‘root cause’ and not mask over symptoms. But I felt I wanted something quicker acting as I would still be going through more change ahead. We all have a ‘window of tolerance’ or a comfort zone. It is good to exit the comfort zone from time to time – this is how we grow. But to constantly be outside of our comfort zone and to be pushed beyond capacity is just as adverse as never trying new things.

Address your own stigma

I had to overcome my own stigma and fears around meds… There is a school of thought that says ‘only natural’ methods are best; or that only faith/God can help you overcome mental health issues. To quote philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas, it is BOTH faith and science (medicine in this case) that work together. To exclude one leads to black-and-white thinking and we miss out on the nuances of the journey. For whatever mystery it might be, sometimes mental health can be a persistent battle and this is okay – it does not mean you are failing or that God has failed you. It simply means you are a human living in a highly stressful and busy world – and well done to you for exploring what it is that you need in this season! There is also an incredible wealth of wisdom, compassion and lessons that arise from this journey.

Mental health is like an umbrella

An umbrella shelters you from the storm because it has many folds working together. Mental health support is not a one-size-fits-all. Approaching the issue physically, spiritually and emotionally is important. And we can find our medicine in each of these – they work together. Find what resonates for you and it’s okay to change it up if it’s not meeting all parts of you. Therapy, life coaching, moving your body, addressing nutritional deficits, building community are all essential. Strengthen the arms of the umbrella by seeking holistic support. Start with one of these things. Take it from there.

Shift with the season

Maybe you don’t have the finances to go for long-term therapy. Maybe a daily walk rather than hardcore cardio is needed in this season. Maybe the approach you used to use is no longer serving you. Be honest and try articulate what you need in order to find the best support. For example, I used to love running, but in this season running just feels ‘off’. Doing gentler, strength work is what I’d like to invest in. It’s taken me a while to articulate this, and finally I’m going to act on it. As for meds, I perceive it as another tool in the toolbox for this season, while it might not be necessary in others.

Desert seasons are valuable

In my new book, Stars in the Desert (co-authored by by beloved mom and 5 year old daughter) we unpack the lessons of the desert. The desert is when we feel challenged, low, in a time of uncertainty and we are seeking guidance. These are also the times when it seems like there’s no light and that the season will never end. Some of the clients I’ve walked with who have found healing in their journey fear entering that season again. But the truth is, we all will.

The desert is not a place to resist, but to lean into because what happens in the desert is profoundly important for the next season. Clarity, guiding promises and newfound hope and joy come from walking the sands of the desert. And when you’re in a desert season, be sure to scan the skies for the stars and glimmers of hope and promise. Life’s never only desert; and never only stars. It’s both.

Ask yourself what ONE THING resonates from this blog post. Consider what your first step towards supporting yourself might be.

*Disclaimer: I am sharing purely from my experience. My ‘tips’ are not prescriptive and I believe you have the intuition to discover what works best for you.

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For 1:1 life coaching enquiries, contact me here or email me: cedwardsza@gmail.com

For my books, head to the ‘BOOKS’ tab

  • Stars in the Desert is a guide to find the promises in your life, emotions, relationships and faith.
  • Holding Mama is a guide for pregnancy and your ongoing motherhood journey.


Deciding to see a Life Coach or a Psychologist

So you’ve decided to reach out for support, who do you see?

Firstly, celebrate taking this first step. It can take individuals years to seek support. By prioritising your healing and growth, something is already shifting… Taking that first step can be hard and knowing where to start can feel overwhelming, so notice what you’ve already overcome to get to this point!

Ask what kind of support you are needing in this season

The lines between coaching and psychotherapy can be blurred as it’s possible for both to work together by supporting your emotional wellness and healing.

Although therapy is also beneficial to addressing current challenges, what distinguishes coaching from therapy (such as seeing a psychologist or a counsellor) is that life coaching is present and future-focused. Life coaching offers tools and identifies obstacles to moving forward. If you are seeking healing from trauma or you are concerned about your mental health (noting changes in sleep, appetite, ability to socialise, work and function daily), I would recommend setting up an initial session with a psychologist or counsellor. I have had clients who have been to their psychiatrist or psychologist alongside seeing me; and I’ve had clients seek coaching rather than therapy because my life coaching approach better aligned with what they were seeking. Don’t be afraid to start somewhere. See if there is a ‘connect’ and if you gain what you are seeking from that space. Sometimes clients are unsure of which professional to see and within one session we are both able to tell if coaching or therapy would be a better fit.

Find a ‘connect’ with the professional of choice

It’s important that you connect with the psychologist, counsellor or coach and that you feel you can be honest about what it is you are seeking. I recommend that you evaluate along the way as to whether the support has been meeting your expectations and to provide feedback on what it is you still hope to gain.

Bear in mind that within the field of psychology and life coaching, each professional has their specific training and methodologies. With this being said – there are many different kinds of coaches too – I’ll share what I love about the Ontological approach.

Ontological Life Coaching

In essence, I appreciate the holistic nature of bringing mood, body and language together. When addressing a challenge, often we do so through the ‘head’ without acknowledging where those emotions lie in the body. Moreover, I believe in caring for all parts of the individual and seeking the ‘root cause’ of the issue. In some cases, I refer clients to a Functional Health Doctor who can take care of their unique physical needs that might be contributing to their quality of life. In this way, I value linking up with like-minded professionals passionate about piecing together the larger ‘story’ of a client’s life.

My hopes for my clients

Just as I ask my clients what it is they would like to receive from our sessions, I will share some of my hopes as a coach:

Met where you are – held in your experience
More than just listened to – 
A tangible shift taking place –
Sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle
But always shifting
Empowered and in awe of life’s shifts
Aware of your nervous system and when your body speaks to you
Discovering your Truest Self
And listening for the voice within that knows
Bringing both questions and clarity to the surface
Through deep listening and going with the flow of what you need in that moment
Organic –
Picking up the threads to piece together
A renewed, fresh perspective
Body, mind, soul
Using anxiety and all uncomfortable moods as a signpost
Using all the challenges and things holding you back as clues
To your growth,
Using what brings you alive as clues
To your purpose

Where are you on your journey of personal growth? Reach out to me via email if you would like to set up an initial session to see if my approach aligns with your needs.

May we all show up more fully in the very place we find ourselves. May we draw as much value and inspiration from what is both beautiful and uncomfortable. And may we remember that we do not need to hit rock bottom before we seek help. It’s vital that we make an ongoing investment in our wellbeing so that when (not ‘if’) challenges come our way, we can draw from our reserves and easily access the support.

Reach out to me today if you would like to set up an initial consult to ‘start somewhere’ on this journey.