My mental health journey

I thought I had it all together

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.

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