For World Mental Health Day we are sharing FRAMERS personal stories to help raise awareness. If anyone is struggling with their mental health we recommend contacting one of the wonderful charities given at the end of this article. Remember it is good to talk.
In this interview, we speak to Chantal, FRAME and MUMHOOD instructor about her experience with mental health. Trigger warning: in this interview, we talk about eating disorders and bipolar disorder.
What’s your experience with mental health?
I was diagnosed with Type 2 Bipolar disorder in my early twenties. I suffer from periods of depression interspersed with times where I have mild mania which can feel very productive but leads to me taking on too much and getting burnt out. More recently I received a diagnosis of Atypical Anorexia after years of disordered eating patterns. A few years after my bipolar diagnosis I was suffering from exhaustion due to managing my mental health while working a very demanding job. I was signed off work for a few months and decided to pursue a more balanced life, moving to a different sector for my day job and training as a fitness instructor. I continue to try to find the right balance in life, and I feel like I’m learning new things about managing my energy and mental health all the time!
What’s the one myth about mental health which really annoys you?
I’m going to pick two!
That having a rarer condition that is perceived as more ‘serious’ means you can’t live a normal life and achieve things. While I have a lot to deal with because of my diagnosis, I have also built a fulfilling life with great friends, hobbies and two really interesting and different jobs.
That there’s something bad about being on long term medication for a mental health issue. I am incredibly grateful for the medications which allow me to manage my mental health. While some people may just take medication for a short time, or manage their mental health in other ways, I know I will always need the support of medication to stay healthy and be at my best, and that’s ok!
What’s the one thing you think everyone should know about mental health?
Everyone has mental health, just like everyone has physical health. As FRAMERS we do lots of things to support our physical health and take care of our bodies, and we should do that for our minds too!
Do you use exercise to help with your mental health?
Short answer: Yes! But it’s not always that simple for me. Exercise is incredible for lifting my mood when I’m down and grounding me when I’m manic, but at times my eating disorder really complicates my relationship with exercise and I push myself too hard for the wrong reasons. I have done a lot of work in the last few years to understand what I find joyful and nourishing about exercise and to focus on that. I think concerns around body image and food affect many of us, and that’s why you’ll never hear me talk about weight loss, calories or fat burning in my classes. I provide a safe space for anyone who has a difficult relationship with their body, whether that’s because of body image, gender, disability or for any other reason. Exercise can be so amazing for our mental health if it’s approached in the right way and with the right mindset, and it’s my mission to spread that message!
What would you say to anyone who is currently struggling with their mental health?
Talk to someone. It can be a friend, relative, GP, or mental health professional. Some workplaces have counselling programmes or mental health first aiders, so check if your employer provides those. Sometimes we feel like our problems are not big enough to be worth raising, but it’s always worth letting someone know if you’re not feeling good.
What top tips would you give anyone who is struggling with their mental health?
See above! The most important thing is to make sure you’re getting the right support, and your GP is usually the best place to start.
Work to set a gentle routine, don’t schedule every minute of your day, but pick a couple of things that help your mood and make some time in your day for those. I try to stretch every evening before I go to bed.
Let some things go! We’re often prone to oversubscribing ourselves, and it’s totally fine to say no to commitments or cancel something you had planned.
Do things that are just for you, whether that’s an extra hour in bed, a good book and a piece of cake, dancing it out, or throwing some weights around (safely of course!) Make sure you are not giving everything to everyone else, fill up your own cup!
If you or anyone you know is suffering from any mental health issues here are some charities who will be happy to have a chat and help. Remember you are not alone.