Category: Blog

Why is my mental health so important?

Why is my mental health so important?

We all have mental health just as we all have physical health. When we are enjoying good mental health, we have a sense of purpose and direction, energy to do what we want and the ability to deal with challenges as they happen. When we think about physical health, we think about keeping ourselves fit and eating well. Mental health is just the same. When have good mental health we can:

  • make the most of our potential
  • cope with what life throws at us; and
  • participate fully in work, relationships and our community.

Problems

When our mental health is reduced, just as when physical health is reduced, our capacity to do such things diminishes.  Both sorts of health can fluctuate and as with physical health, so mental health problems can pass. We all know about feeling down, stressed or frightened and we know that often these pass. But sometimes, they develop into mental health problems like anxiety, depression or stress-related issues such as burnout. There are many factors too that can exacerbate them, including genetics, trauma, discrimination or ongoing physical illness.

Talking about the issue

Thankfully, awareness of mental health is increasing rapidly, due in part, to the willingness of celebrities and the Royal Family to talk about it and open up about personal experiences. It is also a result of some employers acknowledging the fundamental importance of good mental health to a happy and productive workforce. So, a workplace that creates a culture where people can be themselves and where it’s safe to be themselves is very important.

Discrimination

Sadly, we still live in a world where people with mental health problems face discrimination and where the resources needed to support them are lacking. Reaching out and finding suitable support is still problematic.

Awareness of mental health issues is growing in society.

Among the top reasons people avoid talking openly about these issues is a fear of discrimination or feeling ashamed. This means people who know they have mental health issues stay quiet. Those who are suffering keep their feelings hidden and often self-medicate to try and deal with their distress.   

Affecting everyone

Mental health problems can affect anyone at any time. Anyone who thinks they are immune or it won’t happen to them —or that it only happens to ‘weak people’ — is sadly missing the point.

Am I Codependent?

Am I codependent?

Having one unhealthy relationship in your lifetime might be considered unfortunate. A chance to learn and grow; part of growing up perhaps, so long as you leave it, move on and don’t repeat it.  But what if you have a pattern of unhealthy relationships with love or sexual partners, friends, family, work colleagues? What if you are in an unhealthy relationship and feel unable to leave it? What if your relationship with yourself is so poor, you think that’s the way life is for you? These are all questions on the road to finding out if you may be codependent. 

Learning about codependence

Codependence as a term can split opinion among professionals. It is not a clinical condition or medical diagnosis, nor does it have to become your identity label unless you choose it to be. But if you are living with the consequences of repeated negative and destructive patterns in relationship with yourself and others, learning about codependent traits for the first time can bring a sense of relief. There are books about it. You can also find support groups and caring and supportive professionals who understand the turmoil within you and often surrounding you.

Copdependence questions

I am often asked, “What is codependence?”, “Am I codependent?” or “What ‘makes’ a person codependent?”. While the last question is beyond this article, my hope here is to raise awareness of codependence as a term, offering a name to what can otherwise be a confusing dichotomy of traits, repeated ways of behaving and patterns of thinking about ourselves, about others and about our relationships.

Relationships

When I say relationship here I mean all types: work, romantic, sexual, family, friendships and most importantly, with yourself. Specifically, how a poor relationship with yourself then plays out in the poor quality and negative types of relationships you seek (often unknowingly), form and maintain; the treatment you tolerate from others and how these repeat, regardless of your efforts to change yourself, others or your circumstance.   

And just as you can receive and feel it, so you can dish it out! Indeed, it can be like dancing a passionate, painful and ultimately destructive tango, playing the parts of victim, rescuer and aggressor.

That is, until you make the choice to stop dancing for a while, change the music and learn to dance differently! Because it doesn’t matter what ‘they’ did or didn’t do, or when ‘they’ did or didn’t do it, the buck now stops with you to change this for yourself. Only you can change the pattern.

Am I Codependent?

Reading the list below, you might say these are human traits — everyone feels a bit of this. And I would agree with that, totally. So for you to identify yourself as codependent or as having codependent traits, you will be undoubtedly repeating negative patterns of unhealthy relating in a variety of scenarios and circumstances.

The list I offer below isn’t necessarily definitive and not all need apply, but you’ll know deep down how close this is to your reality. You:

  • have low self-confidence, have difficulty making decisions, judge almost everything you do, say and are as not good enough and may consider yourself unlovable or unworthy.
  • find it difficult to ask others to meet your needs, compromise your own values, feel you don’t deserve any better and rate the approval of others over self-approval.
  • problems implementing and maintaining healthy boundaries for yourself and with others.
  • are very sensitive to the feelings of others and often assume the same feelings as them, feel confused by the feelings of others or act in ways so as to comply and people-please so to avoid rejection. 
  • accept sex when you really want love and may use sex to gain approval or acceptance.
  • stay in unhealthy relationships, ignoring, dismissing or excusing signs/evidence of bad behaviour (emotional, sexual, verbal, mental or physical) until you literally can’t take any more.  But attempts to leave or end the relationship result in being coerced or persuaded back, repeatedly.
  • feel trapped in a current relationship or friendship and feel you can’t leave it because being on your own is too scary and ultimately you fear being rejected in this other relationship.
  • have difficulty expressing your own feelings appropriately, feel you can’t change things for yourself and need someone else to rescue you or make it better for you.
  • seek to rescue, guide, control or fix others to feel better about yourself or more secure.
  • don’t believe you deserve anything better, have difficulty identifying your feelings or minimise/deny how you really feel.   
  • give ‘your power away’ to other people so that they have the power to make you feel good or bad about yourself.
  • feel that if you could make those around you happy, you would have a purpose, be loved, stop feeling ‘less than’ and avoid being rejected.
  • need people to admire/need you so that you feel good about yourself.
  • are the common denominator in all of your patterns and the scenarios you find yourself in, but instead of admitting that, you point the finger, you blame, you explain, you justify, you avoid or you deny. 
  • may be medicating with alcohol, drugs or other unhelpful or habitual behaviours such as gambling, shopping, over-/under-eating or inappropriate sexual behaviour in an attempt to cope or pretend there is nothing wrong.
  • likely feel a mixture of emotions and feelings, including confusion, vulnerability, shame, guilt, hurt, used, controlled or controlling, victimised, depressed, anxious, nervous, jealous. 

Also:

  • Despite your efforts to control and manipulate others, be a perfectionist or create a screen of perfection around yourself, the patterns repeat.
  • Your partner, friends or circumstances might change, but the end results are no different: another unhealthy relationship. Wherever you go or whatever you try to do differently, it still ends up the same.

What can you do about it?

Having read the list, you may identify yourself as codependent or you may not and ultimately it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that if you recognise these patterns and traits as dominating and negatively impacting your life, you can start to change. And if you want support to do so, it is available.   

The fact is that the cycle is likely to persist until you make positive and fundamental changes. Ignoring the problem, hoping it will go away or change with your next relationship, friendship or home move will not make things better. In fact, it’s likely to get worse as patterns repeat over time.

How to change

The good news is that it is possible to stop the patterns and change for good. We do this by changing your relationship with yourself, by changing how you relate to others and how you allow others to relate with you.

It takes a little time to understand how and why you interact the way you do. It takes time to build a positive relationship with yourself and learn how to interact healthily with others. But it absolutely possible and the right support is available to you now.   

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