A word on showing up

July 20, 2021

We are more than happy to announce our new collaboration with PVL (https://petravelzeboer.com/) organisation that support businesses to create sustainable mental health strategies. And as a part of this collaboration, we are starting a series of blog on which PVL team members will share their mental health Tips for individuals and organisations.

The first blog of the series is written by Caitlin Kaur from PVL. In her blog she talks about the importance of mental health and how it is okay not to be okay all the time. She as well points that being vulnerable and authentic is always better than being protected but disconnected. And in the end, Caitlin is explaining why it’s important that workplaces take the mental health of their employees and leaders seriously.

Thank you Caitlin for sharing this blog with us!

Mental health is a funny thing. Even as I sit here now at my desk writing this, I can feel my throat double in size, the need to drop my shoulders and to take a deep breath. The need to show up and be seen, to be vulnerable: I find that hard. I always have. It’s something I am learning to overcome and grow with daily.

It wasn’t until I started working with PVL and experienced a mentally healthy work culture that I noticed how much I tend to hide in day-to-day life. My fear of vulnerability and failure is one that I have found crippling. I put so much pressure on myself to be the best version of me, but I’m learning now just how unhealthy that is. That it’s okay to not be okay all of the time - but it’s an ongoing journey for me. For someone that has a history of mental health issues in their family, I don’t cut myself much slack on the personal front.

My mother has Borderline Personality Disorder and has suffered with bipolar disorder her whole life. As a child of a single mother from a working class family, having no money and experiencing the ever-looming question of where our next meal would come from and how long we would be able to stay in our house before the bailiffs came to take away all our belongings - it took it’s toll, naturally. My mother was, and is, a great mother. She tried her best with my brother and I. She gave us everything she had. Of course, as in any family, things happened that I can’t unsee or un-experience, but I don’t know if I could have done any better in my mother’s shoes. She is a superhero. I feel that some of her traits have naturally passed on to me. Her stark lack of confidence (a trait that I always questioned and wished that she could only see what I see). Her debilitating panic attacks, aggressive social anxiety, and a need to self-sabotage every healthy relationship she’s ever been in (I promise it’s not all doom and gloom, we do actually laugh about this with each other).

I also inherited her strong female warrior spirit. I smile in the face of adversity and whenever I feel scared, I try to laugh in the face of that fear and remind them of who my mother is, and therefore, who I am.

On reflection, I wish that I had acknowledged my own mental health issues growing up, and didn’t buy into the narrative that just because someone else has problems that may be seen as ‘worse’, that your own problems then don’t matter. Your feelings and experiences are always valid. Because now, as an adult, it's catching up with me. I’m finally acknowledging my own trauma, and I don’t know where to put it. So I share it, as best I can. A problem shared is a problem halved.

I’m really learning to open my heart up and though it's painful, I always feel better for it. The feeling of being open and vulnerable is scary: you feel like you’re falling with no control. But the more you do it, the more you realise you’re supported, and are in fact stepping into your power and following the road to becoming the truest version of yourself. Which is why we’re all here isn’t it? Whatever your beliefs are in this area, I believe that being vulnerable and authentic is always better than being protected but disconnected. (I cried at some cows on the TV the other day, that’s got to count for something!)

I’m learning that all of the challenges I’ve faced in my life - witnessing family members losing their grip on reality; alcoholism; generations of cultural shaming that reared its ugly head more than enough times in my twenty four years, and; consequently, the depressive wall that punched me in the face in my third year of drama school, and the ensuing identity crisis that floored me in the first lockdown - these were gifts. Without darkness, there can be no light.

My passion for talking about mental health and helping people to feel supported and safe started from a place of empathy. That passion is currently flowing from a different place: it’s alive inside me, in the experience that I’m living day to day, in the power I find in acknowledging my own experiences, my emotions, my story, my life. 

I’ve witnessed first-hand how the treatment of poor mental health at work can destroy a person, how it can lead to a person feeling worthless, embarrassed, ashamed, and worried about how they will pay their bills.

No one should have to feel these things because they’re struggling with their mental health. This is why it’s so important that workplaces take the mental health of their employees and leaders seriously - work is where we spend most of our time, after all. It’s about time we break the stigma and start talking, proactively, before we reach crisis point.

We all have our own stories and our own experiences, no matter how big or small you may think they are. We all have mental health. We need to acknowledge that as a collective society, because I know we’ll all benefit from talking. There is power in your voice. You never know who you could be helping by opening up and speaking out. PVL believes that every organisation can be the rising tide that lifts and sustains mental health for every employee, their families and their communities.

It’s time to be the change you want to see. It’s time to show up.

About the author

Caitlin is an actor and mental health advocate currently working with PVL.

After completing four years of acting training, Caitlin’s goal is to use her acting, communication skills and life experience to help people connect, grow and better themselves through story-telling.

She wants to encourage people to talk openly and to access the support that they need, including at work. This is why Caitlin is passionate about revolutionising mental health in the workplace.

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