Mental Health Awareness: |12 May 2022
Sharing our stories, coming together, enjoying the arts to protect our mental wellbeing #IveBeenThere
This week (May 9-15, 2022) the Mental Health Foundation in the United Kingdom (UK) is hosting its annual Mental Health Awareness Week – one which they say has grown to become one of the biggest awareness weeks across the UK and globally.
This year, the theme is ‘Loneliness’. The aim of the foundation is to raise awareness of the impact of loneliness on our mental wellbeing, the practical steps we can take to address it, and about how our connection to other people and our community is fundamental to protecting our mental health.
The Mental Health Foundation Scotland this week is also hosting the Scottish Mental Health Festival 2022. The theme this year is ‘Gather’ to recognise the importance of people coming together, enjoying the arts and being creative.
“To gather does not only mean to come together as people. Throughout the programme, you will find opportunities to gather stories, gather memories, gather artworks and gather objects. There will be moments when we need to gather our thoughts or gather ourselves. Gathering is something we do to make sense of our lives and experiences, and, explicitly or not, while creating art” – Mental Health Foundation Scotland.
The Mental Health Foundation explains that Mental Health Awareness Week is an opportunity for us to share our own stories and experiences, and for everyone to talk about how we can achieve good mental health. The Foundation is encouraging people to share their stories and experiences by using the hashtag #IveBeenThere and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek.
References: Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Foundation Scotland
In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, the themes ‘Loneliness’ and ‘Gather’, the importance of sharing our stories, and the role of art in protecting our mental health, Seychelles NATION spoke to Sheijnada Reinert, a local artist who shares with us her personal story about how her connection to those around her and her love for painting helped her to manage depression. The following is Sheijnada’s story.
“I had quite a strange pregnancy with my second child compared to when I was pregnant with my first child. I was feeling sick throughout my pregnancy. Right before I gave birth, my first child had chicken pox so I was a bit worried going to hospital and my baby was born three weeks early. I had a placental abruption at home so I had an emergency Caesarean section (C-section). It was quite traumatising, I had quite a bad experience. I was put to sleep and I didn’t see my baby until the next day. I remember as I woke up in bed, the doctor told me that they had ‘caught her right off the cliff’. They had to revive her so that made me quite paranoid.
“Three days after I had given birth, I started feeling really, really down and angry. My head was just not in the right place. By then, my little one had recovered from chicken pox and I had spent eight days in the hospital because my baby was too small. I was feeling so low and I remember at one point there were so many things going through my head, that my baby was crying and I could not hear her. Also, I was not getting enough milk at first for breastfeeding. So it was all stressful.
“Even afterwards when we got home, the next day my husband broke out in chicken pox. So after having a premature baby, she was small and had gone onto antibiotics for five days, now chicken pox and obviously my husband had been exposed to our baby ‒ it was so much to take in.
“At the same time, I was going through these strange feelings mentally. I tried telling the nurses but I don’t think they understood what was going on. Quietly, I was starting to feel very depressed and I was starting to have a lot of anxiety. I didn’t know what was wrong with me until it started getting physical.
“A year later, my eldest daughter had an accident and she broke a few bones so that was really scary. We went to the hospital and by then our youngest child was 16 months, and I was still breastfeeding her. I had to go to hospital so my husband had to do his share of getting her off the breast milk.
“I was exhausted because for 16 months, our youngest had been waking about eight times a night to breast feed, so without the sleep and everything, I started thinking things. I am not even superstitious but I was thinking that something is coming after me and all these strange things, and I felt like I was drifting away.
“One day I just crashed and I remember crying on the floor, telling my husband I can see things in my eyes and all of these things. At that point, physically I was weak, I couldn’t do anything, I was getting sick, I was throwing up, I couldn’t go out in public, I was feeling tired the whole day, I would distance myself from everyone, I kept crying all the time; there were times when the anxiety was so bad I was on the verge of just passing out.
“My sister started realising that something was wrong and I told my husband as well. I remember one day I just crashed and my mother-in-law came and she told me I needed to get help. She brought a friend who had been through the situation before and she helped me out a lot. I had a lot of people to support me. I looked for help, I went to the hospital and there, I was diagnosed with depression at the time.
“Obviously it was difficult to bounce back but I had to pep talk myself and I had a lot of support. I cried when I had to cry. My husband would give me the space and he was there with the kids and everything. When things got really, really bad, I would wake up at 4 in the morning and just be crying and screaming, and my husband would ask me what was wrong. I said it hurts, I don’t know what hurts, it’s my body, my brain, everything hurts.
“I told myself one day, just end everything, and my husband told me ‘you are just transferring the pain onto everybody else if you just leave this world’. So I got help and started telling myself that one day this will all just be something to remember. All the time I just kept telling myself it will get better, it will all just be a story to tell, every day I’ll get better. I pep talked myself, I picked up on my diet, started talking, and doing therapy at the hospital – they were so good to help me with that.
“I started finding things that I love and started doing my art again – something to remind me of who I was because it’s something that I always loved and kept quiet about. So I started painting and I found therapy in that; it made me feel better, it gave me a purpose, something to really get lost in and pour myself in.
“I remember I wrote a poem about a scarf; unfortunately my child deleted it on my phone, but that poem got me started and this is when I started painting. With all the colours and patterns in everything that I saw, it taught me how to observe and admire everything in nature again, and to incorporate that into my art. It really gave me another sense of life with my kids and doing it with them sometimes was a lot of fun.
“Starting to do art again gave me back my ‘joie de vivre’ (enjoyment of life) for me to keep moving, to have another thing to live for, and to maybe do something out of it. To my surprise, my art was appreciated by quite a few people so I kept going. And now, I’m happy doing what I do and it’s my safe place, my way to get away, it’s putting my feelings down on canvas. I think it’s really a part of me so when I paint, it’s a part of how I feel and the beauty of life.
“It was a hard journey, but we can always find something that will get us back on track and it’s not impossible. And today I can say that I’m very happy and I feel like I have a purpose. Obviously there’s always ups and downs in life but we just have to rock it to get out of it. There’s a whole new definition now to me about ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’ and I feel that I am living proof of that. I am very privileged to be here, being an artist and being able to produce art to make other people smile.”