If Life Was A Bridge
First Published 14th March 2020
In the many, many conversations I’ve had about mental health in the last nine months, one of the most dangerous - in terms of mentally challenging - times for people seems to be during periods of transition. Be it a transition from a career, a relationship, a home; it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is the de-stabling impact that a certain level of change can have on someone’s sense of identity and mental stability. I remember feeling this when I first gave up my career to have children; but that obvious void in my life was quickly filled and my stability nurtured through my new role adapting to Motherhood. I lost it slightly again when I got divorced. I obviously continued as a Mother but was no longer someone’s wife. And following the death of a loved one that transition can of course feel all the more brutal and the sense of identity all the more complex. Often left with the feeling of ‘who am I?’
I had dinner a couple of weeks ago who with a good friend of mine who’s spent many years working with professional athletes. We talk a lot about mental health and that evening he said something to me that I found so poignant but also so very succinct; he said that if life was a bridge and we only had just one plank, and that plank wobbles, then of course we become in danger of falling off. Instead he said what we need to make up our lives is many planks - and that breadth ultimately gives us our strength. So if, for example, instead of just one life plank we have a career plank, a family plank, a keep fit plank, a friends plank and a hobby plank - well if one of those planks wobbles then the bridge of life seems so much more stable. The breadth of our planks gives us our stability. We can wobble but we are far less likely to fall off as the others will help to balance us; in essence we help ourselves if we make time to develop and flourish who we are in many spheres.
And here lies the potential difficulty for anyone who has a dominant role in their life that by virtue of its demands on time and lifestyle becomes literally all consuming - the army officer institutionalised for 20 years, the junior doctor working all hours helping others, the high achieving student trying to reach their grades, the dedicated jockey traveling the length and breadth of the country for their next ride - striving for all this success is obviously important and no doubt hugely rewarding, but for the sake of our mental health we need to also be mindful of taking measures and finding the balance that helps stop us being wrong footed by change.. #LifeNeedsBalance