May is Mental Health Awareness Month and today specifically is Mental Health Awareness Day.
The Ivory Tower Boiler Room has brought you two episodes about the importance of mental health (Part 1 and Part 2) and we are committed to continuing the discussion around mental health. Caring for your mental health is no less important than caring for your physical health and when either one is not attended to, the other may suffer as well; as a person who lives with multiple chronic pain conditions, I am hyper-aware of that. There may be 31 days devoted to mental health awareness, but it truly is something to be aware of every day of the year.
Andrew and Adam started the Ivory Tower Boiler Room podcast last summer as a way to help cope with the pandemic, when we were all feeling combinations of grief, confusion, fear, anger and other emotions. The writing group began, Mary joined in and later on, Erika did as well. The four of us began our collaboration on the mental health episodes after learning more about what we each had to contribute to the topic. As we prepared for and recorded the episode we realized that we enjoyed the collaboration and that together, we had some ideas for how to make the Ivory Tower Boiler Room’s resources more accessible to the rest of the world. All of that is nice to know, but it doesn’t address the fact that attention to our mental health is a vital part of our collaboration and one of the reasons that it works well. As writers we deal with a certain amount of personal vulnerability in our work, and in the process of sharing our work, even if it’s just with each other, We also strongly push self-care on each other. Frequent check ins and respect for the space and time we need to deal with mental health needs are really important for our work together. In practice, that means things like making sure to prepare ahead of time as a team to help make sure Andrew knows what we need ready to go before he goes on vacation, discussing ahead of time his limits on what he is or isn’t comfortable handling while on vacation and having a plan in place to do what needs to be done to keep the Ivory Tower running while he recharges and takes the break he needs. On a day to day basis that means that we’ve discussed openly as we’ve figured out our work together questions like “what tools work best for you,” or “how can we set that up so that you’re able to know what needs to be done but that it doesn’t cause anxiety when you see what’s unfinished, even if it’s not tasks that belong to you?” For us as a team, self-care and attention to the impact that mental health has on our work are some of the tools we use to get our jobs done. The value of honest communication about mental health needs is also something we use to help keep our team working and healthy. That means talking about when we’re struggling, acknowledging the value of time with our therapists, being honest when we’re feeling stressed, doing our best to respect limits and boundaries and working together to resolve conflicts before they escalate whenever possible, and as soon as we are able to when they do boil over. We each bring our own baggage to the table, and understanding that cannot be underestimated, but I know I’ve been challenged at times to work through mine by teammates, and I hope I’ve been able to give the same kind of gentle push to others when they’ve needed it. We work as a family because we respect the different places we come from and prioritize our well being and that includes our mental health. We encourage you to take care of yours not just this month, but year round. To those who are struggling, we support you. To those supporting someone who is struggling, we support you, too. Your story isn’t over yet. Help tell the rest of it.