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Feeling blue?

I want to be courageously honest with you. I've been quite down lately. The black dog has been following me around, and it's taken me a while to realise it. I've struggled with depression before, and have been open about it but have usually spoken about it after the fact - as in "I used to be a sufferer but then I did x and y and now I'm ok".

Well my friends, the struggle is real and the struggle is now. But there's something different about it this time.

This time I'm not actually struggling with it. I'm not resisting or fighting or pushing the black dog away. If anything, I've embraced it, given it a cuddle and asked it to tell me what it's come here for. Because somewhere inside me, I know it has appeared as a signal for me to change something in my life.

This approach in itself is a huge change in thinking for me. In the past I would berate myself and feel ashamed for feeling down. I would have avoided people so that they couldn't see how I was, distancing myself from the very support I needed. I would have believed that there was something inherently wrong with me that needed fixing.

This time I'm noticing my own sense of acceptance, rather than trying to run from, fix or avoid how I'm feeling. I'm reaching out to people and being honest about how I'm doing (and for the most part, receiving a positive and compassionate response). And I'm seeing my symptoms as a communication from my subconscious brain, a signal that I need more of something or less of something, rather than a sign that I am broken.

This change has not come about by accident. This new way of being with the black dog has happened because of a lot of work I've done both in the bad times and the good times up until now. It's an approach made up of multiple strategies from multiple angles, some of which came naturally from the beginning and some of which were completely counter-intuitive.

Why do I tell you this? Because I want to challenge the notion that we always have to be putting our best foot forward. I am surprised and disappointed when I hear people tell me "you have to snap out of it - you're meant to be teaching people how not to feel this way". Disappointed because there's already so much pretence in our society, and the absolute last place we should be faking a smile is in mental health. Let's get real, people. Maybe it's just my value system, but my best foot forward is an honest one, not a shiny fake one.

Bek Smith is the founder of Smith & Wellness, the Lead Trainer for SAHMRI's Wellbeing and Resilience Centre, and a believer in authenticity and human connection. She is also an ambassador for Reebok and a passionate advocate for bringing conversations about psychological wellbeing into the fitness industry.

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