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Transcript - “Yes, I had a mental health condition. Get over it, I did!”

A conversation with Hendrik Huthoff (part 2)

Published onFeb 09, 2023
Transcript - “Yes, I had a mental health condition. Get over it, I did!”
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Jo: Hendrik welcome back to Access 2 Perspectives conversations our podcast show primarily equally about open science topics and also mental wellbeing in academia, as well as career opportunities and research, management and other topics that are of interest to researchers. Welcome back. It’s great having you again. 

Hendrik: It’s really great to be back with you. I really enjoyed our previous conversation and I look forward today to go a bit more into depth about personal experience, about mental health, which is what we didn’t really have time for last time, right? 

Jo: Yeah. And there should be more than enough time. Well, there should be. We will have time for this today. And last time for those who didn’t have the chance to listen to the previous episode with you just yet, but you can of course go back and listen to it after this one. We talked about your role at Jena University as a mental health first aider and what got you interested, why you’re interested and so passionate about the topic, some of the questions you receive and the support you can give to people who find themselves in difficult situations, oftentimes not really being aware that they have a mental health condition of some sort. And oftentimes I’ve experienced stress – born, but of course it’s multi factual.

Hendrik: Yes, that’s it. 

Jo: And today you and I committed to talking about our personal experience. Yes. So would you mind giving it a head start? I’ve already given some teasers in previous episodes with yourself and also with other guests on the show. But yeah, please tell us about your journey. 

Hendrik: Just to tie that in with last time, we talked about the mental health first aid work I do at the university and a lot of stigma reduction work that I do. And I found that it’s incredibly important that people speak up with their own testimonials. That is something I found that really resonates with people that often people say, oh, that is so brave to talk about it. I don’t consider it like that anymore because for me it’s become really easy to talk about because I see the positive effect it generates in others. It invites others to reflect on themselves and say, hey, well, if this guy acknowledged that he had a problem, maybe I should be looking at myself as well. And so I think we cannot really have enough role models, and I don’t wish to qualify myself as a role model. There perhaps, but examples of people, particularly in academia, who speak out about it and who are also seen to have successful careers. Right. The example I always like to give is that Sir Isaac Newton probably had a mental health condition. He was probably bipolar, it is now thought, and also Charles Darwin had a mental health condition. So having a mental health condition or illness does not preclude you from being successful in science or in any profession. And I think we need more examples of that. In order for people to be able to overcome their own barriers. 

Jo: One doctor once told me when I was concerned about his diagnosis, like he just bluntly said you know what, the brain is just another organ and it can dysfunction at times. If it’s triggered or malnourished with certain nutrients or whatever triggered by too much stress, then it’s an organ which has sometimes issues and some of these issues can be fixed and oftentimes it’s just giving yourself enough of a break and time to heal and structure your life in a way that’s more by looking after yourself, by having enough room to recover from the daytime stress. But when he said that, I was like no, the brain is like my personality. I felt I wasn’t really myself. And because you mentioned the stigma, there’s not much talk about mental health conditions in society. It’s increasing. Like in Germany, there’s now a few more or less famous people who spoke up about it. Otherwise it’s a constant stigma. Some people brag about having a broken arm and then get signatures on the cast. But how would you do that with your mental health? 

Hendrik: Well, I think going out there and saying hey as today’s title I believe is hey, yes, I’ve had a mental health condition. Get over it. I have. And that perhaps is the virtual cast that you can get signatures on in the sense of people coming back to you and saying this has really helped me, thank you so much. So without further beating around the bush, I had an anxiety disorder. And in a fairly typical fashion I left it way too long until I was ready to accept therapy. This is something also I’ve noticed and something that I had forgotten about myself. A lot of people are kind of afraid of psychotherapy. They don’t know what it is. They think they will get branded as crazy. They think a therapist is going to take their personality apart and say there is something wrong with you. We have this imagery of being put in a padded cell with a jacket that closes around the back and in the worst case you might be put into some asylum to rot away for eternity. And then people have problems or fears about medical treatment as well because it is so closely linked with our personalities. For me, talking about mental health becomes so normalized that I’ve almost forgotten my own fears about this when it happened to me. And this is what probably leads to what is a quite eye watering statistic that on average sorry, people need seven to eight years from the onset of their mental health condition until they are ready to accept or seek out help. And this is classically what happened to me. So when I had an anxiety disorder, that reflected back on. It happened when I started going to university. So I was fine in high school, not a problem. And then a major life change happened. And psychologists will tell you that this can be one of the triggers of a mental health condition. So my life changed completely. I was independent and able to do whatever I wanted and perhaps I didn’t always make the right choices. And then looking back, I’m pretty sure that’s when it happened, I wasn’t ready to accept that something was wrong until I was at the end of my PhD. So roughly eight years later, and when I was writing my thesis. And that’s really when I fell into a hole where things fell apart and I had to accept, something’s got to give, this is not right. And I went to see my house doctor, something I want to say about anxiety disorder. And of course, my condition got gradually worse. It didn’t quite start out that way, perhaps, and that’s maybe also why you don’t recognize it necessarily early on. But I think there’s a lot of misconception about anxiety disorder as there are misconceptions about many mental health conditions. For instance, the misconception that being depressed is just being like this. A lot of depressed people, like Robin Williams for instance, are very smiley on the outside, but very depressed indeed on the inside. And I think a misconception about anxiety disorder is that people think, oh, you might be anxious, you might be a bit nervous about certain things and wind yourself up, perhaps a bit too much. But it goes far further than that. It escalates to absolutely debilitating fear, where in my worst episodes, I simply was unable to set foot outside my bedroom door. I just couldn’t get out of my bed or God forbid, out into the street to go to the supermarket to buy food. And the supermarket was not even five minutes walk from my place. And I was just irrationally, but completely afraid of being among people and to such an extent that I would avoid it. And until I really had to say, well, if I don’t go now, I’m going to stop. So what’s the worst of the two evils here? So really incapacitating fear, where you build that fear up inside yourself so badly that you start to get physical reactions. And so I would get stomach cramps and that would lead to the fear of throwing up. And of course that was then one of my fears. If I were to go in public, what if I threw up on a bus or in a tram or in the supermarket? That’s so embarrassing. So I would avoid those situations. And if I had to go somewhere, I would avoid eating. I would avoid having something in my stomach because my stomach would be so painful when I went into these situations that the solution to that was don’t eat. You don’t eat. You can’t throw up and your stomach cramps are less. So I was really thin as a student and yeah, I had all these excuses for when I would get invited to this or that by friends. I’d always often drop out at the last minute, not go to stuff that all my other friends did to make up some excuse. I’m sure that lots of my friends had an inkling something wasn’t right, but you tell yourself that they don’t. You think that everybody buys your excuses. I’m sure my family had an inkling something wasn’t right, but it’s a difficult one to address.

That’s the point I did want to make about anxiety disorder. It’s not just being nervous, it is absolutely being scared to death of everyday things stepping on a bus.

Jo:  And is it possible to pinpoint what you’re scared of or is it something to fear?

Hendrik: I think the best way to describe it is I want situations where I felt I was not in control over my choices, whether I wanted to be somewhere or not. That would freak me out. I guess there is an element of claustrophobia there, of being locked up. So, like the example of the bus I gave, the minute those doors of the bus closed, you can’t go anywhere. You can’t say, I’m out of here now until the next stop. And the two minutes to the next stop would seem like an eternity to me. And then the doors open, I’d be, Am I going to get out or can I make it to the next one? That’s how every train journey was for me. University lectures, being in a huge room with lots of students. And then if I felt that I needed to leave the room, that would have been obvious to everybody, that would draw attention to you. So if I went, I would stay at the back of the room, near the door, if I went at all. So not being in control of situations, of whether I chose to be there or not, is, I think, the most easy, straightforward way I could describe it. But it was a bit more complicated than that. 

Jo: Yeah, I can relate to that. Not with anxiety. I have a friend who surfaced from anxiety episodes. She also found a way to manage it, but that’s also what she describes.

She was just scared and then could also name a few things she was scared of. But for somebody who is not in such a state of mind, like in this case, myself, it was hard to empathize. I mean, I felt sorry on her behalf, but not to be confused with pity or anything like that. But yeah, it was difficult to understand, really, what that’s like.

In my case, it was depression and I’m sure there’s also mixed anxiety and depression conditions and in my case it was more like I lost belief in myself. Like self worth was almost gone or declining. And I’m sort of like, what’s the use of me being on this planet after all?

Hendrik: I recognize that, too. And I think a lot of these things I was, sorry, diagnosed eventually when I did come to my breakdown, probably describe that later as having an anxiety disorder. But I am absolutely convinced that I also had episodes of depression.

Jo: It often goes together. 

Hendrik: Exactly. So you think I’m so useless, I’m so worthless I can’t even go to the supermarket. What is the matter with me? What is the point of me? Would anybody even care if I wasn’t here tomorrow? And I wouldn’t say that I was ever actively suicidal, but I certainly thought at occasions, what’s the point of this? What’s the point of life if it is like this? So I do think that it’s sometimes difficult to draw the line and say, okay, you’ve got an anxiety disorder. I think it often comes hand in hand with other things. I think we should definitely talk about depression as well. In describing anxiety disorder, I just remembered there’s a song by Lou Reed, and it’s called Waves of Fear. It’s on. The Man With the Blue Mask. Or no, The Blue Mask album of Blue Reed. Maybe you can put a link underneath.

That is a song that I think really, for me, resonates with these feelings of absolute fear of anything. I think he says in the song, he says, what’s that noise? Who’s that outside? What’s that thing on the floor? I hate my own breath. I can’t stand myself in a matter of three minutes or so. Really captures, I think, me at some of my worst moments. And as art can often do, right, can really make these things come to life. For anybody interested to get an idea of what a panic attack or severe anxiety might feel like, I can really recommend that song by Lou Reed based on Fear from The Blue Mask album. 

Jo: Thanks for mentioning that. I found it and I added it to the reference list. Yeah. 

Hendrik: Okay, continue. Tell us a bit more about your depression, then. 

Jo: I think that’s how it started. I think maybe some of us have. I think some of us, especially researchers, have access. I think people will seek into certain professions. This is my personal observation. Are predestined to sooner or later run into mental health episodes or issues? 

Hendrik: I wouldn’t say predesign is probably a bit strong, but perhaps there is a bit more. I think if your career is really kind of tied up with a calling in life and with your identity and it doesn’t always pan out. And a scientific as well as an artistic career are not easy parts. And so when those difficult career paths are very much aligned with how you identify as an artist or as a scientist, I think that could lead to increased incidence of self doubt and along with that, anxieties, depression, that kind of stuff. 

Jo: Yeah.I don’t know why I started with it. I think I didn’t want to isolate myself and describe what I went through rather embed myself into a whole group of people. 

Hendrik: It is true. It is extremely common among academics. 

Jo: Yeah

Hendrik: We know that, right? 

Jo: Yeah. 

Hendrik: From the scientific studies triggered by the work of Cady Lovec. 

Jo: Yeah. And I’m also finding ourselves in a very demanding working environment and stressful environment. Competition. I think competition is healthy to a very low extent and then it becomes poisonous when we are forced to work against each other where we meant and wire to actually collaborate, which is also what researchers intuitively want to do and generally want to do. But then the system is demanding competition of us and forcing us into that.

Hendrik: That’s a whole other kind of work material.

Jo: That’s a whole other kind of work. Plenty of science materials.

Hendrik: Science should be this objective thing where through reason we uncover the mysteries of the universe when in reality, it’s like a personality cult who gets the Nobel Prize. So there’s a lot of ego tied into it and competition, and that’s not very objective. And there are ample examples, starting with Watson and Crick, of questionable assignment of the Nobel Prizes as well. So objectivity and science are not necessarily directly related. 

Jo: True. Okay.

Hendrik: Let’s not go there. 

Jo: I’m trying to set the stage for describing myself. I’m just diverting into other topics, but here it comes. So I think when I look back, when I put myself back into my own childhood, I think I was always I wouldn’t call it anxious, but cautious of other people. And sometimes as a child also, I would have kind of moments where I was scared to meet new people. Maybe that’s also normal for some children, those who are outgoing and those who are more reserved. As a teenager, all of a sudden I was more outgoing and curious and happy to meet other people. And then during, what is it, high school, I got totally obsessed with the wars that were going on and also famine like ecological disasters to the extent where I said I can’t go to school anymore. This is way more serious and like it really got to my skin. What happens in the world. What I also want to add is that people who have a lot of empathy and curiosity in other people and things in the world to study, I think that also comes with a sensitivity which can then easily be overwhelmed. But it’s just my personal observation. 

Hendrik: There’s really very valid things. 

Jo: And then the worst episode where I thought, okay, there’s no way out of here, was during my PhD. And then also shortly after the peak or midterm where I realized many of us PhD students like, oh my God, more than half of the time is already gone. And how little results do I have and how did I waste my time with that? What I then thought before, I was like, oh, it’s good to have a healthy work life balance kind of activities besides research. So I went scuba diving. I did horse riding and natural exercises just to keep myself out of the level at times and not so obsessed with research. Twenty four, seven, and because that also interested me. But then all of a sudden, I got a feeling of guilt that I spend too much time outside, even though I would still work 50 hours that is normal and some academics and many work more than that. But then I felt okay. I didn’t take holidays. I did spend some time with horses and scuba diving. And now what, I don’t have enough results. And then what did I do? To my PI, to my supervisor, because he clearly also depends on me being efficient. So then I developed this feeling of guilt. It’s not only a failure for myself, but also a failure for other people. And I was like, what did I do? And that’s when I ran into a depressive episode of Totally Lost and, oh my God, I’m totally useless like you described previously. And the worst feeling also, I don’t think I was really suicidal, but the feelings of, what if I took my life and I was going through scenarios and whatever scenario I could think of. No, that’s just causing a mess. And those poor people who are going to find me like, no, I can’t do that to them. So I think people are really suicidal. Don’t think of other people who would then have to clean up that mess. It totally went around. When I thought of my parents, I was like, my friends will never get over it. They have other friends. But to my parents, my dad was still alive. I was like, no, I can’t do it to them. And also not to myself. Really thinking about it, but life is too precious. But the depression was so severe that I thought I would never get out of it. And then I found a place of acceptance. Okay, so then this is the state I’m in for the rest of my life, and I just keep pushing. And also from the scuba people, I had friends who would eventually realize, like, oh, Jo’s become really quiet. She’s not joining the training sessions anymore. What’s going on? So they were calling me and stepping up at my door and forcing me, taking me on a holiday and dragging me out of it. And that also helped me to resocialize after isolating because I would still go to work, but really just sneak around. I wasn’t capable of doing anything meaningful for my research. And I was just trying to show presence as much as possible and working really hard or working on inside like nobody could see. But it was so hard to try and be productive where there was no energy really to be productive. 

Hendrik: That lack of energy I also recognize, actually.

Jo: The feeling is so bad because I have it in me, but where is it? I used to be capable of doing so many things, and now nothing like, can I not even do this one thing, this one experiment? 

Hendrik: I found it quite interesting what you mentioned when you thought about your feeling inadequate in doing your PhD work. And this is a discussion that has become quite prominent also with the imposter syndrome. The funny thing with me is that I never really had that for me, in a sense, my PhD, which I was doing while I had my anxiety disorder, and while my anxiety disorder was probably at its peak, my PhD was, I guess, a bit of a saving grace because I was in the natural science. I was working in a laboratory. A laboratory is an environment where I am in control. I designed the experiment. I decide when the time points are taken. And I was really engaged with that. I was doing something I loved. That was fine. I had a mission there. So that was always something I was very committed to. What was difficult for me were group meetings. If we would have Monday morning group meetings or so, ten people in a room, and you’d have to sit there watching somebody present. I don’t have to go back to the details. That was what was really hard for me. But the work of doing the PhD, the actual research, was something that gave me a purpose and perhaps eventually also would help me accept that I needed therapy. Because the moment I can quite accurately pinpoint when I had my turnaround moment, and it was when I handed in my PhD thesis. I had done months and months of working, writing, writing. Finally, my supervisor, and I must say I had a super fantastic supportive supervisor, said it was okay. So he handed it in, and that’s when I could do whatever I wanted. I was free to do it sort of in a moment of celebration. And in fact, I had planned to go on a backpacking trip with my brother to China, and we had the visa arranged and such. Everything. A lot of organization went into that because China, this was in the late nineties, was also far more closed country than it has since come. And I realized I couldn’t face that trip. All of these fears. Imagine how many buses and airplanes and whatnot you have to get on to get to China. I thought, no way. I can’t do this. I freaked out at the thought of it. And so I had to say to my brother, I’m at rock bottom here, and I can’t do this. And that’s when I went to see my house doctor. And the house doctor said, sounds like an anxiety disorder. Sounds to me like you might benefit from psychotherapy. Here’s the number of a clinic nearby. But mind you, it might take a month or two or three because of waiting lists. And I remember I was just on the phone, so nervous to make a phone call to make an appointment with the psychotherapist. I must have sat in front of their phone for hours before I was able to dial the number. 

Jo: But that’s the moment of exposure, right, exposing is that of needing help. 

Hendrik: Yeah. And I guess it becomes real that you might be branded as crazy. Right. You’re going to talk to psychologists and you think that psychologist is going to say you’re crazy. No, that’s never going to happen. I was actually very lucky because that clinic had just taken on a new psychologist just out of training. They said, we can give you an appointment right away, but we want to be upfront with you. This is someone who’s just starting and doesn’t have a whole lot of experience yet. And I said, okay, well, if I can come next week, I can come next week. That therapist then gave me two options and said, we can go down the route of psychoanalysis and try and find out what the root of your problem is, or we can go down the cognitive behavioral therapy, which disregards entirely what the reason for the problem is, and builds for you the tools to manage your problem. And I said, I don’t care what the reason for my problem is. I want this dealt with. So we went cognitive down the cognitive behavioral therapy route, and I’m really grateful I did because and I don’t remember exactly how long, but three or four months of weekly sessions and I was done. I had my anxiety under control. I still have a latent anxiety disorder that are still, to this day, things that make me very anxious. But I have the tools to deal with that. And not always I’m not always able to deal with it. There are two things that I avoid if I get anxious, but it’s effectively under control. But that fear of a therapy, of what that might mean, is something that I mentioned earlier I recognize and suddenly remember how difficult it was just to make that phone call. That was almost more difficult than accepting that I’ve got a problem.

Jo: Talking about that makes me worried. I feel like cognitive behavioral therapy is a little bit like life coaching. And the life coaching is not as medical or with a medical background. Like, life coaches have not studied medicine or psychology or anything like that. But I feel the tools that are being transferred to the patient or the client are very much similar in equipping us to deal with fear, to deal with uncertainty, to get into action, to have structure in our daily practices. So I’ve done both, and I’ve found that life coaching sessions with self declared or actually educated coaches have helped me equally well as compared to therapy sessions. And therapy sessions are much harder to get, whereas life coaching sessions, you have to pay for your own pocket. So there’s always a trade off. Hendrik: That’s another interesting point, I think, to put out there. It always depends on how well you connect with the therapist. So for somebody who is listening to this and says, maybe, hey, I should do this and maybe I want to look for therapy now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you match with your therapist very well. So I do know people with long term mental health conditions and who have changed therapists several times until they finally found somebody that worked for them. So I was really lucky that I found somebody that matched very quickly and we went down the path that worked for me very quickly and then it was solved in a couple of months. I don’t want to put that expectation out there. That is the case for everybody. And certainly there are also rope elements among therapists or coaches. So if you feel uncomfortable with somebody, you are perfectly within your rights to change therapists as well. 

Jo: It’s a very personal project to engage in and it matters tremendously to have what you might call the right person in front of you, but somebody you can trust and who understands and doesn’t label you as just another patient. But has a genuine interest in helping and seeing as a whole person and not like a clinical case and statistics.

Hendrik: I think that again, depends on how well the two individuals are matched up. I think a therapist must have a distance. And when I finished my therapy, I was so grateful to my therapist and I said, I finished my therapy in the time between a hand and in my thesis. And I was doing my defense. And doing my defense was something I was extremely worried about. I mean, anybody would be worried about that, but throw in a bit of anxiety disorder into the mix and that was a whirlwind of emotion. So through the therapy, I was able to face that. And I was so thankful to my therapist, I wanted to invite her to my defense saying, I wouldn’t have been able to do this without your work. And she was very clear and said, no, this is a professional thing and we are not taking that into the private sphere at all. I am your therapist. That’s a professional thing I do. I am not coming to your life events of graduating from the PhD, which I was a bit disappointed with at the time, but I completely see the importance of maintaining doing that.

Jo:  That’s a very thin line and probably a line to work, the trust, billing and engagement with another person, but also keeping a professional distance for everybody’s safety and well being also in the process. 

Hendrik: Because I’ve noticed in recent times with people I speak to right through my work from a mental health perspective, there are a lot of misconceptions about therapy, a lot of fears about therapy that we’ve mentioned before. Perhaps describe a little bit about what it means to do cognitive behavioral therapy, because when I did it, And my therapist would ask me, can you please describe what happens to you when you have a panic attack? And so I would start describing the sort of situations that gave me a panic attack as I did before getting on a bus, sitting in a lecture room, the prospect of doing a trip to China, these kinds of things. And she said, no, that’s the situation. I want to hear your internal process. What is the sequence of your thoughts that end up in this whirlwind of fear? And I found that very difficult to articulate in these sessions. So it became an exercise of waiting for such a panic attack to happen in order for me to be able to record what my internal stirrings were so I could describe them to my therapist later. And then a very interesting thing happened that the kind of the one thought replaced the other as I was trying to analyze my train of thought that would spiral interfere. It would break that train of thought, spiraling interfere. So that’s probably the best way I can describe how cognitive behavioral therapy works for me with an anxiety disorder, which is very different perhaps from the kind of perception that people have, what this kind of therapy might be. So there is nothing to be afraid of there as somebody sitting in front of you teasing your personality apart, that isn’t at all what happens. So I want to dispel that myth and take away those reservations from people who might be listening. 

Jo: Yeah, I think there’s also many tools and practices that therapists can dig into as they work with a patient, because they would always ask me. I also had several, some of which I had really difficulties with because there was one where I felt like you’re not really listening and I didn’t feel understood. And it might just be like many therapists likely overworked: there are way too many patients, there’s no real matchmaking, way too few therapists based in Germany, but what I have in other countries, way too many people who would benefit from therapy sessions. But then it was a mix of they would always ask, how are you doing? And when I was in the middle of an episode, it was always empty. What should I say? Like the same save or I don’t know. And then giving tools or sharing tools, like structure your day, what are your practices, what are your achievements of the day? Celebrating small wins. And if it’s just so I managed to brush my teeth before midday today. And that can be a huge achievement.

Hendrik: I know

Jo: In that sense, I think some of the therapy sessions I went through were similar to what I’ve then learned. Also life coaches too, like in Structuring, the day celebrating wins, not obsessing about failures, but drawing, learning from the failures and learning and focusing on wins. Just out of my own experience and interest, I would like to ask why anxiety and depression come with a lot of negativity. And then there’s the other extreme of the whole scene of well being, self awareness. Like there’s a trend of mindfulness and all of these live tags which focus on what some people would argue too much positivity because I kind of need both. But I’ve heard people say, but also, again, what’s wrong with being positive about life? What’s wrong with sharing positive ideas and thoughts and trying to turn around the negative thoughts into learning that you can then have a brighter light? Hendrik: Well, let me turn that question around a little bit. But I have become a very optimistic person, which I never was before I had my mental health therapy. I’m now very solution focused. And when a problem emerges, I don’t worry about it, trust you me. I have spent the majority of my life to my mid 30s or so, which is when I did the therapy for my anxiety disorder, I would worry about just about anything. And now I look at problems that present themselves as opportunities to find solutions, and I have become really confident that I will find solutions. Whatever life throws at me, the worrying aspect has gone and it has really changed my identity in some way, that I’ve gone from somebody who expects the worst, and I guess I do still expect the worst and plan for it. But when it happens, I’m able to look at it quite solely and say, right, okay, how are we going to fix this now? 

Jo: Not to get drawn into it and freeze on it. 

Hendrik: Yeah. 

Jo: And also that any of these super positive people deny the negativity that we see in the world. But what does it help to worry the world might end tomorrow. 

Hendrik: Worrying helps you nothing, and then it changes nothing. That’s what I’ve learned from my anxiety. I spent my life worrying and it does nothing, does nothing for you, it does nothing for others. It doesn’t make the problem go away. It doesn’t make the problem worse or better. It’s just you sitting there worrying. So it’s easy to say stop worrying, and it’s not so easy to achieve that. And cognitive behavioral therapy can definitely work with that. Really because I know that we are coming towards the end of our time slot today. We both have busy schedules today with other meetings.

Jo:  But it doesn’t mean that we cannot continue some other time. There’s always more episodes to come.

Hendrik: Right. But I do want to get another really important point in, which is not from my own experience. But I’m involved with several mental health projects and schemes and initiatives and whatnot. And I’m talking with lots of people. And I’ve recently spoken with two people. A friend of mine who had a very severe depression and recently a lady who had anorexia and actually during my university as a very close friend of mine. Anorexia what these three people have in common is that they were actually instituted what we describe as institutionalized. They went into a clinic and they stayed there indefinitely until the condition was fixed. Particularly my buddy who had severe depression, he told me in very plain terms that was the worst case scenario. That was the thing he feared most, to be taken up into a psychiatric clinic. And I think a lot of people fear that. The pad itself that I referred to earlier, this perception that that’s how we deal with the severely mentally ill. We lock them away, never to be seen again, and we view that as an endpoint. He said to me very clearly, and so did these two ladies who were in the clinic for anorexia in the end, it was the best thing that could happen to them because it gave them the time, no timeline set, no deadline set to deal with air conditioning and you go out when you’re ready. And that turned his life around. So the thing he feared most, which was being taken into the clinic, turned out to be the best thing to turn his life around. 

Jo: Yeah, I’m taking away from all the triggers that might drag you down again.

Hendrik: Yes, people are reluctant to a large extent about psychotherapists, but certainly people are fearful of the prospect of being taken into a clinic. And I also want to take that message out there. That is not the end. That can be the start of a new beginning, that can be the liberation of your life, not the entrapment that you think it looks like. 

Jo: Yeah, thanks for adding that, because as you said, the worst case scenario is actually a best case scenario in many instances. And people save their life and turn their life to the better again. Hendrik: What a great way to end it all, because that’s what it’s all about, right? We can accept the help that is out there to turn our lives around for the better. And that is a possibility. And guys, it’s science based. It’s evidence based. If this is no Hocus focus, you will not be branded. You will not be locked away, never to be heard off again. You can get the help that you deserve, so reach out for it. That is the one message that I always want to get out there. It has completely turned my life around. So, hey, as we said, yes, I’ve had a mental health condition. Get over it. I did. 

Jo: Yeah. And also I want to add, like what I described earlier, the worst episode ever where I thought I would never get out of it. I eventually did. So the title of this episode also applies to myself. And then when I ran into another episode, I was like, well, this is not very comfortable. It’s actually quite uncomfortable. But I know it will end at some point. I know it’s just an episode, and if it takes a week or two or three or a month or two, but there’s statistics like what’s the longest possible period it might take? And there’s also medication where you can get out sooner. But for that I would clearly also suggest to see medical advice before taking anything, especially not subscribe. But there are solutions out there, and we are not fewer, rather many of us. And I think it’s also normal for people to be more cautious, and people to be more sensitive. Society needs a diversity of personalities, and it’s a matter of us looking out for each other. And one episode I would like to talk to you about in another chapter and another opportunity is how is it for people in our vicinity, how is it for our parents, how is it for our partners? And what are the experiences that maybe you and I and what we’ve heard of others made with people in their surroundings? How can people who are not affected at the time where we find ourselves in a condition deal with it and best support us? We had a little bit of this in the first conversation we had, you and I. We can go into a few more details and examples of how we can look out for each other at a work placement within families, and especially for those who might think they don’t have a social network they can fall back to. There’s still people in your surroundings you can reach out to see how they are. 

Hendrik: So many things to discuss, still and I’ll be happy to do them in the future. I think my wife sometimes gets exasperated exactly how positive and solution focused I am. And every time there’s an issue, I’m like, yeah, we’ll find a solution to it, don’t you worry. And she’s like, how can you always be so positive?

Jo:It was great

Hendrik: If you think you have a problem and you’re willing to accept the help, you might be surprised. The thing I feared the most, a full auditorium with lots of people. Now I relish standing in front of that auditorium giving presentations. I love giving lectures, I love teaching at university. The irony is I almost never went to lectures as a student. And now, of course, we have the pandemic losses online. But in my academic career, I found that giving lectures and giving presentations to students is the part I really love. It would have been inconceivable when I still had my active anxiety disorder. So I’ve discovered new superpowers. That’s what I always say. You might discover that your weakness is actually a strength wanting to blossom.

Jo:  I think like some traditional coaches I just might say it’s just a transitional phase. Like you are entering a new level and your purpose on being on this planet is to help others, to spread the word, to fix the issues that we see as human societies. So yeah, until another episode. 

Hendrik: Okay.

Jo: Thanks for joining us today, and we’re looking forward to the next one. 

Hendrik: Thank you, Jo. Me too. 

Jo: Bye.

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