Overcoming the “Suck It Up, Buttercup” Mentality
As Mental Health Awareness Month concludes, Karla Santi shares a few thoughts to help fight stigma, raise awareness, advocate for anyone on our team with mental health conditions, and honor her loved ones.
As Mental Health Awareness Month concludes, I’d like to share a few thoughts to help fight stigma, raise awareness, advocate for anyone on our team with mental health conditions, and honor my loved ones.
Upon returning home from college for a semester break, I met a version of my mom I barely recognized or knew. She was standing in front of me in blue sweatpants and a sweatshirt, two articles of clothing I’d never seen her wear in public or the privacy of our home. Her hair was uncombed, and her voice was different.
My mom was a perfectionist regarding some things, especially outward appearance and behavior — particularly regarding me. She’d fuss with my makeup before I left the house and comment if she disapproved of my clothes. But now, here she was, seemingly disheveled and broken. My Dad stood beside her with a hopeless look on his face. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to care for someone so sad.
I learned that my mom was suffering from depression and anxiety, likely the earliest symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. Out of nowhere, her mental health prevented her from getting out of bed or functioning as a human. It was startling seeing her this way.
She never got better. After my dad died, she suffered from Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia for nearly a decade. When I lost my mom in 2019, she wasn’t the mom I once knew.
I was taught, in a way, to hide signs of weakness. I remember my mom saying she had no reason to be depressed since she had a good life and no overly traumatic situations impacting her well-being. This is likely why my parents hadn’t called to tell me about my mom’s mental health issues. My mom is probably looking down and disappointed in me for being honest and transparent about her struggle.
But, after going through some challenging life experiences and what sometimes feels like endless grief, I know better than to pretend everything’s okay all the time.
As a leader and founder of our company, I don’t like to expose weaknesses. Understanding how much to share with the entire team can be challenging. My gut reaction to everything comes in two forms: take it as a challenge — “I got this!” — or pretend everything is fine. But sometimes, I need a bit of grace and help. We all do, no matter our position or role. I certainly would have appreciated a role model that taught me that it’s okay not always to be okay instead of taking on a “Suck it up, Buttercup” attitude.
In some cultures, those grieving a loss wear a simple black wristband as a symbol of mourning — the external manifestation of grief. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be courageous enough to wear our emotions on our sleeves, literally? I know firsthand how difficult it is to deal with a loss, show up at work the next day, and attempt to do your job. It’s not easy. I do not recommend it, but the truth is that the world doesn’t stop for you. It’s business as usual for everyone else.
Mental health affects ALL of us. At Blend, knowing our people are each, in their own way, dealing with something, the least we can do is support those dealing with mental health issues or “mental injuries,” as our friends at Well365 have taught us. Thanks to a WorkWell Mental Health grant from the State of South Dakota, we can provide training, workshops, services, and tools to educate our entire team on the importance of understanding mental health issues and how it affects us personally and professionally.
Specifically, this grant covers the following:
- Headspace meditation subscriptions for the entire team
- Well365 Learning Lesson Workshops:
- Loneliness in a Crowded Room
- First Aid to Mental Health (Part I & II)
- NAMI Hearts & Minds training
- Rooftop yoga sessions with The Wellbeing Coach
Over the years, we’ve incorporated numerous wellness challenges that support mental health at Blend. For example, every February is a #FocusedFeb where we set our intentions for our psychological and physical health. This year’s focus was a combination of four things: a Wellness challenge with 28 tasks to complete, a Physical Challenge that encourages 30 minutes of activity for a minimum of 20 days, personal Fitness Goals, and Mental Health Priorities. Everyone who committed to participating received a cool Blend water bottle, with gift card rewards for those that completed 100% of the challenge. We’ve also participated in #NOvember, where we each give up a bad habit for the entire month. We also encourage our team to utilize their PTO for mental health days.
I’m grateful we can normalize the conversations about mental health in our workplace. I’m thankful that many of my team has felt comfortable enough to talk to their director or me about what they may be dealing with and have open and honest conversations. But, most importantly, I’m proud of the trust we’ve built across our team that allows us to show up as our authentic selves.