• Alana Mai Mitchell

Opening up to your vulnerability

In a safe space, being open with your vulnerabilities, especially accepting the whole of your mental health story, can create opportunities for you.

While I am a highly influential leader in Australia’s Financial Services industry, I have also experienced 5 involuntary hospital admissions for my condition, one that is labelled “psychotic depression”.

If you go back a few years ago, the fact that I had a “mental illness” had a huge amount of power over me. I felt as though my mental health was a dark secret I had to hide, for fear that if I was exposed, people would lose confidence in me. I felt embarrassed and ashamed by my mental illness, and never spoke about it to anyone.

But, through what I have learned about accepting, unconditionally loving and owning the whole of me and all of my experiences, I have come to see that there really is nothing to hide.

Nothing to hide.

In fact, from my experiences, I have found there is everything to gain in sharing the whole of yourself, mental illness included, with people. Through a process of continually embracing my vulnerabilities, I have created opportunities beyond my dreams.

Let me share with you about those opportunities...

When I realised I wanted to create more leadership opportunities in the organisation I work for (a major Australian bank), I didn’t sit back and wait for those opportunities to be presented to me. I went out there and took action. One of the most impactful actions was when I shared my mental health story on LinkedIn. My post began with the following words...

“A few years ago I went through a mental health crisis. With the circumstances at the time, the doctor told me “You will be homeless.” I was shocked....”

I received an overwhelming response from people that blew me away. Some of the comments from people were...

“Thank you for sharing this beautiful part of who you are Alana. There’s so much power and strength in this. May you be the force that enables people to free themselves from the shackles of this situation, their beliefs and other people’s beliefs.” - From a friend

“Wow, I didn’t know that. We’re so lucky to have you as part of the team.” - From my manager

“Great story and glad to see you navigate through things. Well done.” - From a senior executive who was deeply involved in when one of my psychotic episodes happened at work.

The sharing from that LinkedIn post grew, and I later ran a video workshop with my colleagues (30 people or so), where I shared my experience of being in a mental hospital and drew parallels between the confined conditions I was placed under, and the situation we found ourselves in with the COVID-19 restrictions. I shared with my colleagues how, even in such a challenging environment, I was able to accept the whole of my experience and from a place of freedom, create a new business venture from within the hospital. The name of that business venture was aQuity Coffee (you can watch a short video about it here), and it created a sense of hope with the hospital staff of what patients were truly capable of within the mental health ward setting.

As I received so much joy from writing, I decided to write a book, where I would share not only the detail of my 6 year journey with psychotic depression in full, but the story of how I landed a six figure salary and went onto create a joyful life. Now, that book isn’t even printed yet, but I have continued to share the energy, hope and transformation of my story with people and organisations, such as Gotcha4Life for example, with the intention of creating greater freedom in others.

None of this would have been possible if I remained in fear and did not fully accept and own my mental illness. None of this would have been possible if I did not get to a place where the term “mental illness” was not separate to me, and instead by contrast, I actually love all that my mental illness has given me.

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