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Founders Journal #1: Changing how we talk about mental health

I’ve wanted to write a founder’s journal for a while, but I’ve never really gotten around to it. I am imagining writing this in a nice moleskine Sanctus branded journal. 

Today I want to write about how I’ve changed, which is about me, as you might gather. Yet I also want to make some more general points about mental health, the coaching industry and even Sanctus really, through my own personal experience.

Mainly I don’t actually think we are talking about mental health that inclusively still, we’ve got good at focusing on the dark and unpacking taboos and stigma. Yet I fear it’s becoming taboo to share good news and be joyful or have hope. That worries me and we need that, we desperately need it. In the words of Krista Tippet from On Being – “Hope is a muscle”. I love that.

When I started Sanctus I was experiencing mental health issues. Mainly feeling anxious, having panic attacks and also asking lots of big existential life questions. I’ve always done what we founders disgustingly call “dogfooding” (or I’ve made this one up) where you eat your own products before anyone else. If I go back to 2016 – there is nobody more up for trying a Sanctus product than me and there are no bigger advocates. 

I didn’t create coaching but I found coaching as a product that I needed for my mental health and a 1:1 space that felt accessible to me. I wanted Sanctus Coaches to have a range that they could work with. A range to deal with a 25 year old anxious existential questioner and “how do I be a better founder/CEO of this new business I have started?”. 

Understandably our brand was very mental health at the start and still is, and we always wanted to broaden mental health to show people that WE ALL HAVE MENTAL HEALTH ALL OF THE TIME and that EVERYTHING WE DO IMPACTS OUR MENTAL HEALTH. Or, EVERYTHING IS CONTENT – which kind of means everything we do all of the time reflects who we are in the world, how we feel about ourselves and therefore = MENTAL HEALTH. 

For example, how you eat an apple could be reflected on in a coaching session to create an intervention that may lead to a new way of seeing yourself or the world. How you eat an apple could be an insight that leads to growth. Sounds a bit high-level, but it’s true. 

So I was struggling when I founded Sanctus and our coaching caters and can support people who are struggling. There have been many people who have received Sanctus coaching who have been anxious or been experiencing mental health issues. Sometimes they work with a coach once and then feel able to get more support independently. Other times they work with the coach for months and months. 

However, what I probably haven’t talked about as much as I definitely could have done, is the not struggling part. The doing well. The smashing life. The winning. The feeling fucking great. Can I swear? Yes, it’s my founder’s journal – I can do what I want. 

I suppose at times even I, Mr Mental Health Man, have been kind of sucked into this old school mental health culture where everything has to be suffering and in a way, doing well sometimes is frowned upon because “YOU’RE BEING DISRESPECTFUL TO THOSE NOT DOING SO WELL”.

Honestly, it’s that kind of culture around mental health that I want Sanctus to break. 

So I’ve probably not talked about mental health in a positive light about myself as much because I kind of created this image of myself as the man who is vulnerable and talks about sad, bad things and makes that OK. 

I, of course, will still do that as we need to create permission for shameful or taboo topics to be aired. 

Yet we also have to celebrate the wins with grace and dignity at the same time as shining a light on the scars and stigma of mental health. 

Like, can we celebrate someone feeling more confident to apply for a new job and make a lot more money? Is that mental health? YES

Can we celebrate someone getting married when they were fearful of commitment? Is that mental health? YES

Can we celebrate someone getting a dog when they always wanted one but just never got round to it? Is that mental health? YES

This is all the muddy spectrum of life and I want to celebrate it all. 

I’ve changed dramatically and I am about 1000x happier with myself, who I am, my body, my being than I was before and that’s because of what I have experienced through Sanctus and particularly coaching has been the portal to ALL OF THAT GROWTH. 

Here is a list of how much I have changed and I am not kidding you when I attribute all of this change to Sanctus:

• I got married and Sarah is amazing (thank you coaching for getting me to stop thinking so much about work and prioritising my relationship)

• I found a hobby in rowing

• I found a hobby in reading

• I don’t slam my body so it’s injured all the time (more kind to myself)

• I feel like I have enough money (holy hell wow)

• I feel like I have enough time (yes)

• I have great relationships with my family (coaching which lead to therapy, thank you to my therapist and then coaching a bit more after that)

• I love nature (thank you to all forms of coaching and other self-development stuff which often point that way)

• Oh and I wrote a book and write a lot quite well (10000% down to coaching and journaling because I am a good reflector)

But James you can’t say that’s all down to Sanctus and to the product you sell to businesses? Isn’t this just a sales pitch?

Yes I can say that, because it’s true. 

Sanctus has created huge growth for me, through Coaching 1-2-1 and then the community surrounding us has been the enabler. 

And no this isn’t a sales pitch – I am actually intrigued to see if anyone will read this, I hope you do 🙂

Welcome to my Sanctus Journal. Week 1.