World Mental Health Day

I am, to use the vernacular, not right in the head. I’ve wrestled, tickled, fought, embraced, and even tried to not acknowledge my mental health issues over the years with varying degrees of success and humour over the years.

I’m cyclothalmic, and clinically depressed, and have PTSD which adds a particularly nuanced variability in my ability to deal with crowds and unexpected loud noises at different times of the year.

Why am I telling you this? To be visible; and wave a flag to people that I may never meet that they are not alone. I hope that the thought that there’s someone else fighting to function through the day will help in some way. Our fights won’t be the same fight, because everyone deals with mental illness or its fallout in different ways; but there are points of congruence and similar experiences, even if it only manifests as a similarly dark and dry sense of humour that doesn’t just skim close to the knuckle but buries in there like a cleaver and has a good wriggle around.

Sometimes I have a constructive attitude towards it – that my brain works in a different way, and that my experiences give me insight and empathy towards other people and their circumstances. Sometimes I can’t do that because I don’t have the reserves to care for myself and my own existence, let alone anyone else. These are days of flat stares and silence, of not washing or taking care of my appearance. They’re days of retreat and being incapable of reaching out because I know with granite certainty that I’m not worth it, and people either have enough of their own things to deal with or that I’m just not their cup of tea and am a burden if I ask.

I take my medications, and I’m in long term counselling that is as useful during healthier times as unhealthy as a sounding box to unpick behaviours and reactions to work out what is fuelling the responses to what is around me.

All this is a very very roundabout way of saying: talk to people, listen to people, talk to GPs, use the talking therapies. Do whatever it takes to be heard and gather the support networks of friends and professionals so you can put in place your healthy coping mechanisms.

Paradoxically, even if I’m having a hard time, I can still listen and talk to other people in difficulties. In part I think it’s because *shock* someone wants to talk to me, or it’s a distraction from my own headspace. You may find the same works for you, or you may not.

I’m rambling now. It’s late and I’m not well. Mental Health Day, it’s important. You are important.

World Mental Health Day

It was World Mental Health Day yesterday and I didn’t mark it, appropriately enough, because my own mental health got in the way.

While some might question the need for a day to be set aside when we should be concerned with something that will affect everyone at some point in their life – directly or indirectly – the additional spotlight can do no harm in reducing the stigma and in raising awareness.

I don’t have the capacity at the moment to talk about where I am on my own meandering journey through clinical depression, PTSD, and of course that old friend anxiety. I do know that I would not be in the comparatively functional state that I am without the support and forebearance of family, friends, colleagues, and medical professionals over the years. They’ve all helped when the black dog has been barking loudly.

Wrapping up, and to illustrate how big the issue is, I was working somewhere recently and taking a break when the conversation turned to the various pills and potions we need to take. Every person in that room was taking antidepressants regularly.

It somehow made us all a little more relaxed to feel comfortable enough to share that in that moment. That’s why we need World Mental Health Day.

Who Needs Normality

It takes days like World Mental Health Day to remind me that many people are scared witless of people who are ill, or healing from trauma. We’d hope that people wouldn’t expect someone who had broken their leg to just walk it off, and yet that same attitude seems applied without any sense of irony to so many of us when it comes to mental health. If not dismissive, the reaction is often one of fear, fuelled by media imagery and folklore. We can’t win.

Grrr, and indeed, arghhh.

My disconnect comes from being aware of so many people in my life, between partners and friends, who struggle every day, and yet I still stumble across people who seem shockingly misinformed on a regular basis. It’s not as if the information isn’t out there, and the people getting it wrong are often intelligent individuals – so there sadly continues to be a need for days like today.

Go, read widely, starting with MIND, and listen and talk and engage with the people around you. A huge number people suffer from some form of mental illness at some point in their lives – at least as many who suffer some form of more easily visible physical illness – but because it is invisible, it is often downplayed.

I’d feel upset, if I wasn’t already mad.