It’s Mental Health Awareness week. It is just as important to look after your mental health as your physical health and this week is trying to focus on and raise awareness of doing checking your mental health..
Living with Anxiety disorder and compulsive thoughts for as long as I can remember it’s not hard for me to be reminded to look after my mental health. Sometimes I just need to go and have a quiet half hour upstairs, take some time out for me just to breath and feel my feet touch the ground. Sometimes I have to go out and do a gym class, have a walk or a bike ride and feel my body moving. Sometimes I have to climb into an oversized fleecy hoodie and pull the hood over my head and hide from the world. I am lucky, I know many of my triggers and I have learned the best way for me to deal with the outcomes. I don’t always get it right, but these days I get it more right than wrong.
If you feel that you are struggling then you need to go and ask for help. I was amazed by a chap I spoke to a little while ago who was more than happy to go to his GP because he found a lump in one of his testicles but he couldn’t go to the GP to say he was struggling with depression – “It’s just not their problem, I’ll be ok, I’m not going to die from being a bit depressed, I might die if I have cancer in my balls though”. There are two sad things here, firstly that there is still so much of a stigma around mental health that you are happier to go and show off your meat and two veg than talk about your brain. Secondly that people don’t think bad mental health can kill you – it really can.
There are a number of people in my life (and folk I know on social media) who are really struggling with just staying alive at the moment, their suffocating depression and thoughts of inadequacy are so great they are struggling to keep fighting the battle. I find the thought of suicide as a really tough one to deal with – I have never been there so I can’t comment from my own experience. I used to think suicide was a selfish easy way out, you know – just check out because you can’t be bothered anymore. Then leave everyone to clear up after you and live a life that will always be a little bit broken because you are not part of it. However, the more people I have got to know who have felt suicidal or have experience of suicide my views have changed. It breaks my heart to think of the way you must feel to take (or attempt to take) that most final of acts. To feel so alone, helpless, exhausted and broken that the only way you can see out of this situation is to bring it to an end. All I can say is if you are feeling like this, please talk to someone. There are so many groups out there who you can speak to or just reach out to someone, anyone and know that you are not alone. If it is too much and you make that choice to leave this world by your own hand, there will be someone left who will sit there thinking, “My phone was on, if only they’d called, I would have listened while they talked, help them know that there was someone there, someone who cared”
Just like all illness, mental health can be a simply cured for some people – taking medication that works for them or referring them for counselling sessions and a few months later they are back to full health. For others it is more of a lifelong plod along, with ups and downs along the way, hard days and days where things are more simple. Either way this recovery will all begin with a conversation.
Mental Health problems are still a huge taboo and we really need to get better at talking about our ‘stupid brain’ (as I call it) and it’s chemical imbalances and all the other stuff that affects our thinking. We need to get better about noticing changes in our brain, personality and other triggers just as we are all told to check our boobs and balls for lumps and bumps. We need to look at ways of preventing bad mental health – making sure we eat well and exercise (which will obviously help our physical health too) but also taking some time out to feel our feet firmly on the ground, to build confidence and try new things. Learn to celebrate the little victories and not to sweat if things don’t quite go to plan.
Essentially we all need to learn to love ourselves a little bit more and ignore our ‘stupid brain’. It took me a long time to learn that, and my life has changed because I am learning to be more forgiving and say “It’s ok to feel like this, how can we work around it” rather than punishing myself for not being able to do something that others take for granted like doing the shopping or getting on a bus.
So start looking for lumps and bumps in your brain and may that lead to bad mental health and then please keep talking, always. You are too important to someone to be convinced by a stupid brain that you are not.