There are all kinds of initiatives nowadays to get people to talk about their thoughts and feelings but I still find mental health harder to talk about than addiction which is weird, because if my mental health had been good, or to use a stupid word, ‘normal’ then I very probably wouldn’t have had an addiction at all. But there’s no point in thinking like that, because it won’t change things.
I doubt myself a lot. I wonder if I’m good enough, if the things I do are good enough, if the effort I put in is enough. I worry that I write too much, or share too much, and yet, writing is such a good way for me to process things. I worry that I’m not running enough and losing the fitness that I worked hard to build, but then I don’t want to go out much at the moment. If something goes wrong, I worry that it’s my fault. I worry that… well I think you get the picture, I worry about most things. To be honest, being in my head without medication is pretty much a nightmare. It’s hard work with medication, but it’s so much more manageable. According to Mind, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK experience mental health problems each year, with 1 in 6 experiencing anxiety and depression each week in England alone. That’s a lot of people!
A few years ago I came across Ruby Wax, not as the comedian she was already well known for, but as a mental health advocate. She is fabulous and having really struggled with her own mental health now writes really honestly about her own experiences. I’ve read a lot of her books, but had missed an older one, called ‘How Do You Want Me?’ and read it recently. This quote from it really struck a chord with me, “When you have a mental disorder, in other words are sick in the head, the big double whammy is that you can’t tell you’re ill, because when the very brain that makes these assessments is infected, it can’t give a correct reading. No one’s second-in-command - no one. If you had a spare brain it would tell you you’ve gone nuts, but you don’t[.]” I think it’s true for a lot of us, that we doubt if there is anything wrong, especially when we still function, even if we’re not quite ‘right’. It’s easier to doubt ourselves and to carry on pushing through than to stop and ask for help. I know that even after years of being not quite right, and times of being far worse than that, that I still doubt whether others will believe me, that I’m not making a mountain out of a mole hill.
The problem with mental health is that it’s inside. No one else can see it, so it’s hard to understand. If it were a problem with a part of the body you could see, then it might be deemed more valid, but often because it is internal we are told to ‘pull ourselves together’ or ‘cheer up’. That does nothing at all for the way we feel. Instead it makes it worse. It chips away at the confidence we have, and makes us doubt the feelings we have. If anything, when I was told things like that, it made me feel worse about myself because it made me feel that my feelings were wrong. However much you try to stay positive, you can’t always change the way you feel.
I really feel strongly that we need to talk about mental health, but also from experience I know how hard it is to do that. I think the stigma needs to be reduced and removed, but I’m not sure how we go about doing that. It’s a difficult thing to change, but we do need to realise that when 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health problem, it is a significant amount of people, not something that can be easily swept away under the carpet. We aren’t all wrong for feeling the way we do, maybe we’re wired differently, maybe it’s that the world has evolved to a point that it’s actually too mentally demanding for many of us. We aren’t designed to live in constant connection with everyone and everything. We know not only what is happening in our home, town and area, but also the rest of the country and usually the world. We weren’t meant to cope with the demands of this constant knowledge, there is no down time to recover, and so it is taxing, and eventually, often something has to give.
There’s no magic answer to any of this, but to try to be kind to yourself and to others. No one knows, and how can they, what anyone else is experiencing, and how the same things we all go through affect others. We are all capable of change, but for some of us it might take longer than for others.
Take care of yourself, thank you for reading.