Sometimes the best way to change something is to talk about it. Recently I’ve been so pleased at the increased focus on mental health on TV and social media. Think Stacey in EastEnders and Mind adverts on Comedy Central. I think a message is beginning to spread that we need to talk about this problem that for too long has been sssh-ed and swept under the rug of taboos.
There’s a lot of statistics out there and sometimes that bamboozles us and takes away the human behind the illness. But put it this way, you will know someone who has suffered, is suffering or has a close family member who suffers from a form of mental illness. Be it depression, anxiety, bi polar, the list goes on. And you probably don’t even know it.
So seeing as we’re being honest… I’ve suffered from anxiety and I never thought I would. I watched my Mum have panic attacks, anxiety and a whole other mental illness as I grew up and at times I didn’t understand it. Other times I was just scared I might feel it one day. That I might have to take ten tablets a day. Well, turns out I did get anxiety but this time I understood it all too well. Simply put, there is no ‘trigger’ which is the most frustrating thing. Because if you know what causes something you can take steps to eliminate it. Once I was out with friends, eating a meal when it felt like someone had poured a bucket of ice cold water over my head. I stopped eating and waited for it to pass. The next time was at home on my sofa, a place I thought I felt safe. Other times it’s the thought of going out. And sometimes it’s at the sight, or thought, of food. At worst it can last for a few months. Other times a few minutes. For those longer periods, a lot of camomile and peppermint tea, endless bubble baths and isolation helps. Kalm tablets not so much. But everyone needs different things to get them through so it’s trial and error. I’m well aware it can strike again at any time. The only difference is that this time I’m prepared. And I think that’s the key. Don’t fight it: feel it, get through it.
Earlier this year, I got to a place where I couldn’t see an end to it. And at that point I wish I had told more people how I felt because they probably could have helped. Not even how I was feeling necessarily.. but how I felt afterwards. Someone to ask the “why”, “how” and “does it get better” sort of questions. And telling people is the only way for them to help you. People can only make it more comfortable for you if they know what’s wrong in the first place. But onwards and upwards. Touch wood all is well at the moment, simply because I’m feeling stronger for knowing how my mind works. If only we put as much emphasis on how our brain (you know, the thing that controls pretty much everything) as we do our latest haircut or weight.
So let’s start talking. Let’s start telling our individual stories, sharing the scary ones, and sometimes funny ones, because it’s not all doom and gloom. The embarrassing things you do when you’re not 100% can put a smile on your face when you come out the other side.
So there’s that. Sometimes I’m Beyoncé and sometimes I can’t face the world. Sometimes I’m laughing with my friends and sometimes I’m just trying to get through a meal. But there is always an end – that takes minutes or months – but there is. And talking to each other makes the meantime easier to bear.
Last month a 16 year old girl in my town jumped off a building. The flowers are still there. Friends have told me they’ve suffered from depression. Others they also suffer anxiety and panic attacks. Suicide is a huge killer. And yet we still hesitate to talk about it, especially with those close to us.
Let’s do it. Let’s talk about our mental health, give our brains a group hug, and watch some of the weight on our shoulders fall away.