Talking. We can all do it. Some of us too much, others too little. Some people talk nonsense a lot of the time, though thank God just as many talk a lot of sense. Some people can even talk out loud or on paper for a living. Even for those who can’t talk, there are always ways and means to communicate with the world. So for something that seems to come naturally to us all, I wonder why we find it so hard to communicate about how we feel? I mean really feel. Especially when those feelings are dark ones.
If you follow my thoughts on social media you might notice I’ve been talking a lot lately (retweets and reposts included), about how we feel and how we need to start talking to each other a hell of a lot more. And about our mental health in particular. Now I know those two words “mental health” send a lot of us into denial and silence. And I understand, I do. Poor mental health is not a nice part of life, as with poor physical health, and it’s therefore difficult to admit that sometimes our brains fail us. It’s scary, it’s hard to understand, and to top it all off, it’s long been stigmatised too. It’s a wonder we’ve all survived this long without opening up the dialogue more.
Except we haven’t. We haven’t ALL survived at all. Because a lot of what I’ve been reading and sharing lately has been statistics, and more importantly stories, of how some people don’t survive their mental health problems. Suicide and the talk around it is something of a taboo. The elephant in the room. The truth swept under the rug. To realise that we’ve got to a point where we can’t allow ourselves to talk about and maybe help someone in the very worst of positions, upsets me. People in my own life have been susceptible to that very rock bottom that causes people to consider an irreversible way out. And yes it frightens and upsets me. And yes it’s not something I want to dwell on. But when people’s lives actually depend on us all talking about it and normalising the conversation around mental health, there’s a very good chance we can take away some of the shame surrounding things like suicide and all the bad stuff that exists around being unwell. And that alone is worth it.
Suicide is just one of the huge problems we’re facing. There are countless people everywhere, and trust me they will be people you know, living daily hells. Talking about depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, personality disorders (the list goes on), is often seen as uncomfortable for those who don’t understand and have never suffered themselves. But what saddens me the most, is that it’s been uncomfortable for a lifetime for those who actually have to live with these illnesses. Shame and fear is a big worry for the very people who need to talk but don’t know how or who to. This stigma that’s reminiscent of decades, no – centuries – gone by is quite frankly past it’s sell by date. We live in the 21st century and being told our mind is unwell should be no different to being told our organs are sick or our leg needs an operation. There are psychiatrists as there are physiotherapists. There are mental health nurses as there are theatre nurses. There are anti psychosis and anti depressants as there are heart tablets or insulin. We have the means to treat people. We have amazing therapies in the form of counselling, CBT and more. We have come a long way. But we just need to go that bit further, by talking, to get ourselves where we need to be. How do we expect our governments and our NHS to understand and listen if we keep silent about the things we want and need? Talking to each other is where it begins. Telling someone we don’t feel well is the first but also ridiculously life changing step. Because once you do that, you start a wildfire of honesty. And over time, that has to filter up to the very top.
I can see the tide turning, a wave at a time, and it’s bringing in a new generation that are starting to talk. And that really gives me hope. But we need more talking. Talking to each other, to our friends, to our communities and it’s so important to talk to our children too. We all know that’s how things change, that future generations hold the keys to our future. Mental health affects children and teenagers more than we care to admit. And again, it’s because we’ve made it an uncomfortable topic that we don’t want to bother them with it. But a child will be more bothered by it’s own unwell thoughts or their parents strange behaviour they don’t understand, than a teacher explaining simple facts of life.
The point to my ramblings tonight? I guess I just have a lot to get off my own chest at the moment. And preaching about everyone talking and not doing it myself would be hypocritical. I’m not always okay and sometimes that’s obvious and sometimes it isn’t. I’m lucky that I have a few people around me that have offered their ear or simply their shoulder and for that I’m grateful. Even though I’ve grown up around mental illness, I was always a child that kept things in and bottled it up. Under the guise of “being strong” of course. Well, trust me when I say you don’t want to be doing that. It doesn’t always happen at first, but one day it’ll all come out and it’s not good for you in any way, shape or form. But you know that, we all know that. And saying is a lot easier than doing right? Writing things down helps me immensely, whether it’s honest blog posts like this or the stories and poems in my notebook by my bed. And I mean it when I say that I’m more than happy to be someone’s ear if they need it too. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, whatever… its open. To my friends, acquaintances, hell even if we’ve never spoken, I would like to think I’m one more human being that is willing to listen and help you talk it out. Because it’s all very well being brave and talking about our messed up minds, but if no one is prepared to listen then it’s all in vain.
And finally, talking face to face is a lost art I’m sure. So if you have someone you feel comfortable with in life, then please do it more often. I know it’s easier to text and if you’re like me, you might have friends and relatives that live far away. I know it’s so much harder and we feel ultra uncomfortable telling people our darkest or most worrying thoughts, but it’s so necessary. There’s nothing better than spontaneous and real conversation. We have too much time to prepare and filter what goes in a text. Sometimes talking without our phones and looking into someone’s eyes and seeing their genuine reaction just reminds you of why we carry on: life, love and friendship.
We need people to help each other through this crazy life because it is crazy and now more than ever, with all that’s going on in the world, we need to be there for each other.
(Note – Mind’s website is a brilliant tool to learn about all things mental health, for yourself or loved ones: Mind.org )
So there we are. My essay and a bloody half on why I want you all to talk more when you feel able. I want myself to talk more too. And I definitely want the world to talk more… So that one day our children can understand that if their Mum is acting strange, it’s okay to TALK and tell someone. And if they wake up feeling less than 100%, they recognise that feeling because they learnt about it in class and TALK to someone about it sooner rather than too late.
And please please please remember – whatever you’re feeling doesn’t mean you’re crazy or the horrible things your mind is probably having you believe. If you’re feeling it means you’re still alive, and I’m grateful for that.