In Blackest Night – The Importance of Mental Health
So, yesterday was ‘World Mental Health Day’. It was great to see so many people talking about it. People that perhaps wouldn’t normally. Perhaps change is coming? Could society be ready to embrace the issue and tackle it in a more responsive and less dismissive way? Time will tell.
Social media is great, at times, but is it the case that things appear to be better than they are because of the very nature of it? I mean, it’s easy to share a post and not even read it – shit, I’ve done it with some articles before. Sharing is caring…unless you don’t care what you share? As long as it gets people talking I guess it doesn’t really matter, right?
Talking is key. It’s not a cure but it certainly helps. But, I’ve found through experience, I have to be selective about who I talk to. Not everyone is equipped to deal with what you have to say. Whether it be mentally or emotionally (or both), some folks just cannot handle the harsh truths you may blurt out. And that’s the hardest part. For someone struggling to open up to anyone, it’s even more daunting to have to really think who to open up to.
Growing up, I always found it easier to open up to a complete stranger (well, not a total stranger but someone I’m not related to, friends with and have no affinity toward). I’ve learned the hard way that family and those closest to me are sometimes the worst to open up to because they hear what I say but then interpret that as a reflection on them. Often, it would turn the attention on them asking, “What have I done to deserve this?” You haven’t done anything, I’m just telling you how I feel because I’ve heard it may help me.
I’ve also found it hard to open up to my employers. Their motives are not akin to friends/family. They have a duty to ensure you do your job but also have to straddle the line of trying to manage you on a personal level. But the business hat often obscures the personal view and often made me regret saying anything. I end up belittling my situation, stifling my voice so as to not appear as ‘high maintenance’ or ‘needy’. I fear rejection or the lack of validation so often approach the subject by saying something like, “I’m probably just being stupid” or, “Sorry to be a pain…” I’m apologising for my existence; making an excuse for my being there. I know I shouldn’t, but the social anxiety I suffer forces me to do it. You know when you have a plan in mind as to what you want to say (perhaps a speech or a way to tackle a subject like asking a girl/boy out etc.) and you end up fumbling with the words and the message is nothing like what you had intended to say? It’s very much like that.
I often bottle it up and try to allow it to pass to spare me the hassle of taking up someone’s time that truly doesn’t get it and would leave me no further forward and worrying over how I came across and being paranoid about what would be said about me after. So I joke about things. Things that should never really be joked about. That’s always been my coping mechanism. Make a joke about slitting my wrists whilst, internally, I am truly giving the idea much thought and I desire to no longer exist more than anything else in that moment. A facade.
I very much had the mentality of Tony Soprano when he was ashamed to mention the ‘D’ word and how fired up he got about Gary Cooper. The strong, silent type. That’s how I saw myself. Strong because I could hold it all in. Strong because I was being a man, wasn’t I? Men don’t talk about their feelings. Men just get on with shit. Years later I would learn that it was strength that would allow me to openly discuss my shit without feeling ashamed or awkward. It’s strength that would permit me to continue living when, at times it seemed, there was nothing worth living for.
I never proclaim to be an authority figure when it comes to mental health and I never will. This is simply my opinion. But I would like to share something that I have alluded to before and wish someone had told be before. I’ll be brutally honest here; if you have a mental health condition, you’re stuck with it for life. There is no cure. There is no ‘going away’. It is as much a part of you as your shadow. There are certain circumstances where it won’t seem like it’s there but it will return. As sure as night follows day, it’s always there – just because you can’t see it doesn’t make it so…
I made the mistake of thinking I was cured once. The naivete of a fledgling depression sufferer. I’d ;like to tell you it gets easier but I can’t even convince myself that’s true. Instead, in all honesty, all I can say is some days it is more bearable than others. There are days where you will feel untouchable and great and there will be days where, without warning or any noticeable trigger, it will be pure Hell. I’ve seen myself in the throes of depression over the course of a day where I’m up and down like the lines on an ECG sheet.
The past two or three weeks have seen a significant strain on my mental well-being. My coping mechanism has managed to fight off the worst of it, but laughing and joking about serious subjects can only go so far before I see through the lie my mouth is trying to tell my mind. I have been on Mirtazapine for about nine months. I have missed the occasional dose (sometimes up to a week like a few months back when I forgot to put my repeat prescription in and the bank holiday weekend delayed me from getting it done). It hasn’t ‘fixed’ me, but it is a lot better than Sertraline.
I never nap through the day (kinda hard considering I work almost every day, but even on my days off I don’t) any more. Lethargy and sluggishness are still big factors in the mornings and procrastination is still an issue for me but, on the whole, I am much better than I was this time last year. In some ways, this last year seems to have flown by but then there’s the converse; I look back and think some of the stuff seemed so long ago. The wedding, for example, seems much longer than almost ten months ago.
So what are the main take-aways? Talk. Find someone you can trust and feel comfortable opening up to. If there isn’t anyone or you can’t just drop everything to do so, write it down. It doesn’t necessarily need to be out in the open per se, just write as if you were talking to someone. It’s cathartic. If you’re comfortable sharing it, by all means blog about it or post it on your social media or even vlog/podcast about it too. Just remember, there could be some backlash or negativity that could render the entire exercise redundant and perhaps leave you feeling worse than you did.
I’m a member of a few subreddits on depression and anxiety – I rarely post, I just look at what other folks are sharing and upvote if I find it helpful or if I can relate to it. I’m also a member of a Facebook group which is run by my buddy Scott and I post occasionally on there – usually if I’m in a bad place or if I’ve found something that helps. Here is where I typically share my life publicly. I used to publish podcasts but, being a naturally shy person and feeling like I lack a proper ‘radio’ voice and the creative flair for a polished production, the trolls I drew in made it feel like a fruitless effort. I didn’t particularly enjoy it and, as much as I’d love to podcast again, I just lack the voice and content that makes it a worthwhile listen.
Know the signs and seek help. If you don’t know the signs, have a close circle of friends or family that can spot them and try to help you out of it. Don’t refuse help. It’s not a case of pride. In the words of Marcellus Wallace, “Fuck pride.”
As much as you may not feel like it, try to eat and drink healthily. A shitty mind leads to a shitty body and the two feed each other (pun not intended) in an endless cycle. Break the cycle or, better yet, stop it before it can even become a thing.
Consume content. Whether it be reading, watching movies or listening to music/podcasts. Distractions. Lots of them. They will help. The more random the better – hence why I love listening to ‘Harmontown‘ and watching stuff like ‘Rick and Morty‘, ‘Archer‘ and ‘Big Mouth‘.
Being totally honest once again, the only things keeping me going at the moment is the hope that I win the Lottery each and every week and the fact I’m so close to my first wedding anniversary. I’ve made it this far through the year, I might as well keep going.