After a few blog related chats in the pub last night, I’m feeling the need to apologise for how desolate my postings have become. It’s not like I’m not writing; Jeez, I can churn out 3,000 words in less than 4 hours but in light of recent mental health related tragedies, effecting many, many people I know in my local community, it felt to me like there was nothing I could appropriately rant about in my true nature and style without coming across as insensitive.
The main piece of advice any one gives when it comes to Mental Illness is to ‘Talk About It‘ and if you feel it’s something that you can do then it’s a pretty sturdy step to begin on. However, for so many more people this is a completely unrealistic task and isn’t what first springs to mind when fighting a losing battle in your own mind and no matter how many people tell you they’re there for you or that you can open up to, feeling like a burden or not worthy enough of anyone else’s time and attention is a huge factor in not allowing yourself to reach out for help. On top of this and all of the stigma there still seems to be surrounding Mental Health, plus the dire funding and waiting lists that highlight a problematic area within the NHS, I’ve put together some other pieces of advice I’ve received over the years that have helped me help myself.
As I always like to remind everyone, I don’t have all of the answers. I don’t seem to have even one answer or one bit of advice I can pass on in a blanket way to help everyone but one thing I like to think I can do, is share my own personal experiences and how I’ve over come certain difficulties in my life to help anyone else at the moment who feels like they can’t approach this world any more.
If you’ve ever contemplated whether you’re a worthwhile person, I’d always suggest a random act of kindness. Sometimes this is even better when you’re doing something nice for someone you wouldn’t normally. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter whether this is reciprocated or not, just knowing you’ve brightened someone’s day or made their existence even slightly more pleasant; it helps reaffirming that the world needs you. It might sound ridiculous but even being polite to someone like receptionists who usually get a bad wrap and lots of negativity in their jobs can go a long way.
So, you’re not a doctor, you don’t own your own house, you barely see your kids and you’re pretty sure you’re never going to achieve anything in life? Society makes us believe we have to obtain certain things to be accomplished in this world which is far from the truth. I’m still proud that in my English A-level exam, I only dropped 6 marks. It won’t seem a big deal to other people but since writing is a passion of mine, it’s an achievement that reminds me I’m good at something. It’s very personal to me and that’s fine. Note to others: Although it’s fine to be proud of whatever achievements mean something to you, it’s never acceptable to judge others because they don’t have, want or aspire to similar things.
Whether it’s your parents, partner, kids, cat, dog or best friend, remind yourself each and every day how much you love that person (or animal!) Try to do it guilt-free. You don’t need to tell yourself why or focus on anything else other than the way you feel about them/it. Love can make or break you so if there’s something not so sweet at the moment about one of those people in your life, it’s probably best to try to focus on a different person or being.
(Or at least try allowing yourself to…) The little things are, again, a subjective idea. Enjoying little things to me means letting myself dance around the front room to songs that haven’t been cool for at least 20 years. It means not caring that I still enjoy watching the X-files or getting worked up about football. It’s the smell of rain drops on hot concrete or the bubbles in an over flowing bath or vintage picture frames. When you’re in the epitome of depression it’s the easiest thing in the world to forget there are minuscule things you actually enjoy about life. The tiny stuff seems even more insignificant when you’re really struggling but you’re the only one capable of believing not to take these for granted. Even if you’re not in the place to partake in any of these moments that once made you happy, it’s important to remind yourself that happiness exists, regardless of whether you can currently feel it or not.
I know I promised this wasn’t going to be a ‘Let’s talk about it‘ post but this is what I’ve always struggled with most; pushing everyone away. Even if you never want to tell anyone how down and hopeless you feel please welcome everyone who wants to know you with open arms. People are asking because they care, people want to be involved with you because they care, people want to walk in and out of your house because they know you beyond your illness and want to be a part of your life. Let them be. You may feel worthless but you cannot control whether others see you that way or not. Being around so many different people with their own individual life experiences has been a defining factor in my own road to recovery this time round.
Reaching out isn’t for everyone and in the same ways we have to take responsibility for our physical health, we must learn to do this for our mental health. I know more than anyone, what it’s like to lose literally everything in life. I spend a lot of my life blaming myself, some more time blaming my illness and occasionally I reach really dark places where I feel everyone else has done this to me on a purpose because I’m so despised, hated and don’t deserve happiness. Each tip, pointed out above, has helped at some point, deterring me from giving up entirely but I’ve always been the one who has to go on to responsibly dealing with my illness in a positive way.
Even if talking about it isn’t for you, I promise there are more people plodding silently along the same path and none of you can see each other for the darkness. I also promise, you won’t be in that place forever so no matter how many times the night rolls in, there’s always going to be an infinite number of sunrises that are worth sticking around for.
As an aside, I would like to say, if you’re feeling you could open up, Samaritans are available 24/7 on 116 123 in the UK. Contrary to some Facebook posts I’ve seen recently, Samaritans don’t actually offer a text service at the moment and I haven’t been able to verify any of the other ‘crisis’ text numbers repeated in similar Facebook posts – the reason I am mentioning this is because I’d hate for someone to text any of these numbers and feel an overwhelming sense of rejection when they don’t receive a reply. If you can, please consider donating to Samaritans so that they are able to get this type of service running as soon as possible, I truly believe it could be a huge step forward in the battle against suicide prevention.