Long time no speak lovely friends. How are you?
I am writing this to you on World Mental Health Day. A day which I hold very dear in my heart. I speak to people most days about mental health in some capacity. Sometimes not the big stuff but just the little things that in the mind of someone who is low become the massive things that stand in the way of getting through the day. Those things that feel like you are carrying around an invisible weight and no matter how many things you put down you just can’t get away from.
It occurred to me only yesterday that more and more often lately I’ve been talking to people who are living with those who are really struggling with poor mental health and are themselves struggling to understand their place in it all and how they can help their loved ones. How hard is that? I’ve often said how much I respect Karl for sticking by me at my darkest times and not giving up on me which I’m sure sometimes would have been the easier thing to do.
So for today a blog about some of the ways in which those who have mental health issues suffer seemed like a good idea. To aid understanding and to add some clarity to why sometimes we do and say the things we do.
I often get the classic ‘but you always seem happy’ and yes I often do. After many years you find a way of smiling through it much of the time. Often of course I am happy. MH sufferers don’t always feel low and anxious all of the time and like anyone else suffering with a medical issue our symptoms come and go. I’ve got a good network around me and there are people who I know I can talk to if I’m getting low or my anxiety starts to take over. This makes me feel safe. If someone with poor MH doesn’t want to confide in you don’t be offended. Sometimes we don’t know why or how we are feeling the way we are so putting it into words can be hard and it’s easier to do that with the people who know us really well.
I have heard many times also that people with poor MH are anti social. This is a very interesting point and actually on reflection I get why people could think this. But it’s not actually true. I am a social person. I like to go out, meet people, see friends and family and all the ‘normal’ things we love in life however I also go through times when I can’t be around people. This is totally about me and usually nothing to do with them. It’s all about my inner voice. I’ve written about it before. Some days crippling anxiety and self esteem issues mean that day to day things are like climbing mountains. I feel worthless, abhorrent and every insecurity I’ve ever had starts shouting at me from inside my own head. To give an example of what this looks like for me the school run is a particularly tough one. If I’m feeling this way and in a low point I don’t want to see people as I worry they will judge how I look, won’t understand why I’m feeling the way I am and will in general think I’m a horrible person. This is I know mostly ridiculous but it’s a genuine fear so I park in obscure places, I avoid the high street where I’m more likely to bump into people, I use the alleyways that weave to the boys school and keep my head down in the play ground. Seems massively antisocial doesn’t it but look closely and you would see me picking my nails, fiddling with my zip and shuffling uncomfortably on my feet. It’s not antisocial it’s self preservation.
Similarly people who suffer often don’t want to do things because they simply don’t feel up to them. It’s really easy to say yes to social events, work engagements and all manner of other things but when that time comes you aren’t in the right frame of mind, you are so low that even getting washed to go out seems too much, you don’t want to face people and you worry that you won’t be wanted or great company when you do get there. You often find that when you cancel plans a couple of times people stop asking you. It’s happened to me. It doesn’t feel great but I guess it’s easier than the worry that comes with feeling you have to cancel and people getting angry with you.
As a blogger I have to walk a very fine line with my mental health and going along to things that put me massively out of my comfort zone. I always feel like I’ve been asked to some of the events I have been by mistake and when I get there they will ask me to leave or that I will be too fat, too ugly and a disappointment to the other people who go. I try and go to these things as often as I feel able though as some of the people I have met through them are the people who get me most and will understand if I’m an anxious mess when I get there.
We as human beings want to fix things, we want to help people and offer solutions to problems which in most things work. However mental health can be so tricky on this score. If one of your loved ones is suffering you want to have that magic wand to wave and to make it all better but sadly you can’t. You can though just be there for them. Ask them what you can do. For me it’s often a hug, a cup of tea and just sitting with me. Allowing me the space to feel what I’m feeling and making sure I am safe. Letting me know I can talk if I want to but that I don’t have to. Not talking at me and telling me how I should feel or making me feel bad for suffering at that time.
Mental health sufferers don’t want to be a burden, we don’t want to be difficult to live with and we know that on some days we can be that bit harder to love. But we also haven’t chosen to be this way. We are on our own journey and we appreciate all you do for us while we are dealing with it.
I think my main message here is not to make assumptions about people with mental health problems. We don’t all follow a set pattern, we don’t always know how to explain how we are feeling or the things we do and we certainly don’t want to be treated like we are a burden or a pain. You wouldn’t treat someone with a broken leg like they are a burden or a pain so why should we be treated like that because we suffer from depression or another MH issue. Most of us would rather that you ask questions than shy away from us and understand that sometimes we need that extra bit of space.
I hope that this may have helped to give a bit of an insight into how mental health can effect people. There are so many more things I could write and so many examples I could give of how I’ve been treated as a mental health sufferer both good and bad.
If you don’t feel you can talk to someone who is suffering the many online resources can offer insights and help. Particularly if you feel that person may be a risk to themselves or others.
To all my fellow sufferers keep going, you are amazing, you are loved and you are so very important. To all those who are caring for and dealing with loved ones with mental health problems keep going, you are loved and you too are so very important.