Today is Time to Talk Day from the folks over at Time to Change. Across the UK they’re asking everyone to take just 5 minutes to talk about mental health. It could be with a family member, friend, colleague, even a stranger at the bus stop! (Though be careful with that last one…) This happens every year, I wrote about it last year too as it’s such an important topic to me.
It’s really important for everyone to acknowledge and check in with our own mental health
– and to discuss it with people we feel comfortable with. You may not think you have mental health if you don’t have a ‘problem’ but we’ve all got it. It can be good, and it can be bad. Not everyone has mental illness, but mental health can go through ups and downs no matter what. The issues come when we bottle up our emotions, and encourage others to do the same. This can lead to mental health problems, or the worsening of preexisting conditions. If you cut your knee, you do something to fix it; putting a plaster on or asking someone to look after you if you need it isn’t a sign of weakness. So why is talking about mental health and mental illness seen as something shameful? We’re brought up not to talk about problems too much, to ‘keep calm and carry on’. During the war I’m sure that was helpful.
If you’ve got a war going on inside your head it offers little comfort.
When I was growing up I often felt lonely, miserable, and like I was never going to be happy. I had a lot going on and I never really talked to anyone about it. I had meetings with a ‘learning mentor’ in school, but really it just allowed me to skip a few lessons and avoid some of the problems for a while. As my mum got more ill I felt like I couldn’t worry her with my problems either, so I bottled everything up even more. When I moved to London for uni I thought I’d have a fresh start, and hopefully overcome all the things that had held me back at home.
The trouble was that I didn’t address the problems, I just tried to ‘reinvent’ myself as a different person.
Obviously it didn’t work, and I spent most of my university years getting upset and anxious over things, making stupid decisions, and ignoring all the issues. When my mum died it was a slap in the face, but it got me to acknowledge that I needed to work on my issues instead of pushing them away. The path to overcoming your problems is through them, not around them. After going even further into a state of depression and anxiety, I finally began to build myself up – slowly at first but steadily getting stronger. I now feel like I’ve got through the worst of it, tackled the brunt of my grief and pain.
But I know that it’s never going to fully go away.
When you experience poor mental health you realise how fragile your well-being can be, and accept the fact that it can change at any time. This is why it’s so important to look after your mental health in the same way as your physical health. The first step to that is having an honest conversation with yourself about the state of your mental health
and then opening up the space for conversations with others.
It’s only by talking about our mental well-being that we can break down stigmas, acknowledge our issues, and seek help if we need it. I’ve got a series of posts planned around mental health and well-being, which will I’ll be starting later this month. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences too. Have you had a mental health issue that you’re working through or have successfully overcome? Do you feel like you want to talk about stuff that’s been getting to you? I’m here and happy to listen to anyone, if you don’t feel comfortable commenting here you can send me a message on my Facebook page or get in touch via Twitter too. The important thing is to make time to talk about mental health.
Here’s a list of resources in case you feel you want some professional advice or support. This list is in no way exhaustive, and I would encourage you to speak to your GP if you don’t know where else to go.
Have a good day, and remember to take care of yourself!