It's OK to talk about mental health
Accessing the professional support we need to improve our mental health is tough. Aside from the fact that asking for help in itself is hard, in the UK (and further afield) resources are already stretched and many who are asking for help in managing their mental health conditions are being turned away. Those who are offered help are often faced with long waiting lists; I’m actually on an 8-12 month waiting list now myself and the help I will be given at the end of that wait will come from a charity, rather than the National Health Services.
1 in 4 of us are currently diagnosed with mental health problems
At least. That figure is likely under reported, as it’s made up of people who have visited their doctor in the last year and I personally know many people who are aware they are struggling, but haven’t sought out the help they know they need.
On top of the scariness of asking for help coping with our mental health, being turned away can make us feel even worse than we did before we asked in the first place. I know that what most of us ultimately want is to see more money and resources dedicated to mental health, but, while we can campaign for that end goal, there’s little we can do to directly affect the resources are out there. So what can we do in the meantime then?
Talk about your mental health.
Talking about our mental health is not just OK; it’s important.
I’ve spent the last two years talking about mental health and mental illness and, while at time that has been tough, it’s also been beautiful and cathartic and therapeutic and energising. I’ve learned so so much. I’ve made connections with people online that I would never have met, if I hadn’t started voicing my recovery. I’ve turned some of those online connections into beautiful long distance friendships and have been fortunate enough to take some of those relationships into “real world” offline scenarios.
I’ve found people who have truly understood me and who have opened my eyes to what’s really important in life - the world we live in and the people we share that world with.
If I’d never started talking about my mental health, I would never have found a way to channel all the negative feelings and thoughts that were trapped inside me. They would have consumed me, but instead I have been expressing them and letting myself be freer than ever.
I’m still scared sometimes.
Believe me when I say “It’s a process.”. There are still days now when I feel like I MUST be the only one to have ever felt a certain feeling or thought a certain thought. There are still times when I think that something I say is going to be too much information, or that it’s going to finally be the thing that sees me alienated and isolated. I talk about mental health ALL THE TIME, but I’m still scared. I’ve just grown to learn that talking about it is far more important and far bigger than the fear that would be holding me back.
You are not alone.
There are people in your life right now who are ready to listen to you and, even if they don’t understand everything that you’re going through, they’re going to WANT to understand. Please never underestimate how important that is. It’s pretty scary to start having brand new types of conversations with people in your life, particularly about stuff that’s personal; but that’s BECAUSE it’s so important to you. The people who love you and care about you want you to be OK, they want you to be your happiest healthiest self.
Sure, there can be miscommunications and misunderstandings and sometimes our feelings can get a little muddled and crossed with each other; but the answer isn’t to give up on expression altogether. You’ll find the answer while you keep working on communicating. We’re wayyyyy more complex than animals, right? We have the ability to communicate really complex thoughts and feelings, but we still have to practice before we’re pros. It’s better to “say it wrong” than it is to not say it at all. And the person you’re saying it to might be the very person who helps you understand what it is you’re feeling and why.
That little voice in your head that tells you that you’re all alone and that you’re the only person who feels the way you do is WRONG. The people in your life deserve the opportunity to be closer to you and to know what you’re going through and to help you where they can. When you talk to them, you don’t just unburden yourself, you also show them that you’re a person who believes in talking and that you’re a person who can also be talked to.
You are loved.
And when you start talking to the people who love you, you give them the chance to show you just how loved you are.
Start with the good stuff, the good stuff is important.
I love you. Thank you. You’re important to me. You always know just what to say. I’m proud of you. You’re such a big support to me. You’re so kind. I’m always here for you. I’m thinking of you. I will always be here for you. you’re going to be OK. You’re my favourite. You’re the best at that. You make me smile. The little things you do really make my day. You’ve got such a good eye for detail. You’re so good at that. Shall we go for coffee? Let’s spend some time together. I enjoy hanging out with you. You amaze me.
The trickier stuff will come with time…
A lot of the time I feel afraid… I struggle to deal with… Sometimes I feel disconnected from… These things trigger strong reactions in me… I’m trying to work on… I’m going to ask for help with… I’m going to talk to my doctor about… I’ve been reluctant to talk about… I think I need to explore my feelings about… Could we talk about some stuff I’ve been struggling with? I’ve been feeling down lately… I think I’ve ignored my feelings about… I’ve been trying to learn how to express… I’m not sure how I feel about… Could we talk about… I’d like your support with…
I really believe that surrounding ourselves with support and open communicating is the key to finding meaning in the world and losing our meaning is dangerous. Your people will keep your grounded when you lose yourself. Please keep talking.
If you’re ready to talk about your mental health and to show others that you’re ready, please consider buying one of the mental health awareness tees I’ve designed and supporting my campaign work.