Another month and another much needed, in my opinion, day of awareness on how important mental health is. February 1st is Time To Change’s turn, with their Time To Talk campaign.
Talking. From the minute you are born it is something your parents are so eager for you to start doing. They wait patiently every day to hear a word, a phrase, your first full, normally nonsical, sentence. Then comes the toddler/early school years where the chatter becomes constant from the moment the day starts to the moment it ends and parents are going bald from incessant hair pulling at the repetition, wishing sometimes they could shove play doh in their ears and their mouth is constantly dry from the “ssshhhh” ing and the “2 minutes”. The thing is, the thing I love is, that despite all this, the child never stops. They are more than happy to get their thoughts, feelings, opinions and general nonsense across. Me? I envy them!
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people out there for which talking is not an issue. I dont mean general, gossip or whatever but those lucky people who can open up. Who if they have a problem, are worried, sad etc have a place or person where they can go and get it off their chest. For someone who is emotionally and verbally challenged, although working through it, I can honestly say, the power of speech, the power that releasing words can have, is seriously under rated!
I cant remember when I stopped talking about things of substance. I cant pinpoint the time that I decided it would be easier to keep my emotions within. Where my brain decided I would be a logical thinker instead of a emotional one. The weird part for me is I can sympathise and empathise with people because of certain events that have occured, yet I wont always make the conscious link that that is what is happening. If I had a penny for everytime someone asked if I was OK and I turned around and said yeah of course when in fact I was crippled with misery/fear/loneliness I would be rather rich and definitely own a pair of Loubotins! When did I decide my pain wasnt worthy of support? When did I start thinking that no one cared? When did I think that if I was to say what was going on in my mind people would laugh or tell me I was being silly?
This inability to vocalise my thoughts and feelings created an internal wall and a hard outer shell. I became a not very nice person in ways so that I could deflect my own misery. The thing is, I think I got so good at being this version of a person, I managed to fool everyone, myself included, that I was that person. People had no reason at all to think there was anything wrong with me, bar the obvious daftness. What I wish and what I have learnt though, is the power of those simple words – “How are you?” and “Are you OK?” Just because someone isnt necessarily showing obvious signs that there is an issue, doesnt mean they are not struggling. If they seem to be dealing with a difficult situation remarkably well, maybe that is the action that could trigger the whole, maybe I should pay a bit more attention? From the person who is struggling it is a tough ask but believe that those asking actually care, that they want to know.
A wall can only hold back so much, once one crack shows it isnt long before they start to spread, like a disease. The wall weakens, it even starts to crumble. The problem is, if you dont have the right support structure in place, when it falls it can cause A LOT of damage, to yourself but also to those in the “splash” area. That is the thing that many people forget with mental health problems, it is not always only the sufferer who could be struggling, it could be those around them. Those that feel they should be strong, that they should be able to make them better, that are so confused as they do not understand what is wrong. People fear the unknown and I believe that mental health awareness should be taught and talked about from as an early an age as physical biology. They are just as important as each other!
This Time to Talk day, it doesnt matter who or what or where, just ask the questions, “How are you?”, “Are you OK?”. Reach out to someone who seems to have drifted away, contact a relative that maybe you havent spoken to for a while, take a friend for a drink, have a quality conversation with your children – whatever they want to talk about! Kids have feelings and worries just the same as an adult. They should NEVER be made to feel that what they are thinking or worrying about is silly. That monster under their bed could be a whole lot more than just their imagination.
For those who feel they dont have a voice, start off small. You don’t need to offload in one conversation, but if someone gives you an in, and you feel you can use it, go for it. If talking to people you know seems scary or impossible, reach out to someone impartial. I will always have so much respect for my counsellor as she really did help me see. I could say things to her I still would never dream of saying to those I care about. She gave me my voice. My blog gives me a loud voice, but nothing compares to hearing yourself out loud, words spoken from your lips.
Your feelings are your feelings, your experiences are your experiences. Don’t ever feel ashamed or worthless. Everyone has their own battles. Your strength might be the thing that helps someone elses weakness.
It really is ok not to be ok, and it is DEFINITELY #TimeToTalk