Here is my truth: once upon a time, I was very ill. During and after my father’s dying, I suffered from heavy bouts of depression and anxiety. Eventually, I did not want to be alive.
I’m still here. (Obviously: this blog isn’t a nuts piece of paranormal activity). The people who love me pulled be back, and whilst they couldn’t fix me, they made me want to want to be alive. They found the time to talk with me.
I am now, mostly, better, although I have glitches and bad days .Sometimes my mind races so relentlessly it makes me breathless. Sometimes I weep without reason, without logic. I don’t think I will ever be as I was before. You can step back from the precipice but you can never forget the sight of it.
But talking helped. My God, talking helped. I started this blog because I thought it might help—even just one person—to know the ways I wound my way back from the edge, to a life with happiness and joy and possibility in it. It is a pleasure to write and share, although often awkward and embarrassing as I lay myself bare.
Here’s the bit I can’t say loudly enough: a huge part of my recovery was learning to talk as bluntly about my mental health as I would about pulling my shoulder. (PS: sorry to all of my colleagues who have listened to me moan relentlessly about pulling my shoulder this week).
Talking bluntly is so hard. Today is Time to Talk day, a fantastic initiative from Time to Change and a ‘chance for all of us to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives.’ Read their fantastic tips for how to start the conversation here.
Now (obviously) I hope people read, like and share this post. But today what I hope more than anything is that you take the time to talk in real life. Social media campaigns are a fantastic method of raising awareness, but it has to translate into reality.
Because the stigma of mental health issues is decreasing, but this is noticeably more true in the online community than in reality. In reality, we still have a huge problem with talking.
So the problem is still there, still unspoken about, for many people. For the people who can’t access the services they desperately need because there isn’t enough funding, and are left with nothing to do and nowhere to go.
It’s there for the people who are too ashamed to access the help they might need. It’s there at the bottom of a glass or the 7am end of a drug fuelled night, the only oblivion some of us can find.
It’s there in the workplace. The fractious silence of colleagues who need help they have no idea how to claim, and who are too afraid to ask for fear of the response they’ll get. Mental health at work is extra tricky; understandably, people want to keep their private lives private. But it’s where most of us spend our waking lives. We can’t separate the two any more. I’ve been lucky throughout my life to work with compassionate colleagues and managers, but I appreciate for many this is not the case.
It’s there in too many of the men I know. Men who carry a private vulnerability and wear a public mask, only able to share their mental health struggle at four in the morning, eight pints down. Three quarters of suicides in 2016 were men. On that note, the latest Samaritans report shows female suicides are at their highest for a decade.
It has to get better. We have to ensure that people do not feel discriminated against. Falling over the precipice should never be the end result.
So today, I add my voice to what will hopefully be thousands of others. It’s time to talk. It’s time to talk in real life. If you’ve read this, take five minutes to think and to ask—a friend, a colleague, a parent. Share your truth. Help someone share theirs.
It’s such a small thing. It’s such a huge thing.