I have searched for the right words for this blog for a long time. When I write in those moments I see it happen, the impassioned cutting dialogue never portrays what I what it to say. I want to say you can be happy, I want to say you can grow, you can overcome, you can sleep, you can quiet the voices in your head, you can know better days. You are not just your mental health you are more, so much more. You have all the tools you need to repair and recover. You are the single best positioned person to take the first and last step towards your happiness.
Where I find myself increasingly sad is not where people reach out and make their issues known but where others encourage all the wrong behaviours. Some how mental health has become something we are scared of challenging, some how the hero stories are those people that don’t work to improve their mental health but wallow in the depths of it and post on social media along the way.
I was going to say perhaps I am biased; however, I know I biased, every single person in the world is biased. And my biase here runs deep. I have seen what happens when people are consumed by mental health issues and I have seen what people can achieve when everyday they get up and they try. I belief living with mental health can be like preparing to run a marathon when the start date is a surprise. You need to train your body and your mind to be ready at anytime. Never knowing when the starting bell could ring and you will be back into 26.2 miles of hard slog. Actually, worse still no one tells you how long the race will be you just have to keep running until the finish is in sight.
It would be great to see the response to mental health shift. Not only to more accepting, normal and positive. Also, to be more challenging. If I had a friend preparing for a marathon and I knew it was something they wanted to achieve, if everyday they posted how they decided not to train or ate the wrong food I would try to encourage them not just placate the behaviour. I would try to support them to maybe get back to training, make a plan, I would offer to go for a run with them (although I am no where near a marathon runner). I might order them an inspirational book about marathon runners. I would try to inspire, support or encourage them. If attempting the marathon was truly making them unhappy I might ultimately suggest they consider another goal.
I see increasingly that when responding to challenges with mental health our response is some how different to other challenges people face. Instead of encouraging positive change and supporting we have somehow fallen into the space of enabling and encouraging the bad behaviours.
This week I read yet another post on social media that is just like so many others I have read before. It went something like this. Hi my name is and I have never said this but I with struggle with X, you may not understand because you are not me but for me the real world is hard because a,b,c.
This post was a mental health related post, they were talking about having to take prescribed drugs because of anxiety, they went on to list four ways in which their anxiety affects them. Why four I could not tell you, having suffered with anxiety I am sure there are a lot more than four but they chose four. Perhaps they were the most regular triggers or perhaps the most powerful. The important part is 3 of the 4 reasons they listed were solely about social media. I notice when you don’t like my comment, I notice when you didn’t tag me in that post, I notice when you go out and had fun with other people. And this was posted on social media!!!
I hope whilst reading this you get the irony of this, in fact that word does not do it justice, the sheer heart-breaking reality of this person failing to act on clear and obvious triggers that are within their grasp to address with no cost, little effort and not much thought. Get off social media. It was heart breaking to read the effects the anxiety was having on them, this was not a mild impact and they must have felt them severe enough to need the support of prescribed drugs.
Don’t get me wrong I have a love/hate relationship with social media myself. I have at times taken a sabbatical, I have stopped following people who’s posts upset me. I have contemplated coming off entirely but also do enjoy the connection with people. I have found that happy medium. I only follow people that bring joy to my feed. I look for the joy in posts. I have perhaps reached a level of self worth that I never feel upset if people don’t tag, like, share. I mean hell look at this blog page how many weeks in and still only an amazing few that like my page or my posts. (Most if not all of which are my family and friends). That is all ok though. I don’t live for the other stuff. This person clearly has not found a healthy relationship with social media, they are taking pretty heavy prescribed drugs when 75% of the issues they listed could be solved by the click of a button.
What upset me even more were the responses. Everyone just congratulated them on getting it out there, on being brave. I agree to some extent, I am all about normalising the conversation and having the courage (it takes loads) to step out there is an amazing achievement and I hope more of us do it. I also hope in the future more of us are able to sign post support and when it appropriate to challenge each other to do better. I do think it is important to do this carefully and in the right way. I have signed up for a mental health first aider course in a couple of weeks to learn more about how to do it.
What was also disheartening in the responses were how many people could relate and I get it I have been there but I didn’t accept being there. I tried things that failed and tried things that worked for me until I found that happy place. Some of the responses were in the same place and feeding the beast by allowing social media to be such a big focus in their daily lives. I mean if I said to you in the nineties, right as soon as you wake up ring all of your friends check what they are wearing, what plans they have for the day, now do that every 1-2hours throughout the day you would have spent all day on the phone (at least having some organic human contact that may have developed into something more meaningful. Then if I said every time you do or say something as every you know or even everyone you have ever met did they like it. You would be exhausted and we wonder why with the wrong mindset social media can be a drain on our very existence.
I hope in the future the biggest stories or the most likes or shares will be those from people that are learning, growing, trying to improve their mental health. Perhaps not getting it all right, in fact importantly not getting it all right, as we can learn from people mistakes as much as their successes. I hope posts in the future go more like. Hi my name is and I have never said this but I with struggle with X, you may not understand because everyone is different, this week I learnt a,b,c about living a happier life. What have you learnt that I could try? for me the real world is now a little brighter because a and c worked by…
And the response will be, great well done for trying something new, here is what works for me when struggling. Holding ourselves and each other to account. It is like that old saying ‘Doctor it hurts when I do this, well stop doing this.’ Mental health is not an excuse to do nothing, it is not a fixed sentence you can still be happy and you can get better, you just have to keep trying.
At least that is what I believe for those that think I write of fairy tales look for others that have overcome and achieved happiness which ever mental health illness you struggle with I am sure you will find examples and please believe the effort is worth it, you are worth it.