I want to explain something. I think I should have done this sooner, or, at least, made my intentions somewhat clearer.
I am very open about my mental health struggles, you all know that. When I write, I do so not for sympathy and support, although your well wishes and genuine care is so much appreciated.
No, I write because I hope that just one person will read my words and seek the help they so badly need. I’m trying to reach out to anyone, but mostly people in a similar situation to my own – a carer – and I’d love to think my words were reaching men who might just stop and think for a few minutes.
Mental health is as important as our physical health. We ALL have mental health, hopefully, for most people, their mental health is in good shape. But just like our physical health things can go a bit wrong sometimes. Usually, it’s a blip and we sort it out in a day or two, maybe we were just feeling down or a bit stressed. But too often you can’t fix it yourself, you can’t fix it in a couple of days, and you need a doctor to help you out.
That’s ok. Can you imagine, a guy sat in a pub with a broken leg, all plastered up. His mate wanders over; “What happened to you?”
“Oh, it’s nothing I’m fine.”
“No the leg, what did you do?”
“What leg, I don’t know what you mean I’m fine, there’s nothing wrong!”
And so on in a farcical way. That is how we deal with mental health. Or, if someone does open up about it the friend they talk to doesn’t know how to deal with it and the conversation can quickly get awkward. We are never embarrassed by our physical health – well, rarely – but mental health seems to be so different to so many.
Friends – we are friends, right? You ALL have a mental health. I guarantee it goes a bit wrong sometimes. Mostly you sort it out, but for many, too many, we will need professional help to deal with it. This may involve medication, talking, a support group, a break from work, a stay in hospital even. That’s ok. You wouldn’t be ashamed if it was your physical health, would you? For many physical health problems are a talking point, a conversation starter. Whereas mental health can be a conversation killer.
It’s ok to not be ok guys. Share that message. Share it wide.
You know that friend who is always happy and bubbly and posting stuff on the internet about their happy life? Check on them. Sometimes, not always but too often, it’s all a front, it’s all to hide the pain and make people leave them alone. Sometimes it’s a slightly unusual cry for help. But too often that person with the perfect life, they need more help than the miserable person like me who constantly drones on about their mental health.
You will know when I need help because I will ask for it. I see doctors often, I’m on several medications for severe anxiety and depression and I have panic attacks that are crippling sometimes. But today I’m fine. And I mean I’m fine. Tomorrow I might not be, but it’s nice to be asked.
You know when you walk down the road and you see that person you know and you both exchange a ‘how are you?’ and both reply that you are fine? Well, that’s not the time to tell them you are not doing great. But when you are alone with a friend, at home, in a café, a bar, the area adjacent to the soft play zone, somewhere you are both comfortable, that’s a good place to say ‘How are you’, and when they reply they are fine, ask them ‘no, REALLY how are you?’.
They will know you care and want to listen, give them space and time to talk, don’t try to fix it, don’t brush it off and say it will all be ok after a bit of fresh air or a good walk. Let them talk, and just listen, hold their hand, be a friend, hold them if they need to be held. That will go a long way to help them to help themselves.
As for me, well I will continue to report on my mental health not because I want you to feel sorry for me or for any kind of sympathetic reaction, I just hope it helps someone else to understand that actually – it’s ok to not be ok.