Spilling Tea: #5 Mental Health

Writing on difficult subjects is always easier with a tea in hand. For this week an English breakfast tea is my companion as I delve into, quite possibly, the hardest piece I have written to date. And certainly, the most important to me.

*Trigger Warning – this article discusses Mental Health issues including Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Depression, Self-harm and Suicide.

 

‘Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year’.

 

Consider how many friends you have on Facebook. Or how many people in the gym class you go to. Or how many people live down your road. The statistics of how many people are experiencing mental health problems speak for themselves, but it is crucial we contextualise to our own lives. Those figures and numbers are people, just like you and me. 

 

Truth is, we all have people in our lives that are struggling with their mental health. They may be open and honest about what they’re experiencing or could appear as if everything is well in the World and would be the last person you’d expect to be unwell. Everyone is going to deal with issues slightly differently; some will prefer to keep things within a very tight circle which you might not be a part of. But for some people, just asking how they are and checking in on them could make a huge difference. 

 

We are lucky that talking about mental health in modern society is slowly becoming more normalised. Within my groups of family and friends, it is something which can be talked about openly, without judgement and with care and kindness. I know I am privileged, and incredibly grateful, as it won’t be the case for some people.  My personal experiences with mental health have proved how important it is to have a supportive network of people around you. Those who won’t judge or criticize but will listen and accept. 

 

In 2016, my mental health was not at its finest. I knew something wasn’t quite right, but just kept telling myself that I needed to “get it together”.  A friend of mine had passed away, my A-Level exams were happening, it was just an extremely sad and stressful time. I thought if I just kept pushing through- I would be fine. Looking back, I am so frustrated with myself for not getting help sooner. If I thought I had a throat infection I wouldn’t just say “it’ll be fine” – I would admit that I needed help. I realise now that your mental health should take as much prominence as your physical health, as both can have devastating effects if not looked after. 

 

Another reason which stopped me from opening up about my mental health is the fear of judgement. I genuinely believed I was the only person in the World to be feeling how I was, and that no one could possibly understand, let alone help me. After getting a diagnosis of Panic Disorder, it was like a massive weight was lifted. I walked out of the doctors feeling happier than I had in months. There is an actual name for what I am experiencing. I’m not weird or over-reacting. There are other people that feel like me. 

 

I have found a problem in comparing mental health and physical health, and that is that I don’t think there will ever be a day when I can go, “hey, I am completely healed”. If you’ve broken your leg, you’ll have a day when it will no longer be broken, they’ll remove the cast and you’re free to go. The same can’t really be said for Anxiety, or any mental health condition. It is not so much about getting 'fixed' as it is to ‘accept and recover’. The first step is admitting there is a problem in the first place, and from there, every journey of recovery will be different. As cliché as it is, I have found that Time really is a healer. But for me, so were antidepressants, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Meditation. Healing and rehabilitation will come in different forms and at different times for everyone. 

 

I realise I have spoken a lot about myself, so let’s talk about you. If you can’t relate to anything I have written, or if you are one of the people who thinks suicide is ‘selfish’, that people who self-harm are ‘attention seeking’ or that depressed people need to ‘cheer-up’ – then I envy you. To be so distanced and disillusioned as to how mental health problems can physically change a person is a bliss. But I urge you to please: be considerate, be understanding and be kind. If you really can’t understand, then just acceptance is enough. Accept that someone is struggling and be the person they need you to be to help their recovery. 

 

If anything, I have rambled on about has resonated with you, then I hope perhaps you might feel less weird or less alone and realise that actually, it is completely okay to not be okay. Help and support is out there for you to access. There are so many paths and approaches to help deal with mental health problems, so I urge you to explore different methods if something isn’t quite working. 

 

So with that in mind, please remember to look after yourselves and one another!