Two words that provoke such a strong conversation.
What does it mean to you? What begins to stir inside when you hear two words that can define and label a person? Do you feel pity for the people who fight against themselves every single day? Do you feel your eyes begin to roll as “just get over it” sits on the edge of your lips? Does fear punch through your stomach as your story begins to unfold within your mind? Or, do you begin to tense up with shame, belittled by the two words that make you embarrassed to be who you are?
Last year, to recognise World Mental Health Day, I wrote an open letter on DanCooleDaily, titled Dear World. Whilst researching my approach towards this years recognition, I decided to reread the post. I struggle to read on as I hear about a boy who is so shrouded in loss that he is scared of his phone. My eyes follow the journey of someone who has absolutely no confidence in his job, his ability to love, or his body.
It’s hard to believe that the boy is me.
I struggled with what to write about this year, if I am completely honest with you. I am in such a different headspace to the boy who tore himself apart online a year ago. Almost to the point where I can’t even comprehend how my mind found such words to type. I am almost ashamed to admit that if I took myself back to 2017, I couldn’t see a long future ahead of me. It wasn’t about suicide or taking the active steps to end my own life. I had just simply, given up. I look back at photographs of myself in 2017 and I can barely find one with a genuine smile on my face.
Memory is a funny thing isn’t it? I can look back over the last two years of my life and I can admit that I had given up. I can recall just getting by day to day. I can remember being so swamped with anger that I lashed out at the smallest of confrontations. Things back then were so magnified because I was actively focused on giving up. Yet, as I wrote Dear World last year, I remember thinking that I was doing okay. I remember thinking at the time that I had reached my corner and I was turning towards a new, happier me in 2017.
I can tell you now that I was absolutely not doing okay. I was barely functioning. I was scraping the barrel of myself in order to just get by.
Fast forward to 2018 and a statement made by mum can be heard echoing throughout my life. “It’s like the Dan we knew has finally come back, I barely recognised the boy who returned home last year”
When I began to compare where my life stands now in contrast to where it was a year ago today, things began to fall into place, and so, I would like to propose a new idea of mental health to you.
Mental health. Two words that can define a person and the way in which they are perceived by the world. Pity, embarrassment, rage and the constant stigma of just getting over it.
But what if mental health was more than just an adjective to describe you as a person?
What if it was in fact, a journey?
You see, a year ago today, I was defined by my mental health. I was trapped in surviving because my head was so cloudy that I couldn’t see where I was turning to next. If you told me last year that I would spend 2018 outside of my comfort zone I would look at you in sheer amazement, for in 2017 a world outside fo my comfort zone simply didn’t exist.
The thing is, is that we can label mental health all we like, we can receive a diagnosis within a twenty-minute appointment at the doctors. We can even be prescribed medication to numb our heads in record time. I can sit here and I can pin point the key moments which chipped away at my mental health.
I’ve begun to think about my mental health like a glass of water – and not the cliché pessimistic / optimistic argument. More that we are born with a full glass of water, and over time certain events in our lives knock our glass and water spills out. Sure, we can take temporary measures, we can put the glass in the freezer to allow the liquid to expand into solid ice. But eventually, that ice will melt and we will be left with the same few drops at the bottom of our glass. We can help people who’s water is running low by giving them some of ours – but then our glass becomes more empty. Eventually, for some of us, the glass has but a few drops remaining. It’s about not emptying our own glasses in order to fill up others (ie. your employers) and it’s about finding a solution that’s more sustainable than putting our glass in the freezer.
I finally realised that its about trying to find a water source to fill our glasses back up and then taking care of it, in order to make sure that we are our fully hydrated selves. For me, my water source was my family and my therapy. I needed to move home last year in order to rediscover who I once was. I also needed therapy in order to learn about who I am moving forward.
To round up this rather long winded essay, I want to pose two questions to you;
How full is your glass of water currently?
What steps are you taking in order to find your water source?
Please be kind to yourself. Please take time out of this sometimes overwhelming world to retreat and look after yourself.
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