You think you know what it’s about, because awareness is everywhere. You think you understand it because you know someone who is going through it, or something like it. Perhaps you’re even going through something yourself, so you think you have it down; or at least, you understand your own illness and maybe even other illnesses too.
But I’m not talking about mental illness, I’m talking about mental health – and mental health affects everyone.
In the UK at the very least, there is far too much emphasis on doing things for other people because we are afraid of the repercussions should we do any different. We don’t want to challenge our boss or co-workers, even when we know they might be wrong, because we are afraid of getting fired. We don’t want to challenge our relationships, even when we know they are bad for us, because we are afraid of being alone.
There is so much fear that we end up doubting ourselves. We end up doubting our values and our beliefs, our world view. Our mental health suffers, because we place too much emphasis on making others happy, so much so that we forget to notice when we become unhappy ourselves.
Sometimes, when it comes to your mental health, you have to be selfish. You have to cut toxic people out of your life, you have to quit that job, you have to make those difficult decisions that will make you, a better you.
Often with mental illness, we fail to recognise when something is bad for us. So we look for answers and we look for reassurance. We submit to our “flight or fight” response when it happens in situations it shouldn’t.
Such as figuring out what to do for dinner. Or maybe the house is a mess. Maybe I got up this morning and felt fine, but the shirt I wanted to wear is in the wash and somehow, everything unravels like a ball of frayed string (because let’s face it, this isn’t my first time). Then I’m worried I’m not good enough. I just feel down today, please leave me alone. I just feel anxious today. No it’s nothing to do with work, but now I feel like it is because you mentioned it. Now you’re looking at me like I’ve said something wrong. Now you’re deleting me from Facebook because I offended you. Was it something I said? Is it the person I am? Is it the person I’m dating? No I don’t hate everyone. No, I don’t think the world is against me. No, I’m not depressed. Oh wait, I am because…well, I don’t know why. No it’s not you, what a selfish thing to say. Now you’re looking at me like I’m a mutant. And I don’t know what to make for dinner. And I don’t know how to clean the house. And I don’t know what to wear. And I don’t know why I feel I’m not good enough. I just feel anxious today. Maybe it’s work. Maybe it’s you. Panic, panic – what? Oh right, nothing’s wrong with me. Thanks for making that clear.
Fight. Or flight? Neither.
Enter mental health. Awareness is declining. Awareness is getting better. People get it, then they don’t. They find it’s too much. They want to take it or leave it.
But you only take, take, take when you have it. When you live with it. When it starts to take over your life. You start to realise it’s there, and you start to hate it. You question everything, despite that you’ll probably never get an answer you like.
Is it a part of you? Can you beat it? Is there any point?
Is it my fault?
Is it yours?
I don’t want to blame you, but I didn’t get here on my own.