#TimeToTalk – #BreakTheSilence on mental health


It’s Thursday morning and anxiety is being a bit of a bitch. I slept badly – too cold, rough dreams – and struggle to make myself do things. I talk myself through it – through shower, nice breakfast, a bit of calming exercise – but I still fail at time management. I’m late. A bit mad with myself. Make that very mad. I don’t know what to do. 

I’m late to a very nice workshop that I attended last week too. It’s made for and by refugees and free (donations for food) and it makes me feel conflicted. Those familiar with my situation know that I’m not earning much and haven’t been for a while. It might change soon (fingers crossed), but doing anything nice that isn’t a gig (or otherwise directly career-related) makes me feel guilty. Nevermind that if I want to help refugees, here is the thing I can do – donate time, attention, workshop-leading skills and some English language conversation. So on top of all these feelings now I have being late, which is a particular emotional bruise – I’d say trigger, but who knows what could crawl out of the depths of the Internet to accuse me of being a snowflake? – and so, I struggle. To go or not to go.

After provoking an argument with one of my nearest and dearest (argument that didn’t need to happen, only I was so mad) I sit down with myself and hash out a solution. I’ll go to the very end of the event. Then I’ll have shown up but I’ll sidestep being late AND still
leave the house. The mental labirynth required here is still better than curling up with my phone, reading about politics for the rest of the day. I curled up for about an hour an a half, but it’s still a win.

This blog, Good Enough Diary, is a bit of an homage to writer’s block – after all, suffering writer needing something to kickstart
creativity is a figure we’re all familiar with. It’s harder to admit that I likely suffer from some species of anxiety mixed with previously diagnosed moodiness and depression. When I’m low, going out of the house is hard – but being around people tends to make me feel better. Conversation, speaking out, expressing – those things make me feel better. And yet it’s so hard to say this, what I’m saying now. It is so very hard. Yes, I have suffered from depression, but I don’t like even saying that. So many people have worse problems, worse bouts. I’m not self-harming, my self-neglect tendencies are presently manageable (mostly I tend to go the other way, making healthy food and such) and people with “real” problems would laugh me out of the door.

Except what is real? And why do I invalidate my own reality?

I’m currently on a no sugar diet (health-related), but if I’m not – an argument with my partner could be a box of cookies, or binge watching a show. I enjoy both of those things, but they can be abused as well. Externalising emotion, guilt, blame – and on top I’d rather say that I’m fine. English culture is not helping here – does anyone ever expect an honest answer to a “How are you?”. I don’t like to complain and when I’m sad, being candid feels like laying my problems at someone’s feet.

There, I’ve said it. Not all. People who know me as a chatterbox could likely be shocked by the presence of hidden depths. I talk a lot, but there are things held back, too. Things I’m scared to talk about, or reluctant. Ashamed. Like when I’m late or cancel, caught up in my brain, I often make a story up because I can’t bear to admit I’m feeling too low to struggle through the door. Or how I numb feeling by reading too much. Or eating, or watching. You throw stuff at feelings you don’t know how to deal with. I’m not alone in this strategy but it feels like I am, sometimes.

I’m reading a number of wonderful books (Brene Brown is a particular favourite) that make me realise that my problems are legitimate and I’m adding to them by my silence. By self-shaming. Well, I’m talking now. My problems are real, but their weight wouldn’t be so heavy if I wasn’t ashamed, if I didn’t feel alone, if I wasn’t scared that they make me unlovable. And I am a person with a significant support network. So if you’re reading this, please know that I love you and am grateful for you, just my brain was not socialised to treat me well.

We’re retraining, brain and I.

So now it’s time to apologise for the missed workshop. And later a friend will WhatsApp from Italy – she’s somebody with whom I can talk about all this. And it’s important, people – because you need to hear the right message again and again if it’s to stay in your brain, especially if your default setting is the opposite. If you’re set up for shame, guilt, invalidating your own emotion – if you can’t deal with sadness or anger or disappointment other than burying it under sugar or alcohol or Facebook – there can never be too many times to hear that you’re alright, you’re valued, you’re allowed to speak out.

Beautiful people, love yourselves. Learn to, slowly. Patiently. Time to talk. Time to talk. Time to talk.

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