A Belated Ode to World Mental Health Day

Where to start?

I’ve always encouraged those around me to talk openly and confide in me about their mental health; to ask someone ‘how are you today?’ and be ready to take on whatever the reply, to ask for help, to give help, and to be unashamed to say it out loud. And it is this last point that reiterates the importance of World Mental Health Day.

Now, I missed my opportunity to show my support on October the 10th because I was too busy being consumed by my own mental health problems. So I will now speak out loud:

I lost my mam. On my birthday. I had to say goodbye to my best friend, my biggest fan, my invaluable PA, my personal baker, the unbeatable hugger and the woman who taught me to live.

I am heartbroken. I am fragile. I am scared of the future. I have vomited nearly every morning. I have disorientating migraines. I have found myself zoning out for 20 minutes at a time. I cannot decide what to eat for breakfast. I struggle to get dressed. I do not choose to cry, the tears just fall out of my eyes. My hands have developed a tremor. Sometimes I struggle to breathe. I feel overwhelmed on a daily basis. I am not me.

I am not at my optimum mental health and this manifests itself in my physical health too. There is an intrinsic link between the two, that not enough people give enough importance to. My mam always said ‘your body has ways of letting you know when you are struggling or when your head is up against too much’ and it’s true.

We need to take mental health more seriously and commit ourselves to being open to talking about it. This is not as scary a thing to do as people may think. The scariest thing is to struggle and feel you have to remain silent.

I class myself as extremely lucky in some respects, that I have not had to do this. My friends and family have been their to listen, to check up on me, to give me time, to give me flowers, messages, chocolate, space. Although I feel horrific at the minute, I genuinely do not want to think where I would be if it wasn’t for the openness, compassion and generosity of those around me; there will never be enough words to express how thankful I am or a time when the admiration will stop. But there are people out there; in our community, sat with us, on the desk opposite, in the house next door who do not have this. So please for this (belated) World Mental Health Day, I urge you to look out for someone. Anyone. Ask them how they are, make them a cup of tea, send that text, still share jokes, let them know you are giving them space, be patient, sit in silence with them, hold them if they want to, let them know they can collapse, let them know you will take on the responsibility of picking them back up.

A dear friend of mine gave me a wonderful analogy. All of your friendships create a collective bouncy castle; the structure is made from all of your friends and we are forever taking turns to ‘bounce’. We jump, we fall, we get flung in different directions, we get high, we fall, we find it difficult to get back on our feet, but we are still supported by everyone. And then, when the time comes we take our place in the bouncy castle and allow another person to have their turn to ‘bounce’. We all need to take that responsibility.

Also, if you are struggling yourself – acknowledge the small wins that are actually huge victories. My sister and I congratulated each other because we had both managed to wear adult clothes!

So jump, fall, stay still, talk, listen, be quiet, get dressed or don’t – it all about managing in whatever way you can, but it’s more about managing together.

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