I decided to take a week off of my usual Plant of the Week this week, as I’ve had this bubbling up for some time to write about. I know PotW isn’t until Wednesday but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to take a weeks break and leave this up for a few days…
I hadn’t heard the phrase “The Black Dog” until about 2yrs ago. I had never used it and I had never heard anyone else use it either. I have openly talked about my own issues to people, both in the real world and in the virtual one and I’m not going to go in to detail on this blog, but I’ll give you an overview.
Black Dog is associated with depression, not used for all mental illnesses, but I think it covers well the feeling of anyone who reaches rock bottom where the light no longer shines at all. A lot of mental illnesses lead to a feeling of depression and deep anxiety. And lets just be clear – depression is more than just feeling a bit sad or a bit blue. Depression can be absolutely devastating and debilatating. We all have a few down days and dangerously the term “I feel a bit depressed” get’s overused and I fear weakens what it really means to those who suffer.
My story started when I was 17, so 28 years ago now – where does it go? I was a skinny child who became a fat teenager. At 17 I stopped eating. My brain convinced me that I was disgustingly morbidly obese and ugly. And so I stopped eating and was very ill. Whilst to this day I remain fat, I do eat and have my demons under a certain amount of control – there are days when I struggle however and the voices remind me what I am. I had one attempt on my life, and thought about it several other times when I was at my worst. That’s what depression does to you.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I really became aware of others who so often battled demons of their own and so often lost those battles, as I once did, spiralling in to a place so dark they could see no way back. Back then I felt so alone, like I was the only person that this was happening to. How wrong I was.
I have friends who suffer badly with depression, anxiety and inner voices. Friends who every day fight off those inner voices, the negative thoughts and go on to fight another day. For some this isn’t the case. For some the voices and the thoughts become too much. The causes and manifestations for each person may be different, but the end result is scarily similar. It’s not nice to see someone destroy themselves from within, it’s even worse to be that person and having to go through it all in silence in your own head.
Help isn’t always easy to get. Trust me. Just talk to your GP and they’ll tell you that in spite of what Ms May and her merry band of underachievers are telling us – funding is being cut left, right and centre for help with Mental Illness. They say it’s a huge priority for them and yet behind the scenes they are crucifying the service that is needed and playing with peoples lives. So unless you’ve got a spare £1000+ to get the help you need privatelyyou can expect to be on a waiting list for quite some time. Unless you actually hurt yourself or someone else you won’t be a priority because they don’t have the people in place to be able to cover everyone.
We are all a little bit broken in some way or another, we all have some insecurity or fear or nervousness about something, something that makes us squirm slightly when asked to do it or just to think about can bring on anxiety. We are all people and we all deserve to be happy in some form.
I’m one of the lucky ones, for now I remain on top of my voices shouting them down every minute of every day. But it’s tiring and one day I might not beat them. The thought of being in that place again is a scary one. The thought that thousands and thousands of people around me are going through that is terrifying, upsetting and it makes me angry that the help isn’t there for them.
As luck would have it, today is World Mental Health Day. I swear I didn’t time it for this, I only just found out as I was writing. In truth it shouldn’t just be a day, every day should be that day. We should all be looking out for each other constantly, not just for one day because someone reminded us. But it serves as a good reminder, in the same way the Mental Health Week in May does, it does remind of us of something that we do forget about most of the time unless we’re the one’s living with it or with someone who suffers. to most people it’s an invisible illness, there aren’t always physical symptoms and most people I know are pretty good at hiding it from the rest of the world when they need to.
So just be that wonderful thing we all like to talk about but don’t always end up being – be a human being. Be a friend. Be a shoulder or an ear. You don’t have to know what to do or what to say – sometimes you don’t have to say anything. Sometimes you just need to hold someone and let them cry, or sit and listen, or even sit in silence drinking tea so that someone else isn’t alone. It might be a bit awkward, a bit strange and new, but you have no idea how such a simple act of kindness can change the way someone feels.
When you’re in a bad place it’s easy to think you’re all alone and the only person who’s going through it, a simple word from a stranger or a friend to say “You’re not on your own” can change someone’s world. We, none of us, should ever be on our own when there’s so many people around us. The help might not always be welcome – I was a horrible person to be near and wouldn’t let friends help – but even though I spurned them they didn’t go far away and they kept an eye and they were there when I was ready to let them in. So don’t give up.
There is change happening, but there is still a stigma to mental health, I’ve seen it myself with attitudes of some people I’ve talked to. Not everybody understands, but the more we talk about this, the more we say “It’s ok” the easier it will eventually become. Workplaces still need to improve, there are some amazing places out there who get, but still some that just don’t.
There is no off button, there is no just getting over it, but it can get better with the right help and support, it can become a bit easier. And it’s up to all of us to be there, we have a responsibilty to each other. In a moment when our world seems to be falling apart and full of hate, lets try and push the kindness a little bit harder. Be more tolerant. Be the person that steps up with a hand offered to help someone.
And if you’re in that place, looking for help, I hope someone steps forward for you. You derserve it.
To all those I care deeply about know that you’re not alone. To those I’ve never met and possibly never will – know that you’re not alone. With 7.4 billion people on the planet, I would like to think, perhaps through slightly rose-tinted glasses – that someone has got someone elses back and nobody is truly alone in this world right now.