Saturday, 3 February 2018

Mental Health - Part 2

One of the problems with mental health is that it is not visible. If you walked into the room clutching your severed arm, someone would react. If you were covered head to foot in a rash, someone would take notice. If you have a red, streaming nose, a croaky voice and sneeze and cough incessantly, people know you're ill. If you walk into a room full of people and have to summon all the energy you have left to even raise a smile and a hello, no-one will know what effort that took. If you struggle to complete mundane tasks during the day, people will just think you're lazy and useless. Unless they spend a lot of time with you, or know the person you used to be, they will not spot that something is wrong. Only you know that life has become an uphill struggle. Only you know how defeated you feel. Only you know how you are trapped in a bubble of negative thoughts and feelings which often go round on an endless loop, never achieving resolution. Only you know how you wake up at 4am, in a cold sweat, your mind whirring, incapable of getting asleep again until it's time to get up. Instead people will weary of you and snap "Pull yourself together" when they have tired of your downtrodden aura and tedious conversation, fed up with your endless 'negativity'. Yet perhaps the most alarming aspect of such disorders is the fact that often the people closest to you don't even understand that you have a problem...

There is no quick answer to mental health issues. They take a long time to develop and a long time to cure. The biggest problem is taking that first step to recovery; for most people suffering from severe depression or similar mental health disturbances, it is a step too far and one that is nigh on impossible to do by yourself. Unfortunately though - and here's the catch - it is not always enough for someone else to initiate those first steps: it is YOU who has, ultimately, to understand and accept you have a problem and YOU who has to decide that you want to get better. It is this commitment from the individual which kick starts the healing process. And the road ahead will be a long one with lots of potholes to negotiate and many steep hills to climb. One day though, with enough effort, you will find yourself free-wheeling once again down the other side of the mountain - the wind in your hair and a smile on your face, revelling in the ease with which you now travel.

I hasten to add that there are exceptions, but I cannot discuss here those who have more genetically based disorders, or indeed dementia and other serious mental issues. I do not have the experience nor the expertise. I'm simply talking about the mental breakdowns which can occur from the continued pressure of life and the challenging and demanding events which take place within it.

Each and every one of us has personal thresholds - some can endure more than others. But when life's got you beat, it's got you beat. No apology. From the homeless man on the street to the stressed businessman with a drug habit, it's all the same. We're all just human.

In my next post on Mental Health I will highlight some of the signs you need to watch out for and ways in which you may start the slow climb back up the hill to a healthy mind.

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