So today marks the last day of Mental Health Awareness Week. It's been a tough week for me, and I've learnt a lot about mental health, both my own and of people's close to me. What I've come to realise is how many people suffer from varying levels and types of mental health problems, in fact I think of mental health as more of a scale and everyone sits somewhere on that scale. Some people may be right at one end either very mentally healthy or very mentally unhealthy, however most people are somewhere in the middle leaning towards the left or right sometimes slipping further towards one end.
Personally I suffer from Anxiety. I'm currently on medication for it and have been since November, things have definitely improved for me and most days I cope well and don't feel too anxious. However some days can be difficult, I'm really stressed with uni work at the moment and I'm very emotional due to personal problems, and sometimes all of this builds up, I get very anxious and all I want to do is spend the day in bed. I'm doing okay though, I'm reminding myself how much better I feel now than I did a few months ago. I'm getting my eating on track, I've started yoga and I'm trying to look after myself.
Some people close to me aren't doing so well though. I have friends who are somewhere in the middle of the scale, suffering slightly from various problems, but I also have people close to me who are nearing the end of the scale and not the good end. This week I've learnt that you never really know how someone is coping until they reach a breaking point. A very good friend who I knew suffered from depression told me of how badly he is coping, we thought he was doing well but in fact he wasn't. I'm glad he spoke to me because now we can do our best as his friends to be there for him, to show him how much we care for him and how much his friendship means to us. Hearing him talk about how lost he felt, amongst other things, made me realise how important it is to listen, really properly listen to what people close to you are saying, and also what they're not saying. If he hadn't have been in a situation where he broke down and let me in, we might not have ever realised how badly he was struggling, we wouldn't have realised how much he needed us, just to be his friends, to show him love, to give him a hug and be the big spoon while he cried. That's what friends are for.
Someone else close to me is also suffering from depression, however they've yet to be diagnosed and I can feel them slipping away from me. I've struggled with knowing what to say or do, whether to be distant and give them space or whether that will just mean they suffer more. I'm struggling to cope with a lack of contact, love or affection, with such a sudden change in personality and their total lack of emotion. I know it's not their fault, and I don't blame them for not being there for me, they can't do it right now. Depression is selfish, it doesn't let you care about someone else in the way you would have done, it doesn't let you think about how your actions or words could hurt someone you love. I'm an emotional person, I need attention but their depression isn't allowing them to give me that. It hurts.
I'm trying to rationalise, to not be paranoid or demanding or emotional. I'm trying to understand, to help, to love even when it hurts. It's not easy, but you don't just love someone for the good times, you love them through the shit times too. You're there to be the big spoon, to let them cry and tell you just a little bit of whats going on in their brain. You're also there when they don't seem to want you, and when they don't even have it in them to fake loving you. I'm there because I have to try, even though it hurts me too.
Mental health is scary, it's unknown, it's hidden, and it's going to stay that way if people don't start to talk. This is my story at the moment, and yes I'm not doing too badly, I'm coping, but I'm also trying to learn how to help other people in my life who aren't doing so well, and thats part of the story. It's about learning how to help ourselves, but also learning about how to help others. At the moment I'm not sure what to do, or say or how to act. I'm trying to do my best and help as best as I can, but I'm also trying to look after me. Ultimately, looking after yourself is always the most important thing, it has to be because you are the most important person in the world to yourself. No one knows you like you do, and no one will be able to help you if you don't start with helping yourself.
If you're anywhere on the mental health scale and you need someone to talk to there are some great helplines. Or you can leave a comment, or send me a tweet. I'd love to hear your mental health story, whether it's how you're coping, how you've coped with a loved ones mental health, or any advice or words of wisdom you have for me, or for anyone else who might be struggling and who happens to read the comments.