Friday, May 17, 2013

Mental Health Awareness Week 2013 - 'Look after that mind of yours, okay?'

Talking about mental health, doesn’t always need to be talking about serious mental illness.

It’s about asking a friend if they’re okay, it’s about supporting a sister who’s stressed out and it’s about looking out for that colleague who seems super-anxious this week.

It's about starting those conversations. 

One thing my journey though life with splatterings of mental health issues has taught me is that talking about feelings and looking out for each other could save us from slipping under.

Think back to your own experiences, there were probably times you wanted to tell your boss that one more paper placed on your desk was too much and your best friend, that your boyfriend cheating on you was not actually something ‘you could deal with.’

I think everyone would benefit from being open about those days when you feel so shit, that you don’t actually want to get out of bed or so anxious that we avoid going for a new job or promotion.

We need to be better at admitting we’re NOT okay. Mentally.

Not in a melodramatic, ‘woe is me’ way, blowing every emotion out of proportion way or in a quick and speedy diagnosis of a mental illness that isn’t there, but in an honest way which opens us up to new suggestions, help and advice that could help solve the issue.

Honestly, I’m not sure how I managed to hold my ever-expanding negative thoughts together for so long, how I managed to keep anorexia at bay for so many years or how I faced the fear, and bloody well did it anyway, maybe I’ll never know. 

BUT I can't help but think that if I’d been MORE honest about the reality of my thoughts, then maybe I’d not have gotten as ill as I did.  My reality is that I am fighting a mental illness, but I’m learning what my 'anorexic worries' are, and which are just, well, human.

It’s being aware and open about these human worries that I think could benefit everyone. Selfishly, it helps me ‘check in’ with friends which thoughts are ‘normal’ and which are illogical, silly Sarah or ‘Ana’ thoughts. It helps to know what I’m fighting.

The more I’ve spoken to friends, family and the twittersphere about mental health, the more I have come to terms with just how many of us think the same negative thoughts or have the same worries. I joke with some of my friends about diagnosing them with mental illnesses and that it’s just that I’m ‘certified crazy’ and they’re on the loose.

But Un-PC jokes aside, not only do I hope talking about my own worries and issues helps people in the same eating disordered boat as me, but also helps people without mental illnesses become more aware of the importance of looking after their own mental health.

I really do believe there is something positive in a conversation that includes the words; “It’s okay, I understand, feel the same sometimes too….”

It might just help us find positive and constructive ways to face this funny old world of ours?

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