It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge World Mental Health Day for a number of reasons. I have used the platforms available to me over the last 7 years to discuss my battle to sustain my mental health and develop a better relationship with it to enable transparent conversation around mental health issues (particularly in Caribbean and African households where families just pretend the person is just mis-er-able).
Today is one of the few World Mental Health Days that I actually feel healthy (not physically but we don’t need to get into that right now – that is another 5 blogs in itself). In spite of multiple family deaths and illnesses, spending more time in my house than I have in the last 14 years combined, and this feeling of imminent world destruction I feel good today. The journey to and of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues is not one of road and destination. It is one of daily, hourly and sometimes minute by minute temperature checks and acknowledging how and what you feel. There is no meal and exercise plan that ends in your goal brain weight. You wake up today and feel good and roll with it.
This is going to sound strange but I think struggling with depression for most of my life prepared me for COVID-19, the pandemic and isolation from family and friends. Although I can be extremely sociable when I choose to be, I am comfortable being alone for extended periods of time in introspection. I have (thanks to my parents) viewed most people with a disdain and as vehicles of germs that could kill me (refer to my many posts about arguing with people about not covering their mouths when sneezing, coughing or yawning) and I generally think people are inconsiderate and have to be reprogrammed to think about others.
Going into lockdown did scare me but it didn’t lead to further decline of my mental health because how much further do you have to dive from a suicide attempt (over 15 years ago)?
COVID-19 has given me and I hope also you hope and comfort to be yourself when you are something other than shiny, happy people holding hands. In an age where social media is our method of communicating and we are consuming images of beautiful holidays, strong nuclear families in matching pyjamas on Christmas mornings that a lot of this is veneer. It is okay to be vulnerable. It is okay to be sad, broken, angry, scared, and all of the other feelings that someone, somewhere in an age long ago told us were signs of weakness.
Some of you are rolling your eyes thinking “what is she on about?” And this is where I get serious (to be fair, I think I have been serious throughout this post) and state that suicide rates have increased in England and Wales with women under 25 suicide rates increasing 93.8% since 2012. In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.
I hid my depression for years due to the cultural stigma (and that continues today) and the lack of support from family and friends but what I realised as I began to share my stories (you guys know I have plenty of stories) the shame and guilt I felt started to melt from me like the shedding of a snake skin (I could find a better analogy) and was embraced by those loved me because of my willingness to be vulnerable.
Those of you who struggle to support someone with mental health issues, use the Google (in my granny voice), talk to someone who may have experienced challenges in the past…. You wouldn’t turn your back on someone with cancer. And if you wait too long to lend a helping hand there might not be someone there to lift up.
Here are some resources for you: