Mental Health Awareness 'Day'

The 10th of October was World Mental Health Day and I have a confession: I’m exhausted. Not just this day in particular, it’s been creeping up for a while. The difficulty sleeping, the irrational thoughts, the intense headaches. My head feels so heavy that my only response is to lie down, which subsequently results in me not wanting to get back up. My ability to get up in the morning has diminished, so my 7am start times seem impossible. Even when I manage to get to sleep my dreams are, for want of a better word, unnerving. They serve as a reminder that I still have obstacles to conquer. Heck, I couldn’t even time this post right I’m so all over the place.

I have many things on my to-do list. Paint the walls, defrost the freezer, deal with my Grandmother’s death, wash the dishes, put in my prescription, iron my clothes, battle my demons, paint some more and last but not least, pretend that it’s all okay. It’s not. But that’s okay.

One of my recurring dreams at the moment is that my Grandmother is alive. In most of them she has died and then comes back, sometimes when I wake up I think they’re real. But they’re not. I’ve discovered so far that my grief comes in waves, most days I genuinely feel like she’s going to come back (or that she’s still here). Other days, but rarely in comparison, I sit and think about our various exchanges and get upset knowing they’ll never happen again. I found myself on Google maps the other day looking at where she used to live, digitally walking down the roads I used to when I was little. Then she moved closer to us. Then she moved in with us. Then she lived in a hospital bed in our front room. Then she stopped living. A part of me did too.

It’s strange to have to accept the fact that you will never see someone again. All the questions you wish you’d asked will never be answered. It’s a weird numbing sensation, that can’t say I’ve never encountered before but the circumstances are different. I’ve come to realise that it’s undoubtedly my body’s survival mechanism, something it has become accustomed to over the past 2 years. A way to stop the floodgates from opening and subsequently submerging your mind. Why feel pain when you can feel nothing?

My Grandmother was always my favourite. Any excuse to sing her praises and I’d be off, telling as many anecdotes as I could until the recipient zoned out. She always had sweet stuff in her fridge and her encouragement for us to eat its contents was never ending. She had an infinite list of superstitions with a zest for life that was incomparable to anyone. And now she’s gone. I can’t even put into words how odd it is. It’s like it hasn’t registered that I’ll never hear her voice again or see her cheeky smile. I’m writing words but I don’t feel the emotion they depict. I’m in a familiar fog for an unfamiliar reason.

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already in the fog. It seems easier for me to say that my current mental state is because of my Grandmother’s passing, even though it’s not. It’s just how my brain works. I feel less ashamed about it when I insinuate that there is a specific cause. But in all honesty there isn’t always a reason. Fleeting between a combination of different factors to absolutely no cause whatsoever. I’ve also found that some people just cannot fathom the idea that depression can pop up when it wants to – it’s more comfortable for them to pin point a root cause.

That’s another thing I’ve come across quite a few times. People may be suffering terribly and others may know about it. But nobody reaches out. Because they feel uncomfortable. The void that ensues just festers into bitterness and self hatred. The illness takes up the space where comfort from friends should have been. And before you know it you’re consumed. The well gets deeper and darker. You have no energy to even attempt to start climbing. There is no-one around to throw down a rope and help you. And you convince yourself that no-one is helping because no-one likes you and no-one cares.

It’s all fine and well to promote mental health awareness. Whether that is on the dedicated day itself (the 10th of October) or the week (13th to the 19th of May 2019) or even every now and then. But I must stress that there is a difference between sharing a quote on Instagram and actually reaching out to someone in need. I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s unlikely that someone suffering from a mental illness will reach out when it has already consumed them. I speak from experience but can appreciate that this isn’t the case for everyone (and I applaud whoever has the strength and courage to do so!).

Random acts of kindness are greatly encouraged nowadays. I must admit that, in my opinion, there is nothing more selfless than overcoming ones own uncomfortableness in order to help another. That applies to all situations, not just mental health. It’s indescribably difficult to get yourself out of the depths of despair. Internally crying out for help but the words cannot leave your mouth. You don’t want to reach out for fear of being a burden. So you don’t. But some kind words from someone who cares can just maybe begin the steps to recovery. Sometimes it can be the difference between life and death.

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