Sunday, November 29, 2015

I'm not you

Just something I have to get off my chest, and mean no offence by it. But I really need to speak my mind about it.

Over the past days and weeks, and even during the last period I was like this, people have been pretty good about speaking to me. Some bravely sharing their own experiences, some with great pick me up conversations, and others with the right intentions, but missing the mark. OK and a few who just really don't get it at all.

A few pointers.. Chin up, cheer up, don't stress, it's gonna be ok... All things you say to someone when they have just punctured a tyre, dropped a glass, or deleted a file they wanted. NOT things you say to people who are suffering with depression, anxiety or stress etc. I know it seems the right thing to say or do. I know it works when your mate just got brushed off by the girl they like, but this ISN'T the normal thought process here, and it is really not that simple.

Now I know we all have lows in our lives, some are listed above. There are things in day to day life that can make us feel pretty shitty for a while. Simple things, missed opportunities, rejections, or accidents. They all give us a sense of doom and gloom. But seeing the right person, hearing the right thing, or going to the right place makes it all seem like its OK again, and in no time you get over it.
The same when you are up against the clock, need to get so many things done at work or at home before time runs out, that feeling of stress, and momentary loss of ability to think straight. But it passes once the tasks are done, and is followed by relief and jubilation.

What you feel at that moment is certainly not nice. And when you are asked by someone what is up it is common to day how depressed you feel. Which is a fair comment, as you emotions are under pressure, you feel down, depressed fits.
When you work colleague asks you why you are so flustered, and you tell them "I'm so stressed, I have so much to get done" , again it's a fair assessment, and you are indeed feeling the effects of stress.

What I want to explain though it, as much as you know how it feels to experience those pressures, and emotions, and you can empathise with others who are under the cosh, there is a difference.
When you merely feel the pressure, but know why, can rationalise it, and understand the external pressures which are affecting you right now, be it a rejection for a job, or the workload of a current job, you can not only understand why you feel how you do, you also know that when that moment has passed, normality will return.

The difference for someone suffering with long term stress, depression, anxiety is quite simply, its irrational. Sure the initial trigger might make sense. Losing someone close to you, relationship break-up or something smaller and less significant like trouble at work, or just a lot to get done. So pretty much the same as the above. The real difference starts when simple, mundane tasks that you carry out daily without even thinking about, start to become problematic. You start over thinking , making easy things complicated or even impossible. Shy away from things you have done for years, and you mind reaches such a point of confusion, that it starts to shut down. Block things out, ignore important aspects of life like communication and personal care. Until it reaches a point where you cannot function properly.

Shutting out external forces is usually the first thing to happen. After all that is where most of the unwanted pressure is coming from, so eliminate that ASAP.
Then the differences between individuals start to appear. Functioning or non-functioning are the options. Some people struggling with life can go on like nothing has happened, go to work, coexist, and try to socialise. Others go the opposite way and become non functioning, shutting themselves away from everything, refusing help, and denying that anything is wrong.

Acknowledgement is key in both cases, and both realising and admitting that something is wrong is one of the hardest parts to come to terms with, let alone admitting to others. Partially because of the way people interpret what you mean when you say you are suffering with depression. As I said above, a lot of people don't have a clue what is going on in your mind, but try, sometimes too hard, to reassure and empathise. Sadly the effect of this misunderstanding is you will more than likely block this person out from any future attempts at help.

Where we go from here is very much an individual thing. It is nice and also reassuring that friends have shared their stories with me recently, and similarities clearly exist between our situations. That said, I do not and would not expect them to believe that I fully understand, nor that they fully understand my feelings. Anyone who has been to a true low point knows that it is a very individual feeling.

One thing I do have to say though is, I am NOT brave, bold, or stronger than others for speaking out so openly about this situation. I know people mean well when they say it, and I appreciate the sentiment, it means a lot. But I am no braver than anyone else living an coping with depression. It takes far more strength to fight your inner most thoughts and fear, than it does to write a blog and share some of the less emotive matters in the situation. All I am trying to do by writing this is show others suffering in silence that it is OK to admit how you feel, and you are not alone in the darkness. No one can take the pain from your mind, but sometimes just getting some of it out there and engaging in dialogue, is enough to make the pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place for you. A 5 min conversation can lead to days of clearer thoughts, and less weight on your shoulders.

My advise to anyone who has a friend, or even thinks a friend might be suffering with mental health issues. IF you have the time and the mindset, IF you care about their wellbeing, IF you can commit to them... Just let them know you are there. A quick "if you ever need a chat" and a reassuring smile, then leaving it alone, can do more than you can imagine. And when the time is right for that friend, and they feel you are the right person to speak to, they will come knocking. If they don't, please don't take offence to it. It's not them snubbing you, it is them making a brave decision, and starting a journey. Just not with you. But please be happy for them, and occasionally, with no pressure implied, remind them you are there. A quick text to say "heya, how's you" goes a long way.

PS, "mental health" merely relates to the wellbeing of the mind, and is a huge umbrella for a whole host of conditions. Someone diagnosed with a mental health issue is not immediately schizophrenic, bi-polar or a self harmer. So please don't be ignorant about it. People should be able to discuss their mental health issues without the above stigma being associated, and it is the ignorant people out there who immediately pigeon hole people like this who compound the issue for those suffering, and in turn prevent them from seeking help.

Right, that's me done. Said more than I intended to, but a brief moment of clarity got me caught up.

Just remember, whether self diagnosed, or clinically diagnosed and medicated for it, mental health issues are different for everyone. You are not me, I am not you. Empathy is fine, complete understanding, and advice like "cheer up" does NOT help.

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