I’ve just come off the back of two night shifts at work, which to some, probably doesn’t seem a lot, and to me, it really isn’t. I worked for 18 months on the night shift on my old job, but I am definitely no longer equipped for it. The problem lies completely with my mental health, and the severe isolation that having to complete the night shifts create. It’s all well and good being told that there isn’t much to do on a night shift so there shouldn’t be any complaints, but that is the precise problem: there is nothing to occupy my busy mind.
Today is World Mental Health Day, but for some of us, it’s mental health day every day. I’ll admit, my mental health isn’t that bad at the moment. I’ve managed to develop my own coping strategies and corrected a few of my go-to behaviours when my mind begins to run away with me, but it doesn’t mean I’m cured.
Recently, it has been my anxiety that has been peaking more than my depression, which to me, is better because I hate feeling so low and putting people through dealing with me, and I can overcome my anxiety a lot quicker than my depression, but this weekend has definitely pushed me to a limit with the way I felt.
It has been nearly a year since my life changed for the better, and since then, I have been in more control of myself and my mind, although it was after this that the whole depression thing cropped up. It was seen as the dissolution of my relationship that had brought it on, but in fact, it was historical and I’d just let it run away with me over the years. But since my life changed, things have got better. I have surrounded myself with more positive people, I have more positive experiences, and I’ve stopped letting the little things get to me as much. I’m in a stable and nurturing relationship, and even when I am low, or in a vile mood, he just accepts it’s part of being with me and we work through it together.
Sometimes though, it’s better to just work through it alone, and if that means coming home to an empty house and no one to chat to, that’s fine, because it helps develop my own coping strategies. That isn’t always the best, so don’t for one second think you should back away from someone having a bad time; we all need someone to talk to, even if it’s just a brief check in, because that can stop us slipping off the end of the rope we dangle from every day.
Over time though, I have noted changes even to my mental health when there is a quick release option, like an air lock button glowing red right next to me. I hit that, I let it all out, and then I reset to the most recent positive time, no matter how small that little ray of positivity is. My mental health does make me angry at times, but not angry at other, angry at myself. I will often let myself sink into it like a comfort blanket wrapping around me – it’s the worst comfort blanket I’ve ever known. Inevitably though, we will always sink into something that is the norm and comfortable, because it’s without our ‘comfort zone’ even if depression or anxiety isn’t comfortable, we will embrace it as part of who we are because we have that label attached to the collar of our shirts.
I work with a range of people, who seemingly embrace their diagnosis as a label and will walk around practically introducing themselves with the label. This is somewhat dangerous, especially if you are really suffering at the time, but in other ways it is a good thing. You see, no matter how many Mental Health Days we parade around social media, there will forever be stigma, because we’re making it stand apart from every other day and every other label someone may attach to their being.
I could begin to introduce myself as “Ted, the overweight, vegetarian gay man who has depression and anxiety” but I don’t, I’m just Ted. Ted is those things, but Ted is who I am. I am not defined by the extra information, it’s just part of who I am and what I sometimes choose to talk about. I choose to talk about it because there are others like me, who may not wish to talk about it, because it’s a bad thing, or it’s too uncomfortable to go into detail about.
What really needs to happen is for ‘national’ and ‘world’ days to stop, and for us all to just accept that every day should be mental health day, or better yet, a taboo day, where we talk and discuss, constructively, about all the subjects that socially are taboo to talk about. That’s how you will truly raise awareness, when it is the norm for anyone to talk about it at any time.
This week was tough for me, like, really tough. I could feel myself being enveloped into my little nest of depression, and the world was getting darker to me. I begin to think all sorts of things such as questioning the intent of those closest to me, questioning my own death and what exactly my purpose is in this life. It’s horrible to feel that way. Luckily though, after each shift, I had the chance to jump in my car, crank up Madonna’s GHV2, and drive home screaming my head off.
That screaming, that’s the new air lock. That’s the glowing red button waiting for me to punch it, for the door to fly out into the vacuum of space and for me to just release every bad thought and feeling. It is a coping mechanism I have developed over time. A quick release that helps me dispel all the bad things I feel. It’s liberating if not harsh on my throat screaming so loud at the top of my lungs. But I needed that. I needed to just scream.
Mental health is a hard thing to witness, but it’s also a hard thing to live with. You feel like drowning, you feel so helpless, and sometimes you need that hand to stretch out to stop you from falling, or you need that extra length of rope, not to hang yourself by, but to move you away from the deep dark abyss that hangs below you.
We should never be afraid to talk about it, and people shouldn’t be scared to listen. Listening can really help, but don’t just do it for one day out of the year because it’s great to use a hashtag. Do it every day, because you care about those around you. You care about that family member, or that friends, or your colleague, or someone you just see who doesn’t look 100%. Mental health is intertwined within our society, and it is the new norm, so don’t be afraid to speak.