It’s the year 2000 you are firmly in the midst of teenage angst, walking around with the chain hanging off your baggy trousers, jelly bangles up to your elbows and wearing a pair of vans that are big enough and fat enough to be considered clown shoes. Well, that was me at least. Would I admit to being a Linkin’ Park fan then, NEVER. I was into ‘REAL’ metal. Under the surface of it though I loved Avril Lavigne, Sum 41, Green Day and all that pop-punk-rock had to offer.
I’m still not proclaiming to be a Linkin’ Park fan, I never really have a day where I think… oh, I fancy listening to Chester belting his lungs out today but with the announcement of his suicide yesterday and the floods of social media comments on the subjects surrounding his death it really hit home to me.
Chester was 41 years old, married with 6 children and had a successful music career under his belt. On paper he had ‘made it’. I read twitter comments from people who knew him personally saying how ‘happy’ he was in the lead up to his suicide, therefore it was a shock to them, yet lyrics he had written for new music tell a very different story. They tell a story of a man lost in himself and struggling with his mental state.
Obviously we know very little about Chester and the in’s and out’s of why he felt the way that he did but from personal experiences with depression and anxiety and in the wake of his suicide, I have noticed a lot of people ‘urging’ others to go ‘talk’ to someone if they are feeling this low but having being through the cycle myself I am here to tell you why it’s not always that simple.
Firstly when you feel that low, you don’t want to talk to anyone!!!
You don’t even want to open the door to the postman when he chaps. So plucking up the courage and energy to admit that you are struggling takes A LOT of might. Might that on most days you just don’t have.
In other circumstances you don’t even admit to yourself that you have a problem until the problem has swallowed you whole and you are already too far gone playing a happy-go-lucky version of yourself. So to say out loud how you really feel is too overwhelming and instead you find other means of ‘coping’ these ‘coping’ strategies aren’t always healthy ones, for some it is drugs, alcohol or cutting themselves and for others it is binge eating or not eating at all then hiding away from the world. In Chester’s case it all got too much and unfortunately this is the ugliest side of mental illness, when the inability to cope becomes fatal.
Unlike other health conditions, mental health comes with a stigma. When you break an arm the damage is obvious and people are almost always sympathetic. It’s not always the same with mental health, people can’t outwardly see a problem (unless you have a mental break down or panic attack right in front of them) they don’t know the battle you have with your mind and even if they did they don’t always understand it. Not only that but the person suffering more than likely doesn’t even understand it either.
I struggled for years with depression and anxiety before I really realised I had a medical condition. ‘You’re just tired’ I told myself or ‘lazy’ or ‘You need to get a grip’, ‘’Stop being so emotional’ ‘You just need to get on with it’, “Everyone else does’ until one day it just got too much. I did go to speak to someone in the end but honestly that wasn’t easy either and also not the ultimate solution to my condition.
When I finally started to get help, I didn’t feel better right away, if anything I felt worse. I was ashamed, most people going through these things are. In your mind you feel personal weakness and that you have somehow failed. You have let yourself down, your family down, your colleagues down. You are put on medication right away and all of a sudden you have a whole host of new symptoms, among others you are numb and dizzy all of the time!
You are also put on a waiting list to speak to a professional psychologist which can sometimes take as much as 8 weeks to finally speak to someone face to face. Sure there are helplines like The Samaritans, if you need to speak to someone over the phone or in an emergency situation but honestly I was already tired of explaining what was going on in my head. To myself, my family, to my friends, my GP, my work, where I was required to give regular updates on my condition, over the phone and face to face, which believe me is a very daunting experience in itself. You are then required to attend their doctors through Occupational Health to explain yourself again. It starts to make you wonder, is this because they are genuinely concerned for my wellbeing, or is because they are following a procedure, allowing them to assess whether you will be back anytime soon to cover the workload, you have inconveniently left them with. When you do finally feel able to return, you are required to explain yourself again at your back to work interview then at a further disciplinary or capability meeting where your future within the company is decided. All of this is exhausting for someone who is already exhausted with themselves.
Another reason sufferers find it difficult to open up to those around them is due to the fear of the wealth of doubts, judgement and critique that may come your way. Things like… ‘What have you got to be anxious about?’, ‘You’re young, you have seen so much of the world already, you have so much going for you!’, “You have so much to be happy for, how can you be depressed?” and the list goes on. A lot of these statements usually come from the people you hold dearest. They are only saying these things to try to comprehend the situation a little bit better but it doesn’t leave you with a whole lot of faith and instead of investing your innermost thoughts and feelings with them, you withdraw so when they ask you how you’re doing it seems easier to say your are ‘fine’ or even ‘good’ than to go down the road of judgement again.
Not only that but talking about mental health makes, everyone, feel uncomfortable. It makes the person going through the situation feel uncomfortable as well as those who surround them.
Although admitting to having a problem is seen as a good place to begin, ultimately as the sufferer, the maintenance of your mental health is in your hands, daily. Just like a diabetic can take insulin and follow a nutrition plan, as a mental health sufferer there are a whole host of things that can be done to maintain better mental health.
- Walking in nature
- Meditating daily
- Eating healthy and nutritious foods
- Writing down thought and feelings
- Reducing stress to a manageable level
Unfortunately in the pace that society goes these days and the demands we put on ourselves between work, life and social media, following these daily rituals are not always easy or manageable, meaning relapses.
Personally I still struggle daily with my mental health, but I have learned that by following my gut to fulfil what I believe is my true potential in life, keeps the demons at bay. This may not always align with others views or values but staying true to myself is essential for the maintenance of MY mental health. I have had to learn to block out the noise of others, whether that be the opinions of even some of my closest circle or what society deems to be a ‘normal’ way of living.
When you have a mental health condition, particularly when you are on a wave of ups and downs, you don’t always want to talk about it, you don’t want to worry those around you or continually go over and over why you ‘think’ you feel the way you do but if you are stuck in a very dark place and you are able to learn to recognise your own destructive thought patterns and are able to learn to take a step back from society at these points to put measures in place that work for YOU and YOUR overall happiness without feeling or even taking regard to the breath of judgement down your spine, you can be your own hero in life and you WILL be able build a happy life that is true to YOU.
Even in my darkest moments, I never considered suicide as a way out of my battle but I did understand why others chose this path and that to me was a scary enough place to be in. Personally, I do believe that the social stigma of mental health is starting to break but I also believe a lot of work still needs to be done in society to allow suffers of this often fatal disease to not feel defined by their illness and to be made feel less criticised, less selfish and more accepted. I think then, we will find more sufferer’s stepping out not only to find help but also to help themselves and to help others. LA ❤