You Can’t Say That

This is a rambling, probably incoherent post.

Recently, I’ve found myself thinking about a conversation I had a couple years ago with someone.

I was having a difficult time, dealing with alot of chaotic thoughts and feelings. I decided to confide in this person as they were a person of authority who would probably need to know about how I was feeling.

Having built up to the conversation all week, I dived in and laid myself bare to this person for ten minutes or so. Talking out loud about my low feelings, my erratic behaviour and how difficult I was finding everyday life. I concluded by describing myself as “mental”.

Quick as a flash their guard was up. Their body language, which had been open, had changed to hunched up shoulders and the shaking of the head. “oh no” they said “you can’t say that. You’re just playing into the stigma of people with mental health issues”.

In a conversation where I’ve told this person way more than I wanted to (and probably left out just as much) about how I was feeling, behaving and how it was impacting on me, their immediate concern was the words I was using?

I laughed and doubled down on it though, “no, no, I’m actually mental” I said. “It’s OK, I’m not expecting you to agree or anything, my behaviour has been totally out of control because of mental illness”

This confession about how hard I was finding, basically everything, had turned into a pedant war about the language I was using.

After my next CBT appointment I called them to say I was feeling awful after it and I wouldn’t be able to make my way to where I was due to be, their reaction was to be punitive and petulant. Another thing I’ve been thinking about recently.

I don’t know why this situation keeps playing over in my head, I probably wish I’d stuck up for myself more. Its the sort of anxious thought which creeps up on you and nudges you at the most unexpected of times. If you invite this vampire of a thought in, then it’ll make itself at home, popping back up every now and again at the most inappropriate times. Normally around 2am.

I think in the months to come an awful lot will be said about mental health and supporting people during and after this lockdown period.

The spectrum of anxiety and depression which the world’s population are experiencing must be as wide as the equator. And that’s just relating to the current issue we’re all dealing with. When you’re obsessively anxious or low about something like this horrendous pandemic, your other thoughts don’t just pack up and head off on holiday. They’re still there too. Just festering in the background waiting for you to get a free minute to humour them too.

Publically, attitudes on mental health conditions have improved dramatically in recent years. But personally, as a sufferer of anxiety, I don’t believe there’s an understanding yet.

The person in my example above wasn’t a horrible person, they weren’t intending to insult me or offend me. I just don’t think they got it. They didn’t understand me. If they thought I would be sat here in a dark room getting upset about it 2 years later, they wouldn’t have questioned my choice of words, would they? I doubt it.

And I suppose that’s my worry (I’ll add it to the pile). Yes, attitudes to mental health have changed but if the world is going to heal beyond the disease it’s currently fighting then a willingness to listen and understand it are desperately needed.

Stay safe.

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