REGARDLESS of how funny this sentence sounds, I have to write it:
I was only a child growing up.
I was doing child things, and then I was doing teenage things and then I was doing stupid things. I don’t remember people talking about depression back then because I was distracted by He-Man, and then by girls, and then by bad habits.
I worked in a shop on Hennessy’s Road called Finefare when I was in my early teens. I remember people coming in that, as was okay to say at the time, ‘weren’t playing with the full deck.’ These were the people that we considered to have mental health issues. They were, as I was told by older people in the know, ‘struggling with their nerves.’ I remember not having a clue what that meant. My experience of nerves was waiting for the principal to get back to the office I had been sent to, or that feeling I had before I went to a job interview. In my unpolished mind, these people were constantly walking around nervous, and to me, that seemed like hell on earth.
Were there as many people suffering ‘in themselves’ back then or is all this mental health stuff just a modern phenomenon? Do we have the recession and the rise of the internet to blame for our ever more fragile minds? Is it all Facebook’s fault?
Honestly, I haven’t a clue, but I do think that it’s logical that this new social world that we’re all living in can put added pressure, even subconsciously on our minds. From a young age I used to think about how the mind was the most vital tool that we have. Let me talk about mine and we’ll see if it resonates with any of you.
I remember, even as a teenager, needing to have my thoughts in order before I faced the day ahead. If I could somehow create a positive barrier around my worries, then all would be well. If I was dreading a particular day in school, I’d reinforce that with something to look forward to in the evening, even if that was just a bag of crisps, a Toblerone and a big glass of milk. I could genuinely make my day more endurable, even enjoyable, by just placing a positive thought in there…something to look forward to.
I felt like my whole life was dominated by thoughts, or, as one might argue, excessive thoughts. The mind was in complete control. I wasn’t able to just get up and get on with it like it seemed that everyone else was doing. Of course, if I knew then what I know now, I might have felt a little better. Everyone is not as ‘okay’ or as ‘perfect’ as they try so hard to let on.
Skip forward to today and the key words are ‘depression’ and ‘mental health issues.’ If there was a scale between 1-10 and we all had to pick a number that represented the status of our minds,most would probably land at around 5 or so, as we all get stressed and worried but not everyone would consider themselves ‘depressed’ or having ‘mental health issues’.
The one strong message that has been delivered by mental health organisations the world over is ‘TALK’. Nobody should be allowed to think that they are fighting a unique battle. Talk, and I guarantee you’ll feel better. The wonders of communication have been marvelled the world over. Remember when you were in secondary school and you didn’t study for that big test. Remember that panic? Now, remember when you told your friends that you didn’t study, and they replied that they didn’t either? I can still feel that sense of relief. It made me feel better, even though I still hadn’t a hope of passing the exam. The feeling that someone else was in the same hole-ridden boat as I was, was a great comfort.
I’m not depressed but I do think I suffer from some form of mental health issues. I’ve diagnosed myself with a simple case of ‘overthinking’. Sometimes, a good day for me can be cut short by thinking too much about something that I did previously, or maybe getting paranoid about something that I said to someone. “Did they think I meant this when I actually meant that?” That kind of crap can take over my mind like a virus. I can sometimes endure a beating from the forlorn stick, just by realising that all the people I love could die in the morning.
I have friends who are dealing with some seriously complex and stressful issues and I know for a fact that their minds are being stretched like elastic-bands. I make sure I meet with them on a regular basis just so we can bat our problems across a couple of pints like a tennis ball. A problem shared is definitely a problem halved, even if the other person can do very little to help our problems.
For what it’s worth, here are my ‘mental health’ problems in a nutshell: I worry too much about the future and I regret too much about the past. When I look back at previous relationships and situations I remember only the bad from me and the good of everyone else. I care far too much about what other people think. If someone unfriends me on Facebook, or blanks me on the street, I’ll agonise about what on earth I did to annoy them. I used to have a best friend in school, a chap who one day decided that he no longer had time for me. Maybe other things happened in his life to break our connection but to this day, I still think about what I said or did to make him walk off my radar. He doesn’t have a Facebook or Twitter and only for the fact that his brothers regularly confirm his existence to me, I would have been convinced that he was dead. I hope to meet him again soon, just so I can count one less demon in my mind.
Seriously, you may not be depressed and you may not have ‘mental health issues’ but nobody is immune to this crazy world so please…talk more, it could be the best medicine you’ll ever take.