YOU know that phrase, “it was an eye-opening experience”? Well in that last few weeks it feels as if someone has gouged my eyes out – King Lear style – and sent them on a worrying tour of other people’s minds.
I think it’s now fair to say that everyone suffers a bit with anxiety, stress, worry, depression or just plain old butterflies for no particular reason at all. I have some close friends that when we meet up, will tell me that they’ve been on a bit of a “downer” for a few days but don’t particularly know why. Sometimes all it takes is a chat, and a bit of a laugh, to bring that person back to normal, but of course that’s only temporary and soon they’re back home where all their worries seem to stem from.
I get anxious about the strangest of things. For example, on my birthday, when people were posting messages on my page, for some reason that had be going around with a racing heart for half the day. I only calmed it down when I eventually got around to thanking everyone for their kind wishes. There really is no logic to this, but I know that it’s probably self-esteem based. In fact, it gets a bit stranger when I tell you that as soon as my beating heart was stilled, I then questioned why only 250 people out of 1250 had actually wished me a happy birthday. They must secretly hate me. That’s it.
Once again, I know that there’s no logic to that. I don’t even need anyone to tell me I’m being a silly billy for thinking this, I already know it…but it doesn’t stop me from thinking these things anyway.
I’ve never been content with who I am and I fear I never will. I could change my clothes about five times a day because I hate how fat I look. I hate my fat head, is a sentence I say quite a lot and is the reason I avoid cameras like cats avoid dogs. The thing is, I’ve thought the exact same thing since I was about 14 so it can’t really be related to size (because I certainly wasn’t overweight when I was 14) – it’s obviously some kind of deep rooted self-esteem thing.
This journalism lark can be strange sometimes. I was at a mental health talk recently and all I could think about while people were telling their stories was ‘yeah…I should be up there…’ It felt weird being the one documenting their personal journeys, as if I was somehow disconnected to them.
The reality is that we all struggle in one way or another, and logic never comes into it.
The worst thing we can ever do is compare our lives to others because the simple fact is, it’s like comparing a book you’ve written to one that you’ve only seen the cover of. We genuinely have no idea how good or bad someone else’s life is. Like, you wouldn’t know how messed up my head sometimes gets if I didn’t tell you about it every second week. I’ll also happily tell you that many of my closest friends, some of whom have some very high powered jobs, are as messed up, if not more so, than you and I.
I need to start getting to a point here.
For some people, a ‘downer’ can happen if they don’t feel in control of their lives. Their mind will take them on a journey of all the worst possible conclusions to their current circumstances. That can sometimes fix itself by doing something as straightforward as cleaning up the house or sending all those emails you should have sent last week.
I know for a fact – although they may not know it themselves – that three of my closest friends suffer a bit with anxiety because they feel that they are not being the best versions of themselves that they should be. They think they are in jobs that they don’t deserve and soon the world will be exposed to how much of a fraud they all are. They’re being too hard on themselves but they’re never going to see that. They’ll do something good in work and feel better about themselves, but that will soon wear off and they’ll be left, alone and sullied, in their homemade world of self-doubt. And this brings me to my point.
The message of ‘it’s good to talk’, has been around for decades. It’s a good one, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. We need to talk to people about the demons in their heads and the monkeys on their backs. I’ll tell you about why I get anxious every Tuesday when the newspaper comes out, if you tell me why you’ve turned off all the notifications on your phone.
Talk, but talk about something meaningful because there’s no substance in small talk and its effects are only temporary. I’ll tell you why I hate socialising in large groups, if you tell me why you spent all day yesterday in bed.
Honesty is the most powerful weapon we have in the fight against depression, anxiety and self-doubt. That, and good friends. Take a look at your current circle of friends and if you think that you can’t tell any of them your deepest darkest worries, then you need new friends. Seriously.
I know that right now, if I rang up 2-3 of my friends and told them I had killed a man, they’d be over with a shovel and a bag of lime. Ok, maybe not to that extreme but you know what I mean.
I’m going to make a personal guarantee to some of you now (I say some because I don’t want to be too presumptuous about people’s problems). Those butterflies in your stomach…that thing that you worry about last thing at night and first thing in the morning…it’s really not as bad as you think. Pick out a close friend…tell them about it and I bet they’ll tell you something about them in return.
Two weeks ago, six people contemplated suicide on the River Suir. One man jumped into the river and almost instantly regretted it. That’s six that we know about. What about all the people at home that put their head into a noose, never giving their friends a chance to show them a different perspective.
What is life? I still don’t know, but what I do know is that we’re all in it together.