Wednesday was World Mental Health Day and mid-week I chose not to write something about it over my morning coffee. I sent out a little tweet and scrolled through Twitter for a bit, but other than that I just wanted to have a normal, productive day.
By the way, that’s my Twitter. You should follow me, and I’ll follow you. Then we can all be connected in a early 21st century consciousness sort of way. Brilliant!
Part of my constant recovery from anxiety and depression has been to stay busy. There are definitely other factors involved, but the general rule of thumb for me is the more productive I’ve been that day, the lower the likelihood of anxiety sneaking its way into my mind.
I’m incredibly neurotic, which is such a cliché for a writer. So burn me, burn me now. When my anxiety boils over I end up with three of four trains of thought going on at once. It’s all linked to a chemical imbalance in the fight or flight mechanism, which it turns out is used for more than just extremely dangerous situations. It’s actually used in most decisions, no matter how passive they may be.
It’s why anxiety is on the rise in young people. It’s not because they’re “snowflakes” or “liberal cucks” who “can’t handle the real world”, it’s because the world has more and more decisions to be made from such an early age. Should I like that status? Should I add them as a friend? Should I even make a social media account?
I’m not saying that pre-social media folk didn’t have to make decisions, but the results of anyone’s actions are now quantifiable in the number of friends or likes you have. The consequences of a young persons actions are reflected back on them in such a precise way. So if you force enough decisions on the early mind, then that fight or flight response is going to become fairly erratic and imbalanced.
I can’t imagine taking my underdeveloped brain from ten years ago and putting it into today’s environment. In fact — I can imagine it, I just don’t want to.
As I mentioned, I’ve found that staying busy has been the most useful element of my recovery. Although I should say that it’s on top of a diagnosis, CBT, meditation and breathing exercises. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without at least some of each of the above.
Staying busy doesn’t make my anxiety go away, but it allows it less room to breathe when it creeps up on me. If I’m writing, which takes up at least two of the trains of thought in my head, then I’m rooted in something tangible whenever I start to panic. If that makes sense?
It’s like if you have to be hit by a car — You have no choice in the matter, it’s going to happen. Would you rather let it happen without any protection, or would you rather wear a helmet and body-armour?
By writing, I lessen the impact of the blow. You might have something else that keeps your mind occupied, and that’s amazing — Keep it up. A lot of neuroticism is about your response to certain stimulus, but I’ve found that by keeping your mind at least partially stimulated on something at all times — Well, it makes for less painful car accidents.
I didn’t want to write the above words on World Mental Health Day itself. Partly because I’ve noticed a trend that I’m starting to worry about.
Let me first say that awareness is brilliant. Everyone needs to have an understanding of mental health problems, at least to a level where we can have conversations about them. Talking, quite literally, saves lives.
The posts I’ve made on this blog which have had the most views/likes have been ones where I’ve discussed my mental health. Which both does and doesn’t sit right with me. This lead me down a rabbit-hole of mental health specific blogs, who made-up the majority of likes and engagements. If I tag this post right, then I’m sure these words will be no different.
Or maybe not after what I’m about to say, which genuinely comes from a place of love:
Maybe there’s a point at which mental health awareness tips over into glamourising, and even profiting from, very serious illnesses.
I’m not talking about the teenager who posts their personal struggles to an audience of twenty. They’re working through what they have going on by talking to the void, and we all know that’s better than keeping it locked away. They may not have an understanding of their illness, and they may not have been to visit a medical professional for proper diagnosis (an understanding always helps, even if you don’t want/can’t afford therapy), but they’re trying to connect for sincere reasons and that’s beautiful.
I’m talking about the blogs with thousands of followers, who post fairly vapid mental health tips in pastel-coloured text boxes. Some of the language they use is alarmingly simplistic and sometimes misinformed. They have ads all across their blog and cross-promote each other on a regular basis, to drive-up traffic.
Mental health issues are complex, and my concern is that some people who’re genuinely suffering are either being misinformed, or think that visiting these blogs is enough of a therapy for them. Which, short term, it may be. But I can’t form an understanding of how they would impact someone long term, especially when their main advice on, say, anxiety is as follows:
- Drink a warm beverage
- Talk to a loved one
- Wrap yourself in a blanket
- Tell yourself you’re awesome
- Tell yourself you’re double-awesome
I’m not going to name any names, as maybe they don’t even know what they’re doing. Maybe they’re just caught-up in blogging about something that’s “trendy” at the moment. But they make anxiety sound like a f***ing Pinterest board, which is a sick and damaging joke.
Anyone who is in the grips of an anxiety attack, knows how difficult the above five bullet-points are to achieve. Especially that hot beverage part, so many choices involved.
If we really want governments to take the funding of mental health seriously, then some people need to stop treating it like its a hobby by choice. Poor mental health is messy, and the remedies, therapies and treatments aren’t as simple as a graphic. You wouldn’t attempt heart surgery with a comfy pillow and some pixie-sticks, so why treat mental health so flippantly?
Finally, I’m aware of the slight irony here — That I myself am currently blogging about mental health. You should talk, absolutely. Talk to the void if that means you’re talking to someone. Just don’t try and make mental illnesses a marketable feature for your Wednesday Wisdom. They’re not a fashionable trend to be worn on days you feel like connecting to a wider audience — They’re closer to a Lady GaGa meat-dress in the hot, Arizonan sun.
Stay busy, breathe and look after yourself.
Today is Friday, October 12th and if I left this little part out of the blog would anyone notice?
Here’s a charity donation link instead of a tip jar: