For many people Mental Health problems, acute or chronic, are seen as a battle, something to be fought with ardour and endless determination. Almost as though having a Mental Health Diagnosis or issue is forbidden, the taboo illness of the medical and social world. After all, if one has diabetes and has to inject whilst at work or out with friends and family, some people may be inquisitive, ask questions, be understanding etc. But take time off for stress, depression or anxiety and the comments begin to fly, "we all have stress, get over it", "I am 'depressed', especially in todays climate, who isn't!" "so what, we all get anxious about...., doesn't mean I take time of work!", and so many other quotes have been heard.
So what about Me? What can I, or what am I supposed to do? Wow, those words are joy to the philosophers, they love those open ended questions, those questions without an empirically correct answer, ones where even the "experts" may have differing opinions. There lays the problem, no one expert can agree on one course of action, treatment, or care for the universal whole. By that, I mean, if one is having an MI (heart attack) in the UK, (Wales, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland), there are prescribed National guidelines which, for the majority, will apply and treatment will be the same wherever, or whoever you are. But the Brain doesn't work like that, neither do the professionals.
Since Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud first published their hypothesise' and papers, people have been arguing/debating both theories for more than a hundred years, so what hope do you and I have of trying to understand the mind and its workings. Yes, there are fantastic experts out there, the likes of @DrCarolineLeaf who is a respected Neuroscientist and Mental Health & Mind expert, she does try to help us make sense of it all, and even provides fantastic help and advice on her YouTube channel, along with other guest experts. Yet again, you and I are not experts, so what can we/I do?
Firstly, we can accept that we do have a problem, issue, or diagnosis, whether that be acute or more chronic (long term). This requires honesty, foremost to oneself, and then those closest to us, and even, if need be, work. Secondly, give your problem a name, "I have depression, anxiety,..... etc" by speaking it out it is a positive step on the road towards Mental Health Wellbeing and management. By denying I have Asthma, where as "I only get short of breath when....", I am putting my physical health at risk, even to the point of death. You may say that analogy is a bit extreme, but trust me, when I say that my denial of My mental health issues, led to a crescendo that subsequently led to a suicide attempt. Similarly, I do have asthma, and without taking my prescriptions, I could end up seriously/critically ill.
Thirdly, seek professional support. By this I mean not only the GP, but also registered therapists, organised support groups, counselling, whether in person or online. By having that outlet and support, one can talk openly in a way we don't always feel we can with family. They may also advise or prescribe treatments, therapies, and strategies, and they often help with the motivation and accountability when we waver, feel low, or have a dark day(s). I am only as strong as the support/base I stand on.
Covid -19 has brought about it's own stressors let alone normal everyday life. I became unemployed, haven't spent any significant time with my elderly parents, despite them having new health issues to contend with, we haven't seen the new grandchild in person (now 3weeks old) etc.. Not an uncommon story you will agree. However, add to that, I did find a job working in a frontline Covid Test Centre (no stress there then) and I have to manage daily with my Endogenous depression and anxiety.
I chose the wording carefully when I say "manage daily", because I choose to manage my diagnosis, working with my therapist, my wife, and my body to stop myself being controlled by the conditions, their symptoms and consequences. How I manage, is specific to me, but I use some well used principles', such as knowing and recognising when I am tired and ensuring I go to bed at a sensible time despite what the family are doing, I may even have to "take the tablets" to help sleep, and yes I also now acknowledge that I need to take my antidepressant prescriptions every day. I similarly recognise when I need my space, even in work, so I sit in the car for lunch, or take the dog for a walk alone, I will also know when I need to talk, to my wife who listens well and doesn't try to "advise me", and lastly, I am beginning to know what my triggers are and will attempt, where possible to avoid them, even if I have to walk away from someone.
So, I do have Depression, I do have Anxiety, I will have dark or bad days, where my thoughts are well... you know, and I will feel the effects of my anxiety from time to time. No, Covid and lockdown doesn't help, but life is what life is, so I choose, (note I say, "I Choose") to acknowledge my diagnosis, recognise the symptoms, work with the professionals to manage those symptoms, and be honest with my family when I am struggling. By outing my condition, it helps both myself, my family and others understand why I do, or am the way I am some days. Yes they find it hard, but at least there is that open dialogue.
That old saying "a problem shared, is a problem halved", may not be entirely true, but trust me it certainly does help, and the sentiment behind the saying is as valid as it was when it was first penned (Morcombe Gaurdian, 1931), or in its longer version (Munice Evening Press, 1854) "A problem shared is a problem halved. A joy shared is a joy doubled." Either way, it illustrates the need for honest, open, non-judgemental discussions and unbiased support from us all. It's never to late to find #TimeToTalk.