I never know what to say when I want to say something regarding mental health stuff. Especially my own issues. I’ve already written a few paragraphs and deleted them prior to writing this. What I do know is that having 1 day a year on social media to share our stories is not enough. Is nowhere near what is needed to have a conversation. Not going to begin to end the stigma around mental health. Too many of us live it 365 days a year, without a break. It is invisible. I know I look fine to people, regardless of whether or not I am. I often hate being asked how I am, or what’s new in my life. What is a big step for me, new for me, is usually nothing to the average person. When getting up and having 3 meals in a day, plus running some errands, is a big deal for you; most people don’t get that.
“What’s new with you Zander?”
“I managed to pay my rent and go grocery shopping. In the same day!”
Yeah, that can actually be a struggle. Anxiety that is bad enough that you keep the curtains closed all the time is a sign going out is hard. Peopling is hard. At the grocery store, the easy part is walking around grabbing the groceries. The hard part is standing in line at the checkout with people in my personal space. Also, I worry about my debit card not working, or my cash having disappeared since I left home. Will there be a glitch with the till and a manager need to be called, and the people behind me blame me for the delay? Will something not get scanned properly and security tackle me as I try to leave the store? All that and more goes through my mind every single time I am in the checkout. I don’t want it to be in my mind. It just is. When was the last time you wanted Rebecca Black’s Friday or Gangnam Style going through your mind on repeat?
When I have stressors in my life pile up, my anxiety ramps up. The stupid crap that goes on repeat gets more numerous. Things that I could sometimes manage are no longer manageable. Little quirks become big quirks. My ability to control impulse decisions drops. And sadly, my ability to find pleasure in activities I normally enjoy vanishes. Playing a video game becomes a chore, not a game. Reading is a task, not a relaxation. Watching a movie or TV show is suddenly about finding mistakes or bloopers, not the story. My mind processes things differently.
I have over the years found some ways to cope, to overcome some problems as they arise. If I am aware of them occurring. I cannot prevent the problem, just slow or stop the progress of some, when I notice in the moment. The key is the being aware. I am getting better. Yet, my safety net recently has shrunk considerably, and so coping is more difficult. The biggest step for me has been to speak up and tell my friends that I am having trouble, even if I am not giving them details. To simply let them know that I need some extra space, some understanding as to why I am not accepting an invite, or am cancelling last minute. I have at times asked for them to check up on me.
Mental health stuff is in our heads. Not made up, but related to that organ called the brain. We cannot just smile away a broken leg, suck up and carry on with heart failure, nor can we exercise away colon cancer. Some things can be fixed easily, some with difficulty, others not at all. We can learn to cope, to deal with what we have by learning our limitations. For some of us, that is an ongoing struggle. Struggling alone, in a society rife with stigma, is not okay.