Mental health is extremely topical at the moment, heightened by various sports stars and celebrities. I think that the stigma attached to having mental health issues doesn’t help the cause but it is gradually becoming easier to climb the wall of despair and isolation, albeit slowly. Personally I prefer to call it mental wealth. Ideally the word mental wouldn’t be mentioned at all but if I just called it wealth I don’t think it would have the same catchiness to it.
Growing up in my era as a child being called a mental was the worst it got, until you reached the upper echelons of the teenage world. wealthy mentality in day to day life is much easier to deal with than if you haven’t got a pot to urinate into mentally. A cheery disposition may sound like the simplest thing in the world to bring to the table, and it very probably is, if your state of mind has enough wedge in the bank.
I do feel that the stigma that is attached to it scares a lot of people. People don’t want to be labelled under the word “mental”. I don’t, I hold my hands up. I offer no solutions or answers sadly. I’ve no idea where it will end. I decided to write this after a very famous ( for 5 minutes ) journalist spoke out on mental health issues, stating that most people who claim to be depressed are probably just ‘a bit down’. Its exactly that attitude though that makes people afraid to speak out and question whether they have problems coping. So well done Katie. Bravo to you for being intelligent enough to diagnose everyone else and comparing them to you. Quite frankly I’d rather have one or two problems than be a self – idolising cretin.
Is it a fair point that she makes? On some evidence out there, possibly, but, and there is a huge but, then how many people who ride a slippery slope every day say nothing because of that sort of attitude. How many folk out there feel too embarrassed to openly admit to suffering from a variety of depressive states, simply due to a lack of willingness to understand from others.
The next thing about this post is this, I will apologise now, if it seems disjointed and confusing. I have no idea where this is going, what I’m driving towards. This may sound bizarre but I had no idea how to start this. I’ve thought about it lots. The problem is I don’t have the self confidence or self esteem to believe that I’m good enough to make this a worthwhile piece. I’m not sure if this is a mental health issue. There are probably loads of people reading this, ( ok there’s maybe 10, if I’m lucky ), thinking what is this numpty on. Well I’m pretty sure I’m not seeking attention or help. I doubt I need help. Who decides? if anything I prefer to stay out of the headlines, but that’s another story. I don’t think I accept compliments too well. Call me a nugget, and I will get your point. Call me a star, I will get you a doctor.
People could tell me I was the best writer in the country, and for a few milliseconds I might actually go with it but it wouldn’t last. Sooner or later the thunderstorms overpower the sunshine and it’s back to square one. How do you write a piece on mental health when you don’t believe in your own ability to pull it off. My mind works like a seesaw. Not the best analogy I grant you but I’ve never conveyed to the masses my ability to articulate my thoughts. Tghe fact is I can go from being the Duracell bunny to drowning ferret in a matter of seconds. Getting out of that depressed mindset is the tricky part.
I would suggest people ( hopefully ) who know me, see me as a good egg. The sort of bloke who cracks a few funnies, has a bit of a laugh and a few beers and then trots off home to his happy little house to continue with his happy little life. Maybe that’s how I come across. It’s my defence mechanism. Give me a big sombrero and I really could be a fungi. Ok It’s pronounced fun-ghee but give me a break, I’m baring my soul here. Actually scrap that, regardless of the hat I’m not sure I’d look that much like a mushroom…. Am I bothered what people think ? I guess if I’m being honest I am. I know in theory that I shouldn’t give a Hugo, but I think it goes back to my days as a child. Acceptance.
So anyway, I spoke to GB, ( that’s her indoors for any newcomers ), the other day about writing this. She always encourages me, compliments me and tries to push me into putting my best foot forward. Here’s the kicker though. What if, regardless of what I’m told, deep inside, ingrained into my own self being, I feel I have no best foot?… Don’t get me wrong I could take a mean free – kick with my cultured left peg but that’s not what we are talking about is it. On a good day I can bounce out of bed and write a thousand words before my Coco Pops. It’s very rare that I have one of those days though.
I give up far too easily. I know that. Or do I ? For instance in my early days on this planet I survived two life saving heart operations. I’m never going to turn around and say that I wasn’t expected to pull through but the second had its moments. A very quick but heartfelt thank you to the Metropolitan Police. I’ve never said that before but it’s very possible that without their escort I wouldn’t be here today writing this blog. The bottom line is I came through the other side and lived for the main part a very happy childhood. I had a hole in my ticker just for the record. The first op didn’t resolve the problem. The second did. 118 stitches and 39 years on, here we are.
I’m not trying to blame my heart for any of my problems, I blame myself. It’s difficult to talk about my childhood, or at least what I feel, the main contributor was/is, to where I find myself mentally on far too many days. I don’t mind being open enough to admit I feel I was emotionally tormented at school. I have no doubt that others suffered the same fate, some far worse I imagine, but I to this day, struggle to cope with that. It possibly should have galvanised me to be a stronger soul but it broke me in so many ways. When people continually push you down, it becomes more difficult to get back up. Eventually I found it easier to stay down.
Their problem with me became my problem with me. I started to hate myself. It was all my fault. Seeking acceptance became a major challenge. I would do anything to avoid ridicule, including stealing and trying to buy myself friendships. I always felt people were laughing at me behind my back. At senior school I started playing truant. I’m ashamed to admit I reduced my mum to tears at various stages by refusing to go to school. I love my mother more than anything and even now I regret what I did but I felt I’d rather die than go through that every day. I have an amazing family who if I’d spoken about it, would probably have helped but I didn’t speak out. I became more and more withdrawn. In between regular hospital appointments to Great Ormond Street Hospital, me and mum would visit City Sounds. A dance music shop by Holborn tube station.
I immersed myself in music for a long time. I very rarely went out after school, instead I chose to listen to the radio and make myself mix tapes, back in the day before CD’s and ITunes. My own company was my best, and at times worst companion. With the amount of vinyl I owned I really should have pushed myself into becoming a DJ. It was something I loved, although I’m not so sure my parents enjoyed the ‘THUMP THUMP THUMP’ day in day out.
As is always the way with a person lacking any form of confidence or self – esteem, I didn’t chase my dream. I didn’t see the point. I was never going to be good enough was I! It was easier to let someone else take the credit and for me to keep others happy. The way I saw it, if there was no spotlight on me, then hopefully people would forget I was there. Sometimes it’s the greatest escape, while at other times people can actually forget you exist. I’ve never been sure what’s worse.
You are in a pub, and you are a part of a small group. The conversation turns to something which you know little or nothing about. You can’t contribute in any way. This happened to me recently. It very possibly happens quite often in fairness. For a person who feels he/she is not that intellectual ( regardless of whether they possess some excellent qualities ), this is a bit of a nightmare. Again it’s a poor example but I’m having a go. My mind starts to wander, I start to think,
“What am I doing here?…… Anything I say will sound ridiculous…..I’m lucky to be in their company”…. I remain silent and hope that eventually, the subject will change.
I’d start beating myself up. My mindset tells me I’m not good enough. I try to think of excuses to leave. I want to go home and curl up in a corner. A few drinks later, I’m feeling depressed. While on the outside I’m whistling a happy tune, inside I’m kicking the top ten hit out of myself. Have you ever wandered across a motorway bridge and stopped, Looked down and considered the possibility that in 5 simple steps the pain would be gone. I hasten to add that I’m not talking about thinking about it wistfully because you’ve lost your favourite Climie Fisher album. I’ve been there a few times.
I think I’m writing this because I don’t like talking about stuff. My weaknesses are there every time I look in the mirror. It’s hard enough to live day to day without having to be constantly reminded by a bloody mirror. Even now I find myself going over and above what’s needed to be a friend. Or am I ? Maybe I’m just trying to be the best person I can be, because if others think highly of me its some consolation for me despising myself. As my best friend, ( GB ), tells me, ‘sometimes you are so busy doing stuff for everyone else you forget about us, you and me’. I know it’s true but even at 41, I still feel if I let my guard down people will dislike me. I won’t be accepted. Not a problem in a good mindset. Hiroshima on a bad day.
Acceptance. That is my key to the door. It is more than likely that I was accepted by lots of people 25 years ago. On days like today, when it’s 3am and I’m still awake dreading tomorrow it’s hard to believe. I have some fantastic friends who I know at the drop of a sombrero would be there for me. That should be enough shouldn’t it. Some days I’m sure it is, but a lot of the time I feel so empty inside. Like my head is pounding and I can’t shut off the hate valve. Maybe I’m just a bit down. A clown with a frown. If I do wake up tomorrow I hope I’m a little more cheerful. Just for an hour or so.
Please note: I did, and for now I am.