Today is 6th Feb, Time to Talk Day, which aims to spark an ambitious 1 million conversations across England and Wales about mental health. It doesn’t have to be anything profound, different, or life changing, just a simple conversation with someone you know, or even someone you don’t, about what this topic might mean to you.
You may never have thought about mental health before, and that’s even better, because if by the end of the day, more people are aware of what it is and how many people are affected, then we can all pat ourselves on the back for having taken part in something amazing.
Everyone has good days and bad days, but for me sometimes, the bad days join themselves together into a mass of unrelenting blackness which makes me question who I am, what I’m doing, whether anything really matters and even whether I want to be around if it does.
I know I’m not alone in my experience of depression, I also know that feeling I’m not alone makes me one of the lucky ones. I have people who care about me, I work in a supportive environment where it’s ok not to be ok sometimes, and I’ve had professional help which has made a big difference too.
When I’m feeling fine which, since counselling, is thankfully more often than not, it helps me to make a mental note of things to think about when I’m struggling to see past the dark fog of anxiety and hopelessness in my head.
1. My partner. Having her total support and knowing her opinion of me doesn’t change when I’m having a bad time helps enormously. It can be really hard to have conversations about mental health with people who love you, but in my experience it’s the thing that helps the most.
2. My friends. A couple of months ago I went through something hard and I received a Facebook message with a menu attached. It said these are all the things I’ll be cooking this week, and these are the days I’ll be cooking them on, you are welcome to any, none or all of these meals, no warning, I’ll make enough for you to just turn up if you want to. It’s difficult to remember sometimes that there are people in your life who will do things like this for you, people who think you’re worth it, and remembering they’re there makes a huge difference.
3. My job. I’m lucky enough to enjoy what I do, to not only believe passionately in the ethos of the organisation I work for, but also to enjoy the day to day of my job. I get to spend every day fixing digital things and talking about websites and gadgets. When it’s a struggle to feel that things matter to me, it helps to remember that.
4. My cat. Rusty is a new addition to my life but he’s a fantastic one. He’s loving and hilarious, all the things a fuzzy little kitten should be, but most of all I like that he’s dependent. He needs me to feed him, keep his stuff clean and think about his welfare. Having something else to look after other than myself gives me a powerful sense of purpose which I sometimes struggle to see.
Thinking about these things may not work for everyone and indeed they don’t always work for me, but if we all share our experiences and the little things that make a difference today then I think we’ll be on to something great.