Being open and honest about your mental health can be challenging. You just don’t know how people are going to react, what they will say or how they will see you afterwards. It can really take you out of your comfort zone. It may also leave you asking ‘what is really the point’ in actually saying anything? However it can be really helpful, not only for yourself but also for other people. Here is why.
Mental Health And Starting The Conversation – A Guide
A great weight
Being honest and talking openly about my mental health is one of the best things I have ever done. Hands down. To me it felt like lifting a great weight off my back, one that I had been carrying for so long. It was really liberating breaking that last taboo.
Throughout the time I struggled with mental health I never talked about how I was feeling mentally. My whole raison d’être was to pretend everything was normal. To ignore what was actually happening to me. To me the very idea of talking about it was petrifying. I believed that if I did, far from being understood or given any help I would just be left embarrassed, humiliated and ostracised. So afraid was I, I remained silent for so many years.
The fact is even after I got the help I needed, for quite some time I did not discuss what had happened to me. That lingering sense of shame and embarrassment remained I am sorry to say. Plus at that time I also felt this incredible amount of guilt, that I had not sought help at an earlier stage. So all continued to stay under raps, as it were.
This was not exactly helped by other people not really asking about what I had been through either. My thinking was that if no one was asking then why bother talking. Maybe they too, felt too embarrassed to ask?
Things stayed like this for a while. Yet they did not feel right. Though no longer overwhelmed by anxiety, something remained, something that was nagging at me. I soon came to realise that it was a sense of unfulfillment. By not being open about it I was not able to properly acknowledge it or fully come to terms with what had happened. Denial was never going to fill that hole.
That hole within me made me incomplete somehow. It also made me feel vulnerable, which seems completely contradictory, yet now it seems so understandable. For once I opened up with people I no longer had something to be afraid of. Once I put it all out there, the proverbial elephant in the room disappeared, it no longer got in the way. It no longer made things awkward.
I had always assumed that any admission would be seen as a weakness, and would somehow make me less of a person. Yet the opposite was the case. Once my deepest darkest secret was no longer hidden, I became almost ‘bulletproof’. No one could hold that against me (if anyone was that way inclined?) because it no longer had any hold over me. Weirdly it became like my armour. With that out in the open, everything else was just easy.
I fully acknowledge that talking about your mental health does take a great amount of courage and as was the case with me, it can take a while to get there. But once you do it is very powerful. And this power radiates. By me, by you talking about our mental health, we send a powerful message to other people who may be struggling.
We are able to give them such well needed reassurance. We let them know that they are not alone, that there are others just like them, who have been through what they are going through. And that is such a positive thing.
There is another benefit. To those who may still see mental health in a negative light or who may be afraid to discuss or engage with those affected by it, we can change their thinking. We can normalise talking about mental health, and make it something everyday. That again is such a positive thing.
Finding that courage and just talking can change so many things. And maybe, just maybe if more of us find it, then together we can change the world.