Admittedly it’s not Christmas. It’s not my birthday. It’s not even Pancake Day. But World Mental Health Day IS a good day.
To be so open about something that affects 1-in-4, or more if you consider the effects on friends and family, is something I look out for each year.
I have a vested interest, being first diagnosed with clinical depression in 2014. (With a side order of anxiety. The mental fries, if you will.)
To see other people discuss it, more than that, to see other people share their stories of coming from the dark places in their lives and mind, or the people who are searching for a way and seeing others offering help; it is a pretty special day.
My depression has come back recently. It went away on a Sertraline cruise for the last couple of years. Since my first child was born, in fact.
I went to the GP, he said, “Take these”. I did… and that was pretty much it.
The depression faded… but then so did everything else. The madness of the brightest bright joys – my natural state, I’d say– and the gloom of my darkest dark mind. (Rare but not lovely when it did mulch its way to the top.)
At the start of lockdown, when my work as a BBC presenter and journalist was drying up because of the restrictions, I decided to focus more on freelance writing.
The trouble is, the Sertraline had stifled what makes me good at it. Yes, 100mg of the tablet the doctor prescribed seemed to quash my depression; it also quashed my joy, my creativity, my reasoning.
(It did NOT quash my freestyle dance moves.. but I have yet to find a way to make them profitable. Oh, and how profitable they could be.)
The other thing my ADs (anti-depressants) suppressed were my empathy and my tears. The test there is if you can watch The Notebook without crying. I bloody love a good cry and they were not letting me do that. I also don’t like not being allowed to do things.
These anti-depressants were getting me down.
To be honest, I missed tears. I even missed the depression, in the weirdest way. At least that’s a feeling; an emotionless one but a feeling all the same. (That’ll make sense if you know.)
At the start of lockdown, I cut right back. Half a tablet, every other day. (If you are going to do this, please consult your GP too for the best way.)
For the last two or three months, I have felt. The joyous, happy, relaxed me-me. The normal me who writes and has silly ideas. The sparky Dad me and the confident in my own skin me. (I even started back at the gym.)
So, here’s to a Happy World Mental Health Day.
Being honest again, my mental health is suffering now. Whose isn’t, hey?
There’s a pandemic on, work is a concern, and I have a young family to provide for. I am struggling to find my place in my own head without my work, because for all it shouldn’t define a person, my work has always been a vocation and a huge part of what makes me, me.
There are many things whirring, whizzing, fizzing around my mind. They weren’t there with Sertraline… but they’re a part of me. A part I’ll deal with because I always have.
The gym. Family. Fresh air. Gardening. Writing. (I wouldn’t have written and shared this if I was still under Sertraline. Sharing is self-caring.) They’re ways to deal.
Other people are going through far, far worse. Millions of people are facing harder times. But also, don’t judge yourself on how everyone else is feeling.
“There’s always someone worse off than you”
True, but I don’t much fancy having the problems of the second to last worse off person, do you?
Speaking of you…
On World Mental Health Day, please don’t struggle. Please don’t hide away, or just block it in. Drive out in the car and have a really loud shout and scream. (I did this earlier under the guise of getting a Friday night treat of chocolate. Bit mental…)
Write down something, anything if it helps. Then throw it away. Or keep it.
Do what works for you. What keeps you going.
Or message me. My DMs are open, as the cool kids say.
If it helps to share, and you know I know, so I won’t come back with unasked for advice. Because I know just getting it out there helps. At least to start with.
Here’s to a Happy World Mental Health Day. I hope the Mental Elfs* leave you something nice.
- Elves didn’t pun the same.
Before I had children I always said I’d never be one of those Dads who shares their pictures everywhere. The irony of the fact you’re reading this on an actual website has not passed me by.
I’m devoted to my children, to creating positive content, and to finding out what the relationship between Flop and Bing is.
Thanks for being here. Al x