Last time I posted was in October 2016 following a blogging silence of 5 months. Now it’s May 2017 so this post comes to you after a silence of more than 6 months. I make no apologies for that. I’m not even entirely sure why I’m pointing it out.
I was partially prompted to write that October post after someone wrote to me asking for an update. Somebody else (thank you, reader) has done the same thing recently and it feels like the right time to come back. To come back and say something.
Today in the UK, a news story broke about a professional footballer being detained under the Mental Health Act. Amongst the outpourings of love and sympathy towards the footballer were the unfortunately all to predictable lines from people who have a gross and fundamental misunderstanding of mental health.
“He’s a millionaire, what’s he got to be sad about?!”
“Have you seen his Mrs? Can’t believe he’s depressed!”
“Ungrateful little shit. A mansion, 6 cars and millions in the bank. F**king footballers.”
In 2017, it’s a shame (and almost unbelievable) that opinions like these are still commonplace. Let’s be clear. The amount of money people earn, number of cars they own, size of their house, their profession or the aesthetics of their spouse have absolutely no impact whatsoever on a person’s ability to evade a mental illness.
Having a million pounds in the bank won’t stop you from breaking your leg and it won’t stop you suffering from depression.
And actually, if I were to pick a candidate potentially more susceptible to mental illness then maybe, just maybe, I would pick the guy who is in the public eye. The guy who can’t avoid the spotlight. The guy who has been brought up in a macho environment where sharing feelings is discouraged. Where getting angry is acceptable but showing sadness is forbidden. Where revealing emotions is completely unheard of. Where talking about what you’re going through in any kind of ‘beneath the surface’ level would only succeed in turning you into a figure of fun.
Everyone can be a victim of the grasp of mental illness just as they can physical and I’m going to tell you something.
I am one of them.
Over the past several months, through various channels and life events, I came to the realisation that I needed to talk to someone. That I would benefit from talking to someone about myself. My feelings. My emotions. My past. And my present.
I mentioned something to somebody who happened to be in the mental health profession and that person took me to one side and said, look, I would recommend you speak to a professional therapist about this.
I was dumbfounded. At first.
You see, I don’t like to think of myself as vulnerable, needy or dependent on anyone else. I like to think of myself as bulletproof. Strong minded and strong willed. And it’s so important to me that others see me that way as well. Believe me, I can wear that mask well. I can fool people into thinking that mask is the real me.
So the idea of talking to a mental health professional was quite scary and made me kind of nervous. However, I am not someone who has ever needed convincing of the benefits that can be gained from talking to a counsellor or therapist or whoever. I believe in it, I know it can work and I understand it, and the process behind it, actually very well.
I had just never considered myself as a candidate for it. I had never considered that I could be someone who could benefit from it.
It could be the ‘male, manly, pull your socks up, get on with it, don’t be a wimp’ factor that has played a part in this. But also, the thing I mentioned that sparked the recommendation to talk to a therapist is not something I had ever talked about before – so no one has ever had the opportunity to suggest talking it over with a professional.
When I think about it now, I’m more than sure that had I dealt with certain things years ago, I would have felt the benefits. Instead, my solution was to ignore certain events, virtually not even acknowledge their existence. Because by doing that I would not have to acknowledge the accompanying emotions that they evoked and the subsequent pain.
There’s a school of thought everyone, yes everyone, would benefit from seeing someone like a counsellor from time to time. Just in the same way as you take your car for an MOT and a service once a year. Mental health is easy to ignore or be unaware of. Until something breaks and then the cost of the damage can be very high.
So there you have it.
Whatever you think of someone, and however someone may seem to you on the outside, you don’t know what is going on for them on the inside and what things are like in their world.
Peace and love.