Today is World Mental Health Day. I think it’s one of the better awareness days as mental health is still something which we don’t talk about and which a lot of folks don’t understand.

I’ve always felt that education on mental health would be a great thing to role out in schools. It would help people understand what people are going through and help lessen the stigma so that people are more comfortable asking for help.

Asking for help is a major problem, especially for men, thanks to the ingrained macho ideas of not showing vulnerability or expressing emotions. I’m 31 and while I can admit to crying I still find it embarrassing because if the whole “boys don’t cry” idea.

I wish this was different. I wish that a guy I know who killed himself had been able to talk about it with someone, maybe he might have gotten the help before he reached the stage where he felt like he had no options left. Less dramatically, it might have helped several others from suffering alone.

It would have helped me.

During my second year at uni I hit a major funk, one that lasted two to three months. I felt down and lost. I felt I was wasting my time and that after uni that I would never amount anything or do anything. I sank further into this pit of self loathing. I hated the way I looked, the way I acted, my course, my prospects, I was sure I would never get a girlfriend and that my friends were laughing at me, not with me.

I stopped going to some lectures, my work fell off. I spent hours in my room just moping or wasting time online.

None of my friends would have known about this. I covered it up well, getting louder. I was the loud mouthed clown anyway, so I played up to it. I already drank a lot, but now I drank more, getting hammered three/four times a week, throwing myself out socially and wearing my mask of fun party guy.

Me during my funk, covering it well

I hung out with my mates and cracked jokes, I could briefly feel better, forget about what was bothering me. But when I got to my room at night it was there waiting for me.
It was there every hungover morning or quiet afternoon. It was there during lectures, gnawing away in the back of my mind.

There was no big moment of relief, no dramatic event that snapped me back. It just passed, like a storm. And I found that this would be the pattern in the future. The funk would appear before me and I’d slip down into it. I can make it pass quicker by focusing on certain things, by getting out and by keeping busy, but I can’t magic it away. I have to wait for it to pass.

When the first one passed I’d failed my second year. I had to fight to resit and to convince my Dad to let me go back, and finally over that summer it all came out and I talked about it for the first time. Luckily I have parents who care and know about mental health, enough that they keep an eye out for me.

My Dad was the first one to use the word “depression”, but I guess I’ve always felt uncomfortable calling it that. My own funks are fortunately infrequent, I’ve had three or four since the first one, most lasting around a month, and they pass then. I feel like saying I have depression is an insult to those who deal with it every day, or for long, unbroken periods.

When I was working a job I was growing to hate, they asked how I was doing and listened to my rants. That release valve helped, as did knowing there was support for me. Tired and frustrated as a nursing student, my Dad asked if I was okay and reassured me that he and my mum were always the other end of the phone for me.

I’ve had those downs since. But I’ve never hit bottom. I’ve always joked that I’m too shallow to get properly depressed. That a song, film or book is enough for me to turn it around. It’s not that easy, but I am lucky. My dark, low ebbs have never been as dark or low as what others have to face, but they can still leave me reeling.

I have people to talk to, my parents and MWF the major ones, people who support and care for me, and are willing to let me vent without judgement.

Coping strategies I use to reshoot my focus and I always try and do the things that keep me up, and away from the dips. Like writing.

I hope if anyone out there reading this goes into a dark patch they have people to talk to. It’s amazing how just getting to express yourself helps. We need to stop worrying about embarrassment and bothering people, and open up. Our friends and family should be willing to listen, and hopefully understand our difficulties. But if you don’t have them there’s always the Samaritans, a great charity that gives people the chance to talk about anything that is troubling them.

I’ve mainly discussed depression, because that’s what I’ve had experience of, but for other mental health issues it’s worth looking into Mind a charity which provides help and support for a variety of problems.

Be well and take care of yourself. And celebrate when you do well, or practice some self care.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


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