Admitting that there is something wrong with your mental health is difficult; it often takes a long time and a lot of courage! When people reach out for help they aren’t looking to be patronised, told to ‘forget about it’ or told you know exactly how they feel. More often than not, being helpful means merely listening and gently encouraging them to find a way of dealing with their problems, be that seeing a GP or trying some self-help methods. The problem is that this isn’t what most people do! I’ve previously written about how much I hate the saying ‘I know how you feel’ and I know people who have been told to just forget about their problems or to just stop worrying. Not only are these comments insensitive, they’re also thoughtless.
One of the situations that I’ve found most difficult about living with Anxiety is trying to explain it to people who start off the conversation with no knowledge of it. Both Anxiety and Depression are feelings that people know of, we all worry about things and we all have those off days when you just feel a bit down. Unfortunately because so many people haven’t experienced these feelings on a continuous basis for extended periods of time, they find it hard to understand quite how bad it can be. For example, feeling a bit down one day isn’t too bad when you know that going to the pub that evening or going shopping that weekend will cheer you up. There is an end in sight to these feelings you are currently experiencing. Imagine there being no end in sight, imagine feeling like that but there being nobody around to cheer you up, nothing that can bring a smile to your face. It can seem a bit like walking through a tunnel that never ends.
The problem I’m currently facing is that I associate Manchester with how I felt last academic year, which is very different to what I associate with being at home. I can go from feeling terrible and on edge to perfectly fine and chatty in a 2 hour train ride, and vice versa when returning to Manchester. Now not only is it difficult to explain my feelings about being in Manchester to somebody, it’s even harder to explain it and be taken seriously when I’m perfectly fine when I’m telling them! I’ve been told by several people that I only have one year to go at university, that I can survive one year, evidently these people have never felt how I feel when I’m in Manchester. People have also told me that this is merely my mind associating a place with a feeling, they’re completely right, however if the last year has proved anything to me it’s that the mind is a complicated thing. Breaking this association is as difficult as just ‘not worrying’ when you have Anxiety; almost impossible.
It takes a lot of patience and you have to genuinely care about a person in order to understand their mental health problem and knowing one person with Anxiety, doesn’t mean that you understand everybody with Anxiety. One of my friends also lives with Anxiety, but theirs is set off my something completely different to mine and how we deal with it is very different as well. Once again mental health is very similar to physical health, if you’ve never broken a bone, you can’t even begin to imagine the pain it causes. Equally, if you’ve never had a mental health problem, you can’t even begin to imagine how it feels.
Speaking in public is a skill, it is one that many people don’t have, and it requires practice and a certain confidence to master. There are people all over the world craving the ability to master this skill; there are seminars run on it, it’s incorporated into education, it is something that people are in awe of. Personally, I think it is an impressive skill, however there is a skill I find even more impressive. Listening. There are so many people that think they are good at it, but they’re not. Inserting words into every awkward silence, isn’t listening. Telling people stories that loosely relate to what they’ve said, isn’t listening. Staying silent throughout every awkward silence, taking in what the other person is saying and inserting USEFUL comments into conversation. That’s listening. Sometimes people don’t need speeches made to them about how much better things will get, sometimes they need you to just listen.