Today, I’m here to talk about Mental Health.
Except this might not be the post you were expecting.
The Internet is increasingly portrayed as a dangerous distortion of the real world, place where people hide behind personalities in order to escape the issues that real life presents them with. As a sufferer of Post Natal Depression after my daughter’s birth, PMS as well as long term depression issues, I freely admit I came to gaming to escape the real world, and only the intervention of my immediate family and a few close friends was enough to alert me to the issues I had. Without them, I shudder to think what might have happened. I certainly wouldn’t be writing as I am now, or possess the level of confidence and freedom I currently do. Mostly, however, the work was mine. I am my own barometer, and talking about my issues with the people who matter with me has made the difference. As I’ve learned to deal and cope with my issues, I’ve come to grasp that many people see mental health in vastly differing ways.
Everybody is different. Mental health issues often strike without warning, in response to external stimulus you cannot control. You shouldn’t make assumptions about anyone, and you certainly can’t decide if someone else is ill or not simply by reading their Tweets or Blog Posts. That’s the problem with the Internet: people really do hide. What might look like a genuine cry for help could very easily be someone crying wolf. Trying to work out why someone acts the way they do is dangerous, and often the best thing you can do is leave well alone. However, I know from experience that sometimes there isn’t the time to have the benefit of the doubt. I have proof of lives being saved simply by the kindness of strangers seeing the signs and ensuring people can be reached in time, but that’s never the norm. There are so many exceptions, and often many people just shut out everything because its easier than dealing with the noise.
Certain people are doing more harm than good thinking that a day like today is for them to stick their issues in the spotlight, that somehow it is the means by which they can garner attention and maybe increase their follower counts, or ride the coat-tails of this latest ‘craze’ of talking about mental issues. These are the people who worry me the most. Mental health isn’t a publicity stunt. This isn’t the springboard by which you get people to listen to you, or become famous. Today needs to be the day you actually take a cold, hard look at yourself and maybe, just maybe realise that you’re not whole. You can still do this online: talking to friends in virtual spaces has no less merit than a cuppa or a walk, especially if your friends are half a world away. The key to understanding how this works best is honesty: admitting to yourself you have a problem is the first step. Once you do that, then it becomes easier to tell someone else.
I’ve seen a lot of people in the last few years use social media as a cry for help. I’ve also seen people lie, cheat and deceive others in order to make their lives mean more than they do. It won’t help you in the end, lying to anyone, especially yourself. In fact, that’s the ultimate cheat, that somehow if you deflect attention away from the underlying problems it’ll all be alright in the end. It isn’t. The only way anything alters is if you take a cold, hard look at yourself and decide that something, anything has to be feeling better than you do. Having been down there, in a pit of my own creation, too scared to even walk out of the front door, I understand the absolute best thing I ever did was ask people to help me. Talking, writing, finding a way to communicate again… all of these were steps on my journey, a redemption that still isn’t anywhere near done.
I’m not perfect. I still react more than think. I need practice at dealing with people who make me uncomfortable. I am still blunt and maybe a touch too acerbic. In the end you may never stop countering mental issues, and if that is the case then your life needs to encompass the problems you face wherever you spend your time, either real or virtual. If I decide to remove someone from my friends list or stop communicating with a person using in game chat because they make me feel nervous? That’s my choice. Other people don’t get to decide what’s best for me. That’s my job, and that’s based on knowing full well what works for my mental health. I only know this because I’ve spent a long time learning the signs. You don’t know what they are, and you don’t get to tell me whether I’m right or wrong based on simply a cursory knowledge of my existence. If all you want to do is make drama out of my choices? You’re no friend, and I certainly don’t need you anywhere in my life.
If you have a problem with a mental health issue, I’m not the person to talk to. You need to find your answers, in your own way. The Time to Talk Website is an excellent place to start.
Then all you have to do is decide to open up.