It’s been over a decade since blogging started as therapy. Yesterday came the realisation it has become something else entirely. That revelation seems a good way to mark Time to Talk day in the UK:
Sometimes, it is up to you to make the difference, FOR NO REWARD.
I get grief in my family, from time to time, due to the enthusiasm in reminding them, and indeed anybody else who sticks around long enough, that mental health issues don’t go away just because you’re having a good day. There is sometimes an assumption that, like that niggly back injury or the persistent nuisance caller on your mobile, that just ignoring the problem means eventually you’ll forget about it or it will just vanish on its own. That’s not how this works.
If someone gleefully informs you they’ve ‘cured’ themselves of the mental issue that was preventing them being happy, there’s a better than average chance they don’t have the first clue what they’re talking about. In time, sure, just as there will be a means by which Altzheimers and Asthma can be eliminated thanks to the exploration of human DNA, there could be a moment when scientists isolate the genes that cause depression or anxiety and choose to switch them off… but even that wouldn’t work for everybody.
Mental illnesses are incredibly difficult things to universally treat.
There is more to this whole situation than hoping bad stuff just goes away or finding the means to eliminate your problem completely. There is CHOICE, and that’s where listening comes in. When you ask someone to talk about their issues, they don’t just sit there and say all this stuff whilst you’re on your phone or pretending to listen. YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO LISTEN. By doing so, there’s the chance you’ll care more, begin to understand or find yourself wanting to make sense of what you’re being told, and that’s as important as helping the other person feel better.
You’re not just providing a service by listening. You’re becoming part of both treatment and solution.
I’ve been using a number of hashtags and Twitter accounts to try and get my message out this week, and if you’re reading these blogs it should be fairly obvious that it’s not part of a drive to get my follower numbers up or ‘promote’ my brand. However, one of the people whose blog I’ve tried to rope in to distribute the message messaged me this morning with a reminder: if you don’t follow us, we won’t retweet your message. Effectively, give us your support in return for listening.
That’s absolutely not how ANY of this is supposed to work.
Promoting other people’s attempts to improve their lives is not about what YOU get from it. This is not about suggesting that it’s a service either, and those who use this as means to further their careers are, at least in my opinion, playing with fire. I’ve learnt that to my cost in the last year, and the lesson is simple: don’t be the talker. Learn to listen. The most important thing you can ever do for someone you care about is be that person. Let them trust you enough to feel an ability to be honest. If that happens?
The entire world can change for the better, in a heartbeat.
So, as this day is all about encouraging people to share their issues, understand that as the person on the other side of the equation, you are granted a great responsibility, and with that (as the wise people say) comes great power. Don’t squander or belittle this task you are given. Make it your task to ask the right questions in response. Learn about what your friend is going through (I hear the Internet’s a great place for learning about stuff like this) and, most importantly, be understanding.
10 years ago I started talking about myself to random strangers. Now, these words are beginning to create a legacy of my journey, this trip and arrival as a person who is happier and healthier because of the truths such conversations revealed. It is now a new journey, to discover exactly what I am, to fill in the holes that exist in my life. Without talking, none of this would have happened. However, without listening to both myself and others, far greater truths might never have been accepted.
Every day is a school day. Whatever happens, be ready to learn.