Talk Talk

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:

DAY 4:
Sometimes, it is up to you to make the difference, FOR NO REWARD.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

No More Heroes

We present as part of Time To Talk’s national day of discussion about mental health (Feb 7th) a week’s worth of posts about how this 52 year old finally made a difference and started listening to herself and others, before determining to improve life for the better…

These views are mine alone, and absolutely 100% do not mesh with anybody else’s opinion on anything. WELCOME TO HOW BLOGS WORK.


Day 1: That moment when it becomes apparent that if you want any job done properly, you have to do it yourself:

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Occasionally, we all need a little help. Even the smartest person in the World can’t solve all the issues they face, at least without the occasional supportive ‘you got this!’ or a motivational picture of a cat in their timeline. However, there is a point where all the support and understanding in existence is pointless if you decide you won’t. It might not be a won’t, as it happens. You could say you can’t, or mustn’t, or maybe even that’s just impossible. How does anything change in your life as a result, if it is easier to provide excuses than solutions.

Excuses are easy. Solutions are hard, and that’s where I keep finding myself.

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I realise just how lucky my life is, at this point, that opportunity even exists for improvement. It is incredibly easy to say ‘sort yourself out’ and there will be those who (quite rightly) in many cases might consider this as victim blaming or shaming. So, to be clear: I’m not a victim. My life, which is the only thing I can reasonably talk about with confidence, is not underpinned by any kind of issue where being told to get better is somehow making matters worse.

What my life has been ruled by is fear. This is something that’s only recently become apparent, as it happens: a complex combination of factors, which (with other mental shortcomings that will hopefully be better defined after I’ve spoken to some professionals about them) made for a potent cocktail of restriction. I can’t do that because used to precede far too many conversations. Lungs won’t work, can’t interface with people, unable to combine the mental processes required. All my shortcomings.

Nobody to blame but me.

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I had to hit rock bottom for my reset. Considering suicide, wondering what the point really was if nothing ever seemed to work in my favour, came the realisation that actually, I was the problem. This is still something to remind myself of in moments where life throws me a curve, that often brain is working against body in order to hamstring progress for no other reason than it’s easier than making the effort. Undoubtedly, that adage that you get what you give / you give what you get is spot on.

Everybody’s answer is different, too, and that’s the problem with finding a mentor of becoming enamoured with a guru/influencer/snake oil salesperson who’ll offer an easy answer in exchange for your cash/follow/first born. I’ve followed so many people via Social media who think that selling their salvation is the solution: it’s never true, and so I unfollow and move on. This is the woman who read a ton of self-help books and nothing ever stuck, until the day I was willing to forgive myself and move forward.

Excuses are Easy, Solutions are Hard. Never forget this.

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The trick, it appears, is to pick the right metaphors for your journey. I am never going to win a beauty pageant, nor would I ever enter one… however, I can be strong. Telling me I’m beautiful will be met with short shrift, but praise my ability to think through problems or write a decent blog post and you’re on the right track. Seriously, that whole ‘you’re so beautiful’ stuff is creepy, however well intentioned or based on actual perception it might be. Tell someone they’re inspiring, or dedicated. Intelligent or capable is great. Leave the surface stuff for people who won’t look past appearances.

You can be the most beautiful person in the world on the outside, and a mess inside. Given the choice, I’d rather look a mess but have my internal shit under control, but to do that you gotta work out what needs fixing.

That’s Day 2’s conundrum.