Mental Health Awareness Week Comes to a Close: Dear Anna…a letter to myself
It is day seven of Mental Health Awareness Week, I don’t know about you but I feel like I have learned so much. I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what it means to live with poor mental health, and I have always understood that people are different and of course experience things extremely differently and so it has always made sense that they would respond differently too. But even so, it has been quite a learning curve to hear how people not only manage their mental health, but how they view it and the way that they describe it.
When I started out on this writing journey seven day’s ago, I never really believed that the people whom I asked to share their stories would do so at all, let alone with such bravery, honesty and exposition. Not one single person even faltered when I asked, and I am so grateful to them for sharing their stories, I write these blogs but a lot of the time they are thoughts I have been ruminating on based around mental health and so there is a level of analytical thinking I suppose. The hardest post I think I ever wrote and shared was Fatigue, Fighting & Future, and the posts of these week have all been along the same vein. I would be lying if I said that spending so much time in the detailed thoughts of others talking about mental health hasn’t been affecting in so many ways. They have moved me so much, but I think also put pressure on my own maintenance of good mental health. So for today, I wanted to write a letter to myself, it is something I have seen done so many times, I don’t know how much it will be of interest of help someone else to read, but the point is that when it comes to our health, sometimes we have to be selfish and we have absolutely every right to do so. Before I start the letter, I would like to say a massive thank you to every person who has contributed, from those who shared their stories to those who have read them, shared them and to those people who support those of us who struggle with poor mental health. If this is the first post you are reading, please go back to the beginning to the week and hear from Angharad, Scott, a Baby Boomer, a Baby Mama, Generation X and the day that Chris took over my blog.
In some ways this is the hardest letter I have ever had to write, writing is such a cathartic process for me but this is different, how do I write to you at your worst when I know so well what it feels like to be there and for things to seem so hopeless, like you are stuck with no clear way of getting out.
I suppose that is the best place to start, those feelings, the ones that creep up on you like darkness during the summertime, darkening your happiness, your hopefulness, your lust for life in a sneaking enveloping coldness until you are shivering and confused at how you got to that place, again. Sometimes I know you wish there were clearly defined moments that tracked your journey down hill, but if you saw those moments it would mean you were not thriving, not coping, not growing. It is like taking the same road into town that you have taken your whole life, you know the twists and turns by heart, you see and feel the hills and valleys before you take them, but one day there is a diversion, it throws you for a moment but then you go with it and it is not so bad, almost enjoyable to learn something new about something so ingrained in your mind. Soon you realise that this diversion you found by chance is actually a better way for you, it might not be quicker but it exercises your mind and makes it stronger.
Maybe that isn’t the best analogy, but your brain works in funny ways so I think that you will see what I mean. You have always struggled to see things in black and white, you have never been able to accept things so easily, what they are makes no sense without knowing why and how. This is the way that you are, inquisitive in a way that sometimes feels like a fault. Caring in a way that sometimes feels debilitating. Enthusiastic for life in a way that sometimes feels exhausting. And open in a way that sometimes makes you feel painfully vulnerable. Being you can be terrifying, but I know how deeply you understand that this is true to for every single other human on the planet and that doesn’t belittle your struggles but outlines how human you are, and more importantly how wonderfully alive you are. And life is wonderful, every single moment. It is so easy to judge life only by the big things, passing that test, getting that job, or judging life in materialistic terms, getting that dress, having the most people at your party. But those things are incidental to the real life moments, the rain on your face, the feeling of holding your husbands hand, the simple pleasure of brushing your hair in the. mornings, these are the things that make life worth living.
You have been at your lowest point, but every day is a highest point in comparison. There will be regular shade, but what is light without it? What are the colours of a rainbow without the raindrop to shine through?
You know that the things that have a negative effect on you can be counted on one hand, those things are scary to admit and despite having been with you for much of your life you sometimes still forget what they are and how deeply they do seep in. Good mental health maintenance is something that must be always in practice, it is no different from breathing, not really. The difference is, you learned how to breath the right way, the healthy way and you do it without thinking. Your mental health is different in one way, at some point you learned bad habits and these bad habits taught your brain bad reactions, but you have relearned and you have made a start to replacing these bad habits with good ones. It is therefore so entirely understandable that sometimes your brain suffers fatigue, just like a muscle gaining strength and muscle memory from the repetition of exercise. Don’t give these moments of exhaustion anymore attention than they deserve, there is no deeper reason why or how that you don’t already know, try not to obsess over the negative feelings. It may feel like trying to breath underwater, but you have the strength to push through the discomfort, to do what feels impossible and remind your brain how to tick on in the good way, to heal and to finally feel like yourself again.
I know that is what is difficult, you feel like a person split in two, like an imposter in your own life as you remember the person you want to be and feel like a person you don’t know. You are the only person who can give you self-worth, you are the only person who can practice self-love and self-care, and you are the only person who it matters that is kind to you. No one else can do those things for you, take things step at time, second at a time when you need to, be kind to yourself, see your own strength in every tiny moment and no matter how bad things get, know that you will get through and when all else fails, laughter is the most powerful remedy.