Time to Talk, Time to Change

By |February 5th, 2015|Essays|0 Comments

Time To Change is an organisation that aims to reduce the burden of stigma to do with mental health. I felt this was important, as mental health is finally reaching public consciousness. It isn’t always positive though.

It’s hard to reach that optimal level between raising awareness and trying to do “a good thing”, and creating a freak show. When Robin Williams took his own life, the media was torn between “how sad” and “how freaky”. Organisations such as Mind were quick to prompt the media how best to report on cases such as his — for example, by not mentioning how he took his life, it was hoped there’d be fewer copycat attempts. Yet these pleas weren’t often heard. But it’s difficult: people want to know what happened to be able to understand, and media companies necessarily have to earn money.

In the papers this morning, we had the case of Clarke Carlisle talking about his attempt at his own life; how his drinking has affected his life and the bad decisions that he made in the past. What filled me with horror was the “I’m going to be late for work because I had to stay up to hear what Ralf Little is about to say about it” comments that were plastered all over Twitter, like it was some kind of “popcorn” moment. Having read what Little said, it seemed broadly sympathetic to those with mental health problems, but its conclusion was that depression was a selfish disease and so it’s hard to have sympathy.

That is only half right. I’ve had conversations with people before when I’ve said, “Depression is a selfish disease”, only to be told, “No, it’s not”. It is a selfish disease. It’s every bit as selfish as being ridden with malaria and requiring round-the-clock care to keep you alive. People with depression don’t have the same level of consciousness as those of us blessed with a clean bill with mental health. When you’re in the depths of despair, your brain is your worst enemy. It compels you to think about awful things. Let me tell you, nothing is scarier than losing the most basic of human instincts to preserve your existence.

Humans are designed to take care of themselves by minimising risk, avoiding danger, and making decisions that keep you alive. Depression erodes that in so many cases. It’s not hard to see that people are fundamentally different when depressed.

People will do weird things when they’re depressed, because their minds have gone weird. Like mine. I did strange things. I was a different person. Some people become reclusive; many become destructive in some way. Many depressed people can’t see a long-term future and do things that seem incredibly selfish: like going on holiday; creating a mess; spending money on meaningless and gratuitous things. These are things that you can fall out over. It’s easy to hate a depressed person. Too easy.

But remember: depressed people feel alone, even when with others. Depressed people feel alone in their thoughts and cannot easily express how they’re feeling. But you need to look after depressed people: nurture their minds and thoughts. Help them through. Worry about forgiveness later and work on understanding now. A depressed person will thank you for it, and say they’re sorry for the things they’ve done, and they’d mean it. The vast majority of people don’t want to do bad and selfish things, and it isn’t really them doing those things.

Your friend, relative, colleague or idol is still in there. Patience, understanding and compassion will help you to see that.

Innocent Eyes

By |January 19th, 2015|Essays|0 Comments

The past few days have put me in a reflective mood. I do that from time to time. I can’t help it. But a few things made me look back.

I visited an old blog of mine, which had posts that I made from as far back as 2006, when I was in the middle of my undergraduate studies. Of course, like any 21 year old, I posted one heck of a lot of rubbish, but there were some things that I wrote that chimed a little.

I was, and still am, really quite introverted and much of my creativity never leaves the cells that comprise my frame. Nonetheless, I did share a thing or two, so I’ve incorporated these posts on my site and I’m in the process of sorting them.

After talking with a cherished friend, I found myself in a reflective mood. In particular, I was reminded of the songs I used to listen to in my teenage years, which are somewhat embarrassing but I listened to again. Think Avril Lavigne, Delta Goodrem, Backstreet Boys, Dido, Texas, Wet Wet Wet, Hot Chocolate, Hanson… I was never the cool kid!

You might be laughing but, in a way, so was I. It reminded me of a time when I knew I was happy. I wasn’t free of troubles, but I didn’t want things to change. Of course, things do. School ended, university began.

I didn’t find undergraduate study particularly enjoyable. There were aspects of it that I relished, but I never really got to explore myself and who I am. My PGCE study was good in the sense that I spent it with good people and I grew to learn about myself a little more; but the stress of teacher training and effectively failing pretty much ruined it.

My time in Loughborough (which is still going, by the way!) was broadly great. There are (and were!) some amazingly lovely and wonderful people. Inspiring, even. But depression killed the opportunity to enjoy it to its potential. Everything was there for me to fly and flourish, but ultimately my brain was my greatest asset and worst enemy. I couldn’t have had one without the other, I suppose.

Now I’ve found myself in Oxford. So far, things are going well enough. I’m continuing the things I enjoyed with my PhD studies (albeit without the people on such a regular basis) and working on further projects that stimulate me and invoke my interests.

Perhaps now that I know myself a little better, particularly for having had my recent journey through depression, I can rebuild that feeling of contentment that had long since eluded me.