Stepping back into my kitchen
Which smells of
A potato heavy
That does surprisingly little
To soak up
Two shots of whiskey
And a glass of homemade
Step out again,
Wobble around the house
Check for the moon
Check for the fox
What does it say
Only the shrill wheeze
Of my own breath.
Trigger warning: suicide.
It’s World Mental Health Day 2019. The focus this year is preventing suicide, and the scary fact is that someone loses their life to suicide approximately every 40 seconds.
The campaign encourages everyone to take 40 seconds of their time, to raise awareness, speak to a loved one who might be struggling, or to speak to someone yourself if you’re the one that’s struggling.
This last point is one I find challenging. I’ve often had my mental health conditions belittled and mocked, by employers and medical professionals, but also by friends and family.
The way I explain it to my nine-year-old is, “You wouldn’t see someone with a leg in a plaster cast and go kick them, would you? So with someone with mental health issues, you have to listen and pay attention to their needs.”
My concern has always been that my needs weren’t as important as the needs of others. There are reasons for this low self-worth, and I’ve recently hashed it out with an incredible and patient therapist. I’m now starting to put my own needs first. It’s difficult, especially when those who have always been able to “rely on you” suddenly find you saying “No” or not being available.
Here are a few ways I’ve changed how I deal with my mental health:
I’m definitely not anywhere close to recovery. I still struggle with many of these points, and am considering discussing with my GP going back onto anti-depressants for a while, as things have been tough recently.
The main thing I struggle with is how well I “mask” my problems. I am excellent at putting a brave face on and just getting on with stuff. It’s worth remembering that many people you know might also do this. Just because someone seems fine, it doesn’t mean they are. A quick message or call can make the difference between someone feeling entirely alone and knowing someone cares.
Losing someone to suicide is shattering. It can come out of the blue, or it can feel like something that’s been looming for years. If you know someone has had suicidal thoughts, no matter how flippantly they may have mentioned it, check in with them. The Black Dog Institute has advice on looking out for warning signs of suicidal tendencies here.
And if you’re the one struggling, don’t let your mental health problems trick you into believing no one cares. You absolutely matter, and the world is a better place for having you in it.
There’s always someone to talk to at The Samaritans too.
It’s the first of October
It’s a rainy day
It’s rescuing birds from cats
It’s snuggling in a blanket while writing
It’s letting the kids binge on films
It’s not worrying about hanging the washing out
It’s piles of procrastination
It’s thinking about putting the heating on
It’s fallen oak leaves and conkers and getting stuck in brambles
It’s slick mud
It’s switching my ASMR feed to crackling fires
It’s the approach of Samhain
It’s bats and spiders and ghost in shop windows
It’s darkening and deepening
The autumn equinox is a time for pause and reflection. It’s that moment of balance; darkness is about to take over, and before too long, the nights will noticeably outweigh the days. It’s a time to take stock, just as traditionally, the equinox would have been a time to ensure stocks for the winter were sufficient to survive until spring.
My reflections this autumn equinox are focused around my mental health. This year, in particular, has been challenging. There have been plenty of trials and tribulations, but even when times have been joyous, my depression has left me achingly low and my anxiety has left me crippled with indecision and panic attacks.
With that in mind, I’ve decided that doing something potentially positive is the way forward. I’ve joined up for GLAD, a study into the genetic links between anxiety and depression. Many medical professionals have postulated different ideas to me about mental health issues. Some state that it’s all to do with chemical imbalances, and give coping mechanisms. Others say it’s to do with trauma, and we talk about that and try and pull it to pieces whilst putting me back together.
I don’t have the answers. I’m not any better, although I’m perhaps a little more confident and sure of myself after my last run of therapy. So, by providing my DNA sample (saliva) to this study, I hope I can help provide answers for others.
Anyone interested in the study can join up here. Have a wonderful autumn equinox.
I need to take inspiration
From the one year old
She is a joy storm
Like waves against
My sinking ship
Hurricane howling laughter
In the sight
Of her happiness
I want to give
The gift of peace
A calm day
And balmy sunshine
Or at least
Not that she’s never upset
But her tantrums come and
Like cumulus nimbus
In a gale
Massive yet fleeting
At only one year old
She has learnt the art
Of letting go
While I can only hope
To tip my barometer
To intermittent cloud