Truth be told, I started talking about my mental health on my blog long before I attempted to speak through anything in depth with friends and family – it was easier to type my heart out then it was to face a loved one and explain what couldn’t really be explained. I found comfort from people reading what I wrote, who got my muddled brain; they understood. From there, I grew in confidence, and meeting people like me ignited a fire. I quickly became determined to start having conversations; I wanted to speak for all of us, to not feel scared anymore, to spread the word, to be there for folk, to stop the stigma – to help others find their voice.
This year, Time to Change have asked us to think about what ingredients make a good conversation about mental health. This got me thinking; what’s helped me feel able to talk? What’s made me feel safe, comfortable, ready?
We all need a little reassurance now & then, but especially when it comes to something as sensitive as disclosing our mental health. When I started seeing my counsellor a few years ago at MIND, the very first thing she did was reassure me that what I told her was confidential – just me, her & the walls. I was safe. It was my time to speak freely. I trusted her. I’d never spoken to anyone in that detail before and honestly? That first conversation and the ones that followed it, saved my life.
I don’t see why what my counsellor did then – what my boyfriend does for me now – can’t be applied to conversations all over the world. Allowing someone that assurance, that knowledge that they’re safe with you, is the foundation of a good conversation about mental health.
It’s a given that not everyone will understand. Truth is though, we’re not asking anyone to decipher our brains or figure anything out for us – what we’re seeking is an ear. A kind it’s-OK-I’m here-ear. With that in mind…
… I know we all judge stuff even if we don’t mean to, but on this one, please be mindful. Don’t judge what you can’t understand, because chances are, that person trusting you with their conversation probably doesn’t fully understand it either.
I mean this emotionally but also physically. Some of the easiest conversations I’ve had with folk have been over a cup of tea in a cosy chair or sitting in a field amidst nature & fresh air; environment can make all the difference. When I had my first few counselling sessions I couldn’t relax – not til around session 5/6 – the room was so magnolia, even the seats, it felt medicinal. It’s a personal thing I guess, but I just couldn’t chill. My counsellor told me to bring a blanket along, something that signified comfort to me. The little – seemingly unimportant – things, can sometimes be all the difference.
No pressure, please
It sounds like an obvious one, but I’ve definitely had my fair share of exasperated “Just TALK(s)” and “I want to know what’s wrong” *cue eye rolls and deep sighs*.
Pressure sucks, and making somebody feel like they need to tell you something, even though it might hurt them to say it or they might not be ready, is wrong. You’ll likely lose their trust as someone to come to & scare them off.
“I’m here if you need me”
This harks back to my point on reassurance; knowing someone is there, that they’ve said they’ve got you, can mean everything. A few months ago, whilst on holiday in Cornwall, my wonderful friend Jas came & found me in the toilets following my having an anxiety wobble. I couldn’t understand my head & therein neither could she try to, but she sat in front of me that night, whilst I sobbed all over her, and simply said ‘you don’t have to have you right now, I’ve got you, you’re safe with me’, & THAT meant and will always mean the world to me.
In a world where you can be anything, be a Jas – she’s amazing.
Check in every now & then
No pressure, no ‘you must talk’, more a “hey, how’re you doing? hope you’re ok – here if you need me”. Those texts/calls/emails/letters (yes, some of us still pen the odd letter!) can be just what someone needs. A reminder that someones thinking of them, that they’re loved and cared about, and most importantly, that they matter.
& that’s a wrap from me – I could go on, but I’m after seeing what your ingredients are for a healthy conversation on mental health? What makes you feel able to talk? What have you done to help someone talk to you?
Sending the biggest hugs to you, my internet family – if you ever need a friend or someone to talk to, know that my inbox is open; today & always.