I guess if I’m going to run a blog on mental health I need to have some kind of credibility to do so. Though I do consider myself well educated with a thirst for learning new things only my Google history and stolen book collection could really explain, I hold no credentials in the world of psychology, other than the unofficial award I’ve bestowed upon myself for surviving 26 years alongside the most difficult person I’ve ever come across: Me.
So, in fairness to you, dear reader, before we embark on this journey together, here’s my story…
We’re all going to lose our parents one day. It’s a fact of life that we don’t like to think about, no matter how old we are. Even as we age and become more acquainted with the notion of death, losing our parents is just something that never seems to factor itself into our future.
With my two year wedding anniversary just days away, this week seemed like the perfect time to talk about mental health and marriage, but probably not in the way you’re thinking about.
I love my wife. I love her more than life itself. She’s an incredible person, my absolute best friend and the greatest co captain I could ever ask for in life… But I’m still fucked up.
I still have mental health issues, triggers, quirks and meltdowns with the same severity as if I were single and I believe it’s a common misconception that mental health issues are easier when you have a partner when in reality –
Just because I’m married doesn’t make me any less fucked up than you.
The other week I watched the BBC Three documentary ‘Growing Up Gay’ about how the LGBT community is more likely to be affected by mental health. The documentary was presented by Years and Years singer Olly Alexander, and delved into the harsh realities of our struggling LGBT youth. The documentary stated that 40% of the LGBT community suffers with their mental health, compared to 25% of heterosexuals.
That’s quite a difference.
In 2017 the perception is that everything is hunkey dorey for the LGBT community, especially in the UK. We can marry, have children, socialise safely and go about our lives knowing that we are legally protected from discrimination and hate crime.
But clearly all is not as it seems.
Yesterday, Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, took his own life. I’m sure you’ve read countless articles and seen it splashed all over social media by now so I won’t recite the details again. You’ve also probably already seen the conversations around how this has been happening more and more as of late amongst middle aged men of profession (Chris Cornell, Robin Williams).
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have gone through the comments to many of these articles, especially the one about Korn guitarist calling Chester a coward. Due to Chester leaving behind a wife, 6 children and countless devastated friends and fans, people just can’t get their head around how someone could do that to people they love. So I pose the question…
Is suicide really selfish?
Even if you don’t suffer with your mental health you’ve probably heard the term ‘trigger’ before. You might have seen articles on social media come with trigger warnings, which usually means they’re talking about something like drug use, abuse or some other heavy subject that might upset certain readers. But what you might not realise is that for some people, the most mundane thing can be a trigger.
Triggers, or Trauma Triggers as they’re clinically known, is something which brings a person back to a moment of trauma. Just like our memories triggers are something incredibly personal and different from person to person. For example, there’s a certain chocolate bar that reminds me of a night I felt intensely alone and abandoned. If I’m in a supermarket my eyes will almost always seek it out and then something inside of me starts to hurt. Most of the time I can take a deep breath, shake my head and walk away. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes my head will feel like it’s caving in and I’ll feel alone and unsafe from anywhere between a couple minutes to several hours.
Question: Should you have to apologise for things you say due to your mental health?
I’ve been toying with this question for a few days since first thinking about writing this post, and I keep finding myself caught between the two obvious answers – yes and no. As social animals we follow certain structures in our social groups and society itself. Even animals in the wild will have their own ways of apologising. Young wolves will submit to their siblings after taking play fighting too far and causing unintended harm. Penguins and elephants have been known to console another outside of their own social circle if there’s been a death. So at first glance it does seem that the answer should be clear, but when it comes to mental health the waters get murky.
Would you expect someone with alzheimer’s or dementia to apologise for something they said? If someone with multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia or another personality disorder offends you, do you expect them to take full responsibility for their actions and apologise?
Last night I had an amazing dream. I dreamt I was being hurtled into space in a rocket, catapulted from the Earth into a sea of stars. For a few moments I was terrified, rattling around in my seat as the abyss swallowed me, but when the engines finally stopped whirring and I was left just floating, I felt incredibly at peace. Space was beautiful. A vivid canvas of light and dark hanging still as I drifted silently through, becoming a part of the painting myself.
I awoke feeling uplifted and peaceful, like even though I’d awoken back on Earth I was still somehow up there. Hours later, I still can’t get over it. Probably because I can’t remember the last time I woke so happy from a dream. Usually my subconscious is a great place for my demons to wreak havoc, their own personal playground where I am surrendered to their control. I was surprised to have such a wonderful dream when in the evening I had felt so down and lost. I thought for sure this feeling would chase me into my sleep but I wound up chasing space instead and feeling more than free.
So why is it that sometimes the demons of the day to day mental health grind follow us through bedtime, and why is it that sometimes they don’t?