Mental Health Awareness Week

I’ve been thinking about mental health a lot this week. Particularly apt due to it being mental health awareness week.

Everywhere I’ve turned there have been reminders about looking after our mental health. Social media has been full of interesting quotes and articles, and celebrities as well as us ‘normal’ folk have been talking about our own mental health.

I had an interesting conversation with someone yesterday who said they feel as though everyone has mental health problems these days, and that sometimes it feels as though people are just ‘jumping on the bandwagon’.

Whilst I’m not sure people are ‘jumping on the bandwagon’, it certainly does feel as though more people have mental health problems these days. However, I’m not sure that this is true either.

What seems to be true, is that more people are opening up and talking about mental health.

Radio 1 have done a great job at allowing people to open up and talk about their mental health, frequently talking about different ways to cope, and just allowing people to air their problems.

Celebrities too have been opening up about their mental health experiences, which somehow makes it easier to discuss things. By opening up and telling us their stories, they are letting everyone know that it is ok to not be ok.

Workplaces too are taking a tougher stance on mental health, ensuring staff know what to do if they are experiencing problems, or by simply making staff more aware of the signs that one of their colleagues maybe struggling so they can help, or find someone who can.

I too created The Mindful Musings of a Gingernut as a way of managing my own mental health. I often struggle to put things into words when speaking out loud, but writing my blog helps me to have a voice, and to say the things I often wish I could say in person. It also helps me to reflect and to make sense of things.

Yet, I can’t help but feel a sense of bittersweetness when we talk about mental health.

In a couple of months time it will be the anniversary of my best friends suicide.

I often wonder, if there had been more publicity about mental health back then, if there had been easier access to information, support groups etc, whether she may still be here.

We’ll never know.

What I am grateful for, is the fact that times are changing.

Mental health has a growing voice.

Mental health is finally being listened to.

Amen to that!

🙏🏻

Change (Part 1)

If nothing else, the last 6 years have taught me how important it is to live for today.

This doesn’t always seem possible of course, particularly when we are wrapped up in the mundane Mon-Fri regime of work, eat, sleep, repeat. There are also moments, when we become so consumed in the day to day that we simply forget to live for the now.

However, every now and again, we receive a little reminder of the importance of living life.

Sometimes it comes in the shape of a conversation with a friend; the loss of a loved one or; a major life change. Sometimes we just need that trigger to remind us that life is short. Life (and time) is too precious to simply plod along.

I spent the first 28 years of my life plodding along.

Don’t get me wrong…life wasn’t boring, or dull (ok so some of it was, but not all of the time). I certainly enjoyed life and had some great experiences. But I just found myself floating through each day. Never stopping to think about where I had been or where I was going.

6 years ago I received a phone call that changed life as I knew it, forever.

At 28 years old, my best friend had taken her own life.

Our friendship was different to others. We didn’t really have that much in common. But we both put in the effort to meet up regularly and to talk. Even when we went our separate ways to go to University, B choosing to move to the South Coast to study Medicine, and me staying in Northampton to study Geography and Third World Development. We would call each other regularly, or email each other. One of the things that meant the most to us were the letters we would write to each other. Proper letters using pens and paper and envelopes and stamps. We loved writing to each other. It’s probably the time we were most open with each other. B had suffered from mental health problems for as long as I had known her. In her letters she would often open up about her struggles. Those letters were sometimes hard to read. Face to face, it felt like B didn’t suffer at all, not that she pulled the wool over my eyes. I got pretty good at reading between the lines.

I knew when my mobile rang that day that something was wrong. My phone sprang to life and across it, it had B’s parent’s phone number…not her mobile. She never called me from her parents. Instantly I feared the worst and my fear was confirmed seconds later as her sister explained to me that B had taken an overdose. It was all perfectly planned. As a Doctor, B knew exactly how much medication she needed to take in order not to wake up.

Looking back, even the last time I saw her, I am certain she had already made up her mind. She was different that day. She was happy and seemed at peace with the world.

I knew that life wouldn’t be the same again after that day, but I had no idea what else was to come. Within the next 18 months, I also lost both my Nanna’s and my childhood best friend, Robert. Too many people were being taken from me too soon.

This horrible 18 month period changed my life. I didn’t realise back then of course how much life was going to change.

I’m not a particularly religious person, but looking back I could see a clear path had been carved out for me. So many things happened in my life in a short space of time, which lead to me saying yes to new opportunities, and eventually making the move to London.

We used to spend many a weekend meeting up in London, to go shopping, to a show, or just to walk around the wonderful food markets that grace many a London street.

I find comfort in living in London now.

In so many ways, I am grateful to B for kicking my life into second gear. I would obviously prefer her to be here, experiencing the trials and tribulations of our 30s together. But I take comfort in the fact she would be proud of the changes I have made in my life.

She would be proud of the person I have become, and even more proud that I am living life in the now, making the most of every experience that comes my way, as well as looking for new adventures with every new path I take.

Old Harry Rocks

(Old Harry Rocks – photo by me – one of the best weekends spent with B before she left us)