I remember when I was younger, back before the electronic age kicked in to gear there was no greater satisfaction than getting a letter. I think today with email and text, social media and easy access to people, it is easy to overlook the importance of the written word. I remember having a good friend who used to write me the most wonderful letters, I would reply the best I could but those pieces of paper connected us, sometimes weekly, sometimes time would pass but getting those letters was special.
My reason for bringing up this forgotten past has a relevance on today, for those of us suffering especially with mental illness, communication with people can become somewhat difficult. It is very easy to withdraw yourself away from your community because your illness either takes away your joy at being with them or you find yourself worried that what you are feeling on the inside is showing on the surface. Either way that feeling of isolation while sometimes wanted, is often a cause of loneliness which makes being in the darkness so much more scary.
I have spoken to many sufferers recently on forums and social media who while having a reason for writing, medication symptoms etc also seem to include the feeling of isolation in their conversation. For some this comes across as not so much a cry for help but a scream from the darkness, a desperate search for someone to hear them, someone to understand them. So often I find myself answering forum posts not with information pertaining to their actual problem, often just referring them to their GP or local mental health team. However I always make a point of offering my friendship, my empathy and understanding.
I myself know all to well how much an understanding, kind reply can help lift my spirit and I have had many replies thanking me for just being there. As I see it whilst the medical professionals are trained to deal with us, to show empathy and understanding they also have many people to deal with and often mental health sufferers are left lonely and lost. Social media has helped bridge this gap but more people need to stand up and live by the motto “help others, help myself”, I still see petty arguments over points of fact and can’t help thinking “would I want to admit my darkest feelings to this lot?”, would you?
Since the 17th May I have spent 4.5 days in a psychiatric hospital under assessment, seen my CPN twice and my GP twice. I have a draw full of pills and that’s it. I have learned more and found a passion for spreading my story because it soon became apparent to me that I was not the only one lost and bewildered. I also realised that I had lied about my problems for 30 years and it nearly killed me so I’m speaking out. Now I care about people, I especially care about my new community, because without YOU I don’t know how I would have coped.
We do not have to be Doctors or therapists to help others, just being there to offer support and understanding is often as important as explaining why after taking Sertreline for six days you feel like a zombie, but a lot of us don’t even need to be experts to answer that, we know, we have been through it! I know that social media and forums are no replacement for one to one contact but we all know that isn’t all that likely, not the kind of thing you meet up in a pub to discuss is it. However it allows people from all over to be there and be helped
I have just over two hundred followers on Twitter (I’m very proud of this, I didn’t expect more than half a dozen) and I think to myself, that’s two hundred people/organisations with mental health as a common link, and each of them has followers with the same interest. So on Twitter alone we have a global network of thousands of voices speaking out, who could be working towards some global project to help sufferers of mental health, I would gladly give up a few hours of my time to help others, wouldn’t you? Imagine if just one therapist or Doctor was to write a rough guide to helping people, or if there was someone who would do a little online course to better help those that care help others. I believe there is a Mental Health First Aid course and other useful courses, trouble is I don’t know if i’m going to get paid this month so paying for courses is not an option. I am also having to learn CBT out of a book because I will not be seeing the nurse therapist for another few weeks.
So what more can I say, the power of words can save lives “help others help myself”. You! reading this, what would you bring to the table, would you help? do you help? can you help? Who knows the #mentalhealthrevolution might happen, then again who’s going to listen to the guy with depression right 🙂