It’s Mental Health Awareness Month in the UK. As someone who’s experienced the all-consuming joylessness of depression I felt it’d be remiss of me not to pen my thoughts on this topic, especially during these days aimed at raising the profile of mental illness.
Below I enclose an updated version of an essay I wrote two years ago on the subject of mental health. A time when I was more guarded about disclosing my battles with this faceless nemesis; an affliction which still sporadically blindsides me from within dark recesses with my mind.
Anyhow, without further ado, here’s the prose I penned regarding the cathartic qualities which can be achieved by sufferers opening up about their mental heath struggles.
“Recently, through a variety of media channels, there has been a big drive to raise awareness about mental health. Within these campaigns, there’s been a particular emphasis on educating sufferers it’s okay to chat about their debilitating nemesis. This strategy seen as an important step towards reducing the number of people suffering in silence.
I’ve written previously of a close friend with enduring mental health issues, who for the purposes of anonymity I’ll call Granville. Yesterday, during a phone conversation with this fella, I broached the subject of this campaign aimed at encouraging sufferers not to be afraid to open up about their oft stigmatised illness.
Upon inquiring his opinion on this recent drive, he responded “It’s a good idea.”…… Despite the accuracy of his reply, as I’d asked an open question, I was hoping for a slightly more in depth answer from Granville.
Over the years I’ve learned he possesses many personalities, it’s a matter of tailoring conversations around his behavioural changes, all of the time remaining supportive. Hearteningly, as this fellow holds great store in the recuperative powers of humour, these multiple personalities are predominantly affable, making my ‘poundshop’ counselling easier.
He means no harm to anyone, but his judgement can be clouded at times. During these occasions his decision making processes aren’t always the best, leading to misguided choices frequently exacerbating his condition.
One of his personalities thinks he’s head of the Welsh Tourist Board. Whilst portraying this character Granville acquires such a persuasive sales technique he recently convinced me to splash out on a weekend B&B break in Rhyl; along with persuading me into purchasing a ticket for the Llanelli Flower Show.
Incidentally, the previous paragraph is of course fictional. However, his illness and capricious behaviour are very real.
Previously, my buddy wasn’t overly forthcoming with candour relating to his illness. Him opening up about his plight, like attempts to sell me tickets for Cymru based tourist attractions, were infrequent.
Recently, though, there’s been a sea change in Granville’s reticence to discuss his illness. At last, the fella’s dealing how unburdening it can be to get things off his chest, even if it’s only short term respite.
I asked if his brother had encouraged him to embrace this new found openness to chat about his illness, but forgot he didn’t have a brother.
Apparently, he’s even started disclosing his mental health woes to his dog Arnold. Although, as halfway through the tale Arnie generally wanders off to the kitchen, this is isn’t generally helpful. The mutt ordinarily returning a few minutes later with a bag of ‘Mrs Troutbeck’s Doggie Treats’. Hanging from his fur lined gob.
As much as I’m flattered to be Granville’s confidante, for his own well-being I feel he needs to expand the audience of people he confides in. I appreciate it’s not easy if you have trust issues, but feel our conversations on mental health have given me a better understanding of the illness. Subsequently, I’m more empathetic towards sufferers than I was previously.
There has been progression, he now embraces the surreal areas of his mind which he often ventures in pursuit of laughter. A side of him he’d previously loathed, longing instead for his erratic cognitive traits to disappear and be like ‘normal’ people.
Granville understands his off the wall humour isn’t everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, however that no longer troubles him.
As an outsider looking in, I suppose getting rid of that self-loathing is a huge starting point to take his next steps. Some of the most prominent triggers for his depression (enduring family health issues) will not go away, however he continues to strive to resolve the things that can be altered.
Granville will be the first to admit he possesses many floors. No, that isn’t a spelling mistake, I didn’t mean flaws; I just thought I’d point out Granners lives in a five-story home,
Although not always completely open about his dark mental nemesis, Granville does admit talking about his mental health with caring, trustworthy people is highly therapeutic. Disclosing his displays of candour are apparently highly cathartic; providing him with a fleeting but much needed escape from depressions oppressive grip.
As the late actor Bob Hoskins advocated in the BT commercials over twenty years ago, “It’s good to talk”. Although with the advice coming from an actor who played a gangland boss, it seemed more like a threat to me at the time. A warning to make lots of unnecessary telephone calls or he’d send the boys round!
Incidentally, even though I’ve added a few light hearted elements to this narrative, under no circumstances do I think mental health issues are funny. I do, though, feel humour is an important accompaniment to recovery from depression as chatting, so added them to lighten a hitherto dark subject.
Right, I need to conclude this monologue as I’ve a train to catch…… I haven’t really, I just thought it read better than telling you I’m going to sit on my backside binge watching Suits on Netflix.”
Incidentally, does anyone want to buy two tickets for this years Llanelli Flower Show?….. Oh, and yes, I’m Granville!