image featured above: sunbeams in padley gorge
木漏れ日 – komorebi
‘the interplay between light and leaves when sunlight shines through trees.’
Since Mental Health Awareness Week is coming up (14th – 20th May 2018), I reckoned this post would be fitting. I’m not an expert, I don’t think anyone fully is, but I find when people talk from experience it can be so useful. Discussing mental health, with its magnitude and variations can be daunting. Some people who experience mental instability find talking useless or unnecessary, for others, it’s what will save them in the end. Dealing with childhood trauma, it’s always been an area I found hard to come to terms with. Probably because it made me feel different to everyone else or ashamed, as I never wanted to admit I had these horribly sad feelings when people said I seemed happy. Perhaps it’s a cliché statement, and even though my problems are unique, so many feel similar things. So having this awareness can potentially help others feel more at ease. Equally, it may not help, and that’s what we also need to understand: the complexity of mental health. While it’s encouraged to speak out about your worries, it can be very triggering for some, if not exhausting, to replay and repeat issues that inflict pain or remind you of a dark place you’re ultimately trying to escape from. So with that in mind, we need to allow people to be ready and not force it upon them.
Also, not everyone is going to understand the scope and intricacies of mental health problems, and with that, we shouldn’t berate them for it, but hope that with education and time they can become more compassionate on the issue.
I guess there is truth and a comfort in the fact that ‘help is everywhere’, if someone wants it. Yet in reality, it’s no secret that the state of mental health services in this country is poor and it could be so much better, if it had more sufficient funding, more appreciation. I’m not bashing it, as they’ve helped a lot of people I know. But also, from experience, I have seen family members being failed by the current services in place, when they needed help the most. Perhaps one reason why people feel disheartened to open up is because they don’t see the point of unleashing a vulnerable side to them to then be put on a long waiting list to be assessed, and then wait even longer for counselling, or other IAPT initiatives.
Bear in mind, some people don’t want help, even if it is being offered. It often confuses me, but that’s the brutal truth about it; some people don’t believe they can be saved, some don’t want to be saved, and contrastingly, many people would do anything to be helped, but it may not form the happy ending we all idealise or think we so deeply desire.
On another note, I’m an avid Corrie watcher, and always loved how you could be crying at one scene, and by the next, be laughing at Kirk or Beth’s hilarious one-liners. I’m never normally that surprised at storyline spoilers, but one this year really did shock me: Aidan (played by Shayne Ward) was having a shock exit, and it was suicide. As a viewer, you’d never initially suspect him to take his own life, and that’s exactly why I believe the storywriters chose it to be him, because in a lot of cases, even though it’s glaringly obvious to the sufferer, it’s the person we least expect to struggle in silence. Even when we think they have everything, or can get anything, they could be dissociating and disconnecting from the world around them: just as Aidan did in his final few scenes. Even the ‘I love you’ from Eva wasn’t enough, because his mind was pretty much already in a state of numbness. Little comments from his family about being ‘predictable’ or from others that he ‘ruined’ Eva’s life, though not meant intentionally, are enough to invalidate someone’s position in the world; reinstating their feelings of vulnerability and worthlessness.
I know it’s just a soap, but to the people who watch it, it’s so much more than that. We watch programmes like this because we find a common denominator, we’re able to find an escapism from our daily lives by watching a 30 minute episode, but also connect with the characters. Even though it’s ‘soap land’, and the plots are intended for entertainment, it’s pretty much a reflection of the lives of every day, common people.
Mental health, especially with men, is a subject that shows like Coronation Street have portrayed exceptionally well – with a raw authenticity that I hope can potentially save a lot of people’s lives.
June 2017 was a particularly tough and confusing time for my family. You never really expect to be affected by the loss of a family member to suicide. Unfortunately, that was precisely what happened. It’s a sensitive issue, and I don’t ever imagine it not being sad to talk about. But over time, what I’ve really learnt to accept is that you never know what’s going up in someone’s mind, you may miss all the signs, and one day, they’re gone. You could be having a normal chat on the phone, and then that sound fades and their voice become a mere memory.
In some cases, you know they’re struggling and just can’t help them. You might gloss over the fact that their life isn’t good, because who’s is 100% perfect? And what can we really do? It’s heartbreaking but sometimes there’s nothing that you can do to pull someone out of that dark abyss of intense emotion, or nothingness. I’ve learnt that even people who are open with their struggles, can be defeated by their illness in the end. But clinging on to a hope that things can get better is something we shouldn’t dismiss.
I guess weeks such as ‘Mental Health Awareness’ are designed to help people explore ways to cope with their difficulties, and alleviate the stress perhaps? To remind you to check in on someone, reach out to them? Go to a professional, your local GP if you’re having concerns? It’s not all happy and great and it won’t solve people’s problems overnight, obviously. But it could be helpful. And I hope that whatever you’re going through, you can find ways to carry on.
One of my favourite books is ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’, by the incredible Matt Haig. And if there’s any quote to inspire you, it may be this one –
“Depression is also smaller than you. Always, it is smaller than you, even when it feels vast. It operates within you, you do not operate within it. It may be a dark cloud passing across the sky but – if that is the metaphor – you are the sky. You were there before it. And the cloud can’t exist without the sky, but the sky can exist without the cloud.”
Love from Sahar x
**In the UK, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. You are never alone.**