You cry for no reason. You feel sad, more often than you show. You can’t get out of bed. You feel like the world is against you or that nothing is going your way. You feel like nobody would notice if you weren’t there. You feel anxious about the smallest things.
Have you ever felt like this, or something similar? I have. I know several people who have or are going through these feelings right now. I bet if you’re reading this that you have, too. Furthermore, I bet you know someone who has felt like this. They might even be sitting right next to you or in front of you right now, with smiles on their faces, chatting away breezily, and you’d never know anything was wrong.
It’s nice to see a lot more open discussions about mental health in recent years, but the stigma attached to mental illness is still strong. I’m not saying that having a bad day here and there means you are mentally ill. In fact, I think it’s perfectly normal to have a bad moment or a bad day now and then. Nobody’s life is perfect. I would tend to think there’s something missing in your synapses if you were just happy all the time.
I’m not an expert on mental health so I am not going to be prescribing any miracle cures here and I won’t be dishing out any medical advice*. A close friend of mine is currently undergoing chemotherapy to treat Stage 2 breast cancer. I have accompanied her on several occasions to her treatments. After her first treatment, she gave me a flyer prepared by the Breast Cancer Network Australia titled “Helping a friend or colleague with breast cancer”. In it, they suggest things like making a meal or baking a cake, or driving her to her medical appointments, helping her with her shopping or just a simple visit.
In a similar way, helping a friend going through any kind of tough time can be simple. Invite them over for a cuppa (or a meal, if you feel so inclined), go for a walk or a road trip together and catch some Vitamin D. A simple phone call if you don’t live nearby. We should all be doing these things with our friends all the time anyway, right? Isn’t this what friends are for? Whatever you do, it doesn’t need to be extravagant, even if you think it might be nice. Keep it simple and low-key because nobody wants to have a breakdown in the middle of a fancy restaurant.
Let me tell you now, my five-cent Peanuts Gallery opinion. Most people who need help will not ask for it. They do not want to be an inconvenience, and in their minds, what would be worse is asking for help and nobody responds. Plus, they don’t usually want to appear weak or dependant on others. We all put on a mask to show the world a side of ourselves we want others to see. Behind that mask usually tells a different story. We share photos of lovely beaches and green trees to show the world as it should be, the world we wish to live in when the real one might be a dark and lonely one.
Six years ago today, I lost a school friend to cancer. It’s unfathomable to think so much time has passed already, and yet it feels like no time has passed at all. And I feel sad about it, and so many other things going on in my world, and in the wider world in general. So, all I am saying is, there is nothing wrong with having a good cry every now and then. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to vent about something. There is nothing wrong with wanting to just stay in your cocoon once in a while and hide from the world.
“Adulting” is hard. But it is not insurmountable.
It’s OK to not be OK. And it is OK to ask someone a simple question: “Are you OK?”
And at all times, give a stranger a smile, because you never know what a difference that could make to someone’s day.
* Please seek professional medical help should you or someone you know experience serious mental health issues.