Here’s a question for you today, dear readers – would you rather a) walk around with a debilitating stress or b) be mocked for getting the appropriate help? Somehow, I have a feeling we’d be shocked at how many people would choose option A. Subconsciously or not.Welcome to a very important edition of our blog, dear readers, dedicated to a day that is integral to the mental health calendar – Time to Talk Day.
Every year on the 6th February, we celebrate this day dedicated to combating the backwards, outdated and illogical stigma surrounding mental health and the shame associated with seeking help. This year, the theme is a good old game of Would You Rather! Inappropriate? I don’t think so. Sure you can have some rather funny, ridiculous or sometimes disturbing games of Would You Rather – I first discovered the game watching Zoey 101 on Nickelodeon (don’t judge me) in which protagonist Zoey had to decide if she’d rather “eat 10 spiders or wear only green for the rest of her life”. I personally would probably choose the spiders! Not that I don’t look great in green, and to be frank I’m terrified of spiders (again don’t judge me) – but like Zoey says, either she eats the spiders, throws up and that’s that, or she cries for 75 years! The thing is, dear readers, when you think about it, Would You Rather can be a good way of getting you thinking, and as someone who has lived with Generalised Anxiety Disorder since at least his teenage years, I can tell you at the not-so-tender age of 29 that a bit of perspective goes a long way when you are struggling with low mental health.
So have you decided on your answer to the question at the start of the blog then, dear reader? Of course you have; it’s common sense! By now it is a scientifically proven fact that stress is a killer – too much cortisol in the body can have serious consequences for one’s physical health, thus it is important to regulate our stress levels – our mental health! If we take one cold and flu tablet too many by accident, we are expected to go straight to a doctor. Too high a concentration of paracetamol or any other drug or hormone is disastrous. So it is with cortisol, which the body releases in response to stress. This is a fact! Yet still people refute the existence of ill mental health as a legitimate reason to ask for help, based on little more than they can’t see it. Unfortunately, this makes it very uncomfortable to ask for help sometimes. But this brings us neatly to our second question:
Round 2: Would you rather a) wear a bikini to work for a day, or b) listen to Crazy Frog for 3 hours a night for the rest of your life?Now granted, there might be people out there who wear bikinis to work by default if you’re a model, or maybe you just feel super-confident about your body – in which case, good for you! There’s probably someone out there who would love to listen to Crazy Frog for the rest of their lives … but I daresay for most of us, either of those options is more than a little uncomfortable! Sure, I’d look hot in a bikini (yeah right) but I wouldn’t really feel comfortable wearing one to work, but if I had to choose between a work days’ worth of solid discomfort and hours of it every night for the rest of my life, then I would choose option A! Why? Because it gets the discomfort over in the shortest amount of time, then I can move on with my life. Option B – I slowly get driven to despair and insanity over the course of my life. Think of this as a metaphor for mental health – asking for help can be so difficult for so many reasons, like maybe you’re worried that people will think less of you, or you might lash out at yourself and decide that you’re not worth anyone’s time, or you might simply decide that it can wait and that you’ll feel better in the morning or after a good session of gaming for example … unfortunately it doesn’t work. Trust me, I’ve tried for years. So many years I was lying awake each night because the thoughts in my head wouldn’t stop. Ever. Every single night I couldn’t sleep … and it affected my work. Even these days it is still a problem. But I have been a patient of counselling for many years now. When I have a spike of Anxiety, I’m comfortable enough to seek help. As a result, I get the precious hours of sleep that I need these days.
Round 3: Oh no! You’ve cut yourself and the wound is looking pretty nasty. It might get infected without proper treatment. Would you rather a) seek immediate medical treatment or b) slap on a plaster and hope for the best?Unfortunately, when it comes to our health, there are no easy fixes. We can’t just get rid of the underlying problems by taking the simple route and treating the symptoms. This is true of both physical and mental health. Since the digital age came about we can do all sorts of things from the comfort of a chair – book flights, order food, buy clothes and games you name it. But things like treatment of ill mental health can take years, even with the right support. I have been a patient of therapy for at least 5 years on and off, but relapse is unfortunately a fact of life with mental health as well. I’ve become better at coping with such relapses but I’m certain with my severe Anxiety that I could not have kept my current job for nearly 4 years without the therapy, with how often I have found myself unable to sleep and suffering from debilitating panic attacks.As I said previously, it’s not enough to rely on our hobbies to cope with our mental health. They may help us relieve stress in the moment, but aside from the risk of developing a full blown addiction, they can sometimes mask the problem. They may not resolve it. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Anyway, I have to give Time to Change credit for their choice of themes this year! Would You Rather might, at a cursory glance, seem like a silly child’s game, but aside from being a good ice-breaker, Would You Rather is a game that gets you thinking. It gets you to develop perspectives on subjects that you likely had never considered before – unless you actually considered eating spiders?But to conclude, the perspective I have developed from thinking about these matters of mental health through the lens of a game of Would You Rather is that a lot of the answers are just plain common sense! Does that mean they’re easy? No, not necessarily, especially for an over-thinker like myself. But it’s still totally logical to seek help with ill mental health, despite what conventional wisdom holds – and I do use the word “wisdom” loosely. While it’s also the case that confronting our mental health directly can be extremely uncomfortable, it is ultimately necessary to confront the issue directly and not search for quick fixes, unless we wish to have to put up with the problem forever – like we were wearing only green or listening to Crazy Frog for the rest of our lives!Much like the analogy of wearing a bikini to work, though it is more than a bit uncomfortable a prospect, at least you only have to do it once, as opposed to the other option which lasts for a lifetime!
In any case, I hope this blog gets you thinking about these important issues as much as this year’s theme got me thinking, and if you struggle with mental health, hopefully my blog will help you decide that it is, indeed, Time To Talk!
Make sure you visit https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/ to take park!