I haven’t been writing here much recently. I’ve been busy, other projects, other jobs, other chores. It has also been a difficult time for me. I’ve retreated a bit, intentionally. This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, so I’ve decided to share something I wrote late last year. It is important we talk about mental health. It is important to share our experiences so we can create understanding and build bridges. It is also really hard to do that when you are in the grip of things.
It is easy to say – ‘ask for help’ or ‘it’s okay to not be okay’. It is a lot harder to really be there for someone when they reach out to you. It is made harder by stigma, by lack of government funding to help and overstretched mental health services. Awareness only helps if it is followed by meaningful change. Even if you think you will never need it I suggest reading this guide to supporting someone you care about through a mental health crisis. The most important thing though is to listen. When people are ready to talk just listen.
I wanted to write. But when I sat down I just stared at the blank page and didn’t know how to fill it.
I wanted to write. But all that came out were scratchy little monosyllables like Um and Ahh and No.
I wanted to write. But then I wondered, would it be good, would it be worth setting down? Or should I just let it spin on loop in my head until the idea was worn down and any lustre it once had was well and truly gone.
I wanted to write. But when I looked at the words they had lost their shape. Like wreckage strewn across a beach. It was hard to see how the sentence had once fit together.
I wanted to write. But I listened to the little voice inside my head that said don’t bother.
I wanted to write. But I didn’t want to project a false image of myself. Creating a fake online life where I have my shit together. My life is often very good and happy. I have fun with my kids and enjoy coffee and walks in winter but, but, but…
I wanted to write. But anxiety can be funny like that. It doesn’t really care what you want.
I wanted to write. But I don’t want to hear that I’m oversharing. Talking about mental health still carries a lot of stigma. 20% of people struggle with anxiety at some point in their lives, so I’m not that unusual, am I?
I tried to write anxiety but that is a lie within a lie within a lie. The real word is a hard word. One that sits in your mouth as you try to avoid catching your tongue on its sharp edges. One that hovers in the space between your paralysed fingers and the keyboards, daring you to punch it out.
I wanted to write. Wrote even. Spent hours carving out the words. But when I came back to it to polish it off I gave it one gentle tap with the hammer, and the whole thing crumbled to dust.
I wanted to write. So, I tried again. And I imagined someone combing the beach, finding
– Planks, still strong and sturdy. Putting them together and finding they are sail worthy after all.
– A delicately carved piece of scrimshaw, hard etched lines scratching out a story.
– A shard of glass, holding onto its colour even as the sharp cut edges are worn away by the collision of sand and tide.
It’s safe now, to nestle it in your palm, and run your fingers over.
It’s safe now, to write what I wanted to write.