Another week down, where does the time go?
This week has been Global Mental Health Awareness Week and I have been busy trying to raise that awareness myself. On Tuesday evening I gave a talk to one of my local branches of Samaritans about my story through the mental health system and specifically how to help people who may call up in distress with a personality disorder.
It was the longest talk I have delivered since I began public speaking and I was very anxious beforehand but I’m pleased to say that it went very well indeed. The room full of volunteers who I spoke to were very receptive and asked lots of interesting questions throughout, which provoked some great discussions. They were also very grateful after the event and many people said they had learnt some very helpful things.
It actually helped me a lot too. There is something liberating about sharing your story with others and when I heard how shocked people were at the lack of support that exists for people with mental illness despite it being far more talked about in the news and media than ever before, it made me feel like it was worth it. Raising awareness of different mental illnesses is important but just as important is raising the awareness of the lack of resources we currently have nationally to support those with these illnesses. To me, it feels like society is getting better at talking about mental health, and the stigma surrounding doing so is decreasing, but I still don’t think there are enough people really listening to that talk. Sometimes talking to a supportive friend is enough but for those who have more complex symptoms or conditions, their talking needs to be met with professional assistance. Whether it is a problem with funding or a lack of suitably skilled medical practitioners (I’m inclined to think it’s a combination of the two), there needs to be more support out there to meet the increasing demand for services. I felt for a long time that I was doing what society was asking of me and crying out for help with my personality disorder but there was no-one there listening - it was like screaming into a vacuum. The extremely long waiting times that exist in a lot of areas for access talking therapies is not good enough - we need resources to help the people who have braved asking for it, otherwise what is the point?
Anyway, the feedback from my talk was all extremely positive and they have asked me if I would deliver it at another local branch in the future too. That left me on a high, helping people understand a bit more so that they in turn can help others feel more listened to is my aim and on Tuesday night I definitely met that.
I also met my aims on the anniversary date of my suicide attempt. I was determined to make it a celebratory, self-care day rather than a miserable one and I kept myself occupied all day with activities to that end. They included completing my longest ever run and going for coffee and cake (alone - big anxiety win!) in a new coffee shop near me. It was a difficult day and I did experience some flashbacks and felt quite vulnerable and wobbly at times but I am pleased with the way I handled things and how well I managed to care for myself, something I really struggle to do.
Since all that excitement, things have calmed down a little and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. I have a lot going on in my head at the moment and whilst I have been so busy focusing on other things, I have been ignoring all that. A typical pattern for me but I know that if I don’t take some time out and try and connect to these emotions they will continue to build. So, I plan to take the next few days quietly and catch up with my feelings as best as I can.