It is really great to see many people coming out and trying to end the stigma with mental health. And unfortunately, until recently, I think I also had a stigma against mental health. I may have phrased this poorly, let me desperately try to dig myself out of this hole.
I was out recently for drinks with a friend and we were chatting about positivity and positive thinking. I am a HUGE believer in positive thinking. I would classify myself as an extremely positive person and I am always pushing myself to be happy. Now, I was not always like that. I was definitely an angry little twat for the majority of my youth. Some relatively unpleasant things occurred in my youth which definitely made me very bitter for a long time. I reckon for about a year or year and a half, I was a pretty unhappy chap. I cannot imagine that I was good company. Now, I was far from depressed. Just not delighted. This is a crucial point. And a point that I think I missed until very recently.
I associated mental health issues with this period, in a weird way. So, I was unhappy for a period and I made an active decision to change some things in my life in order to smile more. Essentially, I forced myself to go from glass half empty to glass half full and fully embrace the challenges and rockiness of life. Very little gets me down nowadays as I try to see anything negative as a positive. Finding something to learn or improve about even a crappy scenario.
Now, that is all lovely and isn’t Brian such a great lad for having this sorted out. In my often vacant head, I thought everyone can do that. Which is a ridiculous thing to think. While I understood mental health issues, I only considered the extreme mental health issues as….well, issues. I thought most other people just needed to shift some emphasis on to positive thinking.
Christ, even writing this, I feel embarrassed. But hopefully by showcasing my naivity, I can highlight someone else and assist in shifting the stigma in some small way.
So, I have never been depressed. But I have been sad. Quite sad and unhappy. These are very very different things. And I think it is easy for people to think they are the same.
“Just cheer up!”
It doesn’t work like that. At all. Depression and mental health is so complex. And just because you don’t get it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And just because you have been low at certain times of your life, doesn’t mean that you understand the complexities of what is happening. Depression is a very real thing and the “ah sure, you’ll be grand” thing doesn't cut it.
I would consider myself a very understanding man of the world and I thought people could just “cheer up”.
Anyway, so I was telling my friend that I think people take life too seriously and put too much stress on themselves. Worry about things that can not be controlled. I try not to worry about things that I cannot control. I will talk and analyse it over and over much to the delight of my friends but at the end of the day, fuck it.
I have a pretty bad knee. I can no longer run the wonderful great distances that I used to. My friend is able to run great lengths. If I run too much on my knee, it feels like its about to explode and I must stop. She, because she understands my issues, doesn’t say;
“Just keep running!”
Not the best analogy in the world, but you get my drift.
So, while drinking and being no doubt hilarious, I launch into my thoughts on positivity that goes roughly along this lines. Please imagine a leprechaun saying the below to receive full effect,
“I just think it is all about perspective. I think people take life too seriously. If you relax and roll with the punches, you will be shocked at how happy you will be. Just enjoy every challenge and make the most of your time here! You will be amazed how easy it is to smile when you tell yourself to smile!”
In my mind, this is super motivational and incredible. What a true inspiration. Unfortunately, for the majority of the world, they are not talking chimps and are far more complexed than KING KOLLIN$, and it is not as easy to say; be happy. And then you smile. Especially if you are diagnosed with depression. Fuck, I am unsure if I want to post this as I am coming across as an absolute twat.
But look, there are probably other twats out there who don’t know they are twats. I was once like you. I never actually realised how ignorant I was about mental health issues. So, I expect my friend to agree and say “you are right.”
Unfortunately, she looked at me and looked quite upset.
“It is not as simple as that for everyone, Brian.”
And just like that, it completely hit me. My friend had depression for a few years and still battles with it.
I was stunned. I don’t know why one sentence hit me so hard. I think it just highlighted how clueless that I was about it all. You can’t just “snap out” of depression. It is not something that people can control and it can be incredibly overwhelming and debilitating. It sure as hell ain’t anything personal also. My friend is a gorgeous, intelligent and incredibly nice girl. In my mind, my stupid ignorant mind, I was thinking;
“You can’t be depressed! You are great!”
Like, what a moronic thing to think. That depression can only occur to certain people because of certain reasons. If depression did strike people due to specific reasons, I should have bloody depression. A greying, increasingly chubby talking chimp with some very ignorant thoughts.