Sometimes, it’s hard to keep our head above the water. One minute you’re going along just fine, and life hits you like an express train. The past few months have been extremely difficult and draining for me. My job has just finished, and there seems to be no end to the “We were impressed with your application, but have decided other candidates were better suited” emails I get in response. I have lost a lot of friends this year – both in terms of arguments and the simple fact that sometimes people just drift apart and stop speaking. I still haven’t decided what’s worse. It is that desperate bid to have a rough idea of what I am going to be doing for the next few years, and it feels as though I am just constantly coming up against brick walls.
If you follow me over on Twitter, then you will be more than aware on my thoughts on the US Election has been less than positive. Adding the current ‘Brexit’ (Britain leaving the European Union) to the mix, and the never ending stories of ‘doom and gloom’, the next while looks extremely chaotic in regards to politics. It often feels that with every refresh of my Twitter timeline, there have been more news about horrific acts of violence, racism, homophobia and sexism. It often feels as though we aren’t going to ever get better, instead we are stuck in a downward spiral of bleakness.
It has been extremely difficult to have a positive outlook on life with so much negativity going on around us. I have seen so many people sharing these ‘stay positive’ quotes and memes on Twitter, and whilst I appreciate their good intentions it doesn’t help. At times they often feel extremely ridiculous, acting as though the cure to Depression is having a bath and reading a book – and that if we all smile more we’ll suddenly end up in a world free from prejudice and struggles. Although, I do appreciate the sentiment and hard work behind them and no doubt they do help a lot of people.
Opening up to friends has always been a big struggle for me, because it feels so hit and miss a lot of the time. Whilst I fully respect they aren’t professional counsellors – it often feels that some of the ‘encouragement’ or ‘advice’ I have received has been condescending and invalidating. I also don’t like breaking down to friends and feel awful every time I do, as if one time they’re just going to get sick of me.
You may feel that a problem is minor, and that the other person is overreacting but by telling them to just ‘get over it’ or that ‘it’s no big deal’ you are making their struggles with the situation worse. For me, being told that what I’m stressing or crying over isn’t a ‘real problem’ has often made me feel guilty – Why am I being such a burden? Why can’t I cope with things that it’s apparently easy to cope with? Don’t tell me what I should and should not be bothered by, don’t try and police my emotions because it doesn’t do anything to help. The only thing that comes out of invalidating people’s feelings is that they trust and respect you less.
Put your personal opinion about a problem aside – it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look like a ‘big deal’ to you – and put yourself in the shoes of the person that has come to you for help. It might appear minuscule and easy to deal with, but that doesn’t mean you need to mock the other person for struggling. Put your focus instead on trying to actually help the person feel less distressed and more able to deal with the issue. By invalidating people’s feelings you are shutting down their support network, and they will feel less willing to go to people for support.
Bottling feelings up can result in serious consequences, that could have been more easily avoided. We can all do more to ensure that people are willing and able to turn to people for help. We don’t like when other people mock our issues, so it’s important that we don’t do that to others – unintentionally or otherwise. If you can’t help with something just say so, maybe give us advice on who would be better suited to turn to. I would respect someone a lot more for doing that rather than saying ‘It’s no big deal, you need to stop worrying over nothing’ and shutting the conversation down that way.
It is important to remember that it’s okay to breakdown and cry even over something that others might consider ‘small’. I have found myself crying over not knowing what to wear to an event because the week itself was so tough and draining, that it was just the last straw. Don’t let yourself feel as though your problems are stupid or minuscule in comparison to others. Suffering isn’t a competition and we shouldn’t try and turn it into one. We need to stop this toxic mentality of comparing problems to other people’s experiences, because that doesn’t benefit anyone. We all go through life differently, and no experience will ever truly be the same. Our feelings are valid, and so are other people’s feelings.
We need to open up the conversation – encourage people to reach out and speak to people about their struggles (professional or otherwise). There are numerous free helplines in place that we can turn to if we feel as though we can’t discuss those issues with friends or family members. There are so many directories that will help you find the right service to help you:
- UK Mental Health Helplines – *also covers abuse, addiction, Alzheimer’s, bereavement, crime victims, eating disorders, learning disabilities, parenting and relationship issues*
- US Mental Health Helplines – *also covers issues listed above*
- International Mental Health Helplines
A lot of these helplines also offer online support such as through emails, chatrooms or just general resources. Also, have you read my article over on Niume where I discussed the importance education can have on mental health?