In a world where women overshare and men don’t share at all (not to stereotype or anything there of course) talking about feelings invariably makes people shudder, panic and want to pat the person somewhere neutral whilst hoping their facial expression is supportive and not one big awkward grimace.
*BIG THUMBS UP*
“Er, it’ll be alright mate”
But I’d say the largest problem with discussing ‘how you feel’ is that it’s unchartered water. If you don’t understand how you feel how on earth can you explain it? (Perhaps it could be explained on planet Mars…?) If you can’t comprehend why you’re feeling that way it’s also hugely difficult to explain it and often horribly demanding to not think “this is how it will always be”, “this is how I will always feel”.
People tell you to get out more, eat healthily, wear something nice and exercise as though they’re instant fixes, brushing it off as a one-time thing. But, imagine you wake and feel…grey. Cloudy. Foggy. You exercise, you walk for your bus, you pop into your mate’s work place to see them and get a ridiculously overpriced ‘green’ smoothie – you’ve just ticked off all those things. Your mood? Still grey, just maybe with a slick of red lippy to check that box for ‘wearing something nice’.
Feeling ‘down’ can be fine, even expected, for a day, maybe even two. But what happens when that fog descends and you get lost in it? Swimming in clouds of indifference for what feels like months, even if it’s just days. Going to bed exhausted despite ‘doing nothing’ all day.
But what would you say is ‘doing nothing’? If every day is a struggle, almost as though you have to learn how to do things again, surely that’s not doing nothing? That’s coping, dealing, trying. That’s working bloody hard actually.
Take social anxiety for example; ever had that moment where you bump into someone you know and they say a happy little hello and want to have a conversation. Of course they don’t know you can barely hear them over the white noise roaring in your head. Strange little twitches in the conversation where it’s like someone’s just whispered in your ear but you didn’t quite catch it, distracting you from that real person in front of you. You leave the encounter feeling idiotic and so, so, so relieved to get away.
Have you ever tried to complete a task with five people asking you:
‘what are you doing?’ ‘why are you doing it’?
‘why aren’t you running home?’
‘don’t do it!’
‘you can’t do it!’
Imagine you saw someone on the street with five people surrounding them, shouting all of those phrases at them – you wouldn’t accept that! Why does that change when those ‘people’ are voices in your own head? Why not police our minds in the same way we would police others?
Sometimes it can feel like you’re watching life from underwater or a slightly different angle, almost outside yourself. Small things like getting out of bed, putting clothes on and eating can seem like the most unobtainable things in the world. I haven’t written this article to suggest solutions or tell people how to ‘get better’.
Invariably I find people will not respond well to being told their mental fluctuations have simple solutions. It’s more that I feel that awkwardness surround mental health should be challenged, combatted, changed.
It’s impossible to accurately explain exactly how you feel to another human being but the more we communicate and share about how we feel and think the bigger the common knowledge of mental states will grow. This ‘database’ of experiences can help us to learn about and understand the inconsistencies of our mentalities and contextualise them whilst exploring the unchartered waters of mental health.