“How do we set about not imagining something?” ― Deborah Levy, Hot Milk
Delving deep into the recesses of your mind for a story is hard enough – for a personal essay, harder still. I’ve been sitting at my desk, wondering how to properly write this story. It’s not entirely mine, nor does it belong to a friend but it exists.
The monsters that lurk in our minds are real; to us, at least. I’ve been musing over the ‘ones’ in my own mind for some time now –
Are these phases? (I hated high school; 9th grade was particularly horrid. I was quiet and withdrawn, had no friends and cried every day. My parents had me seek professional help, however - there isn’t anything to recount from that one experience or session.)
Must I see a counsellor? (This thought is as old as 2014; in 2015, I began doing exercises online to keep my anxieties in check.)
Am I romanticising my anxieties, must I occupy myself with other tasks and move on? (Creativities and other passions felt like a super power, it’s helped keep the levels of ‘dismal’ to a minimum.)
Why then, am I writing this? It isn’t hard to take that first step. Make an appointment, perhaps? I keep thinking to see a counsellor on an impulse; I’ll be ready then! My problems aren’t even earth-shattering, not in comparison to the magnitude of hurt that certain sections of the world must go through - every day. (Definitely not.) I’m miniscule. A wee speckle!
Have you thought these things? Am I alone? I’ll plough on, still.
Choosing the wellbeing of your mind over everything else that is secondary (even tertiary) is difficult; harnessing the willpower to make that choice requires courage, support and treatment.
THE MONSTER IS REAL
Mental health is something we’re talking about more than we used to (thank you Jovanny); we weren’t always encouraged to talk about that which troubled our minds, hurt our heads or haunted us for weeks (maybe months and years) together in a seemingly endless loop. It’s frightening because we are told, “It’s a figment of your imagination.” “Why must you think that way?” “Think happy thoughts.”
The rest of the world: “How must one heal that which we do not see?”
Acknowledgement and Acceptance
There is much we cannot comprehend about the human mind, and oh, mental illness? It creeps up on us in forms aplenty (bipolar disorder, dissociative identity disorder, kleptomania etc.). Sometimes it’s dormant, at times - active and volatile, most of the time - undetected and therefore, untreated. (Minds are like plants; irrespective of inherent differences – universal factors facilitate their growth: the sun’s rays, water, soil and love.)
Most folks wouldn’t like to have their problems easily dismissed. Acknowledging that their fears/issues are real empowers them with the hope that there are means to fight them too. Even though I can’t speak for myself (yet) - if you’re uncomfortable going to a professional doctor or therapist, approach a counsellor first for advice and guidance. (I’ve spoken to one at Maple Jar, and will make an appointment soon.)
Speak to persons you trust deeply, talk to those (outside your circle) who might be experiencing similar conditions. This will help you form a support group of sorts. It will enable you to focus on solutions than dwell on the illness inhabiting your mind.
Cultivating Empathy & Self-Awareness Through Social Media | Jovanny Varela-Ferreyra, YouTube
Being an introvert might not be anything, but because of my nature (anxieties and depressive tendencies aside) – I can sometimes tell when someone in my immediate circle or outside of it is going through something. I might read a tweet from a stranger, and feel inclined to reach out. But at the same time, I’ve not been so empathetic in the past. I’ve been hurtful; ignorant, when I could have been useful.
And so, how do you place your lack of understanding or mistrust aside? How do you help someone who is visibly suffering from something internal, how do you reach out?
This is an ethos (of sorts) I’ve made up:
LISTEN; develop an awareness - look for signs, even when they aren’t speaking
ACCEPT; acknowledge one’s feelings, even if you can’t fully understand
GUIDE; when you know something definite
OFFER; help, in a nonintrusive manner
EXPRESS; in ways you know best; art is a legendary healer – gift them ‘trust’ through illustrations, letters, stories etc.
None of us here is an expert, that’s a given; yet we wish to help minds that are lost, seeking, troubled and so very alone. Your quiet desperation doesn’t have to be only yours, we can help. We will!
Over the course of this series, we hope to educate and empower our readers – ourselves, included. Mental health forms the core of our existence. Minds, over everything else (all that inconsequential colloidal matter).
Words: Roanna Fernandes loves writing stories and making illustrations; she also harbours a fondness for coffee shops, dusty libraries, fragrances, jewellery boxes and vintage stores.