It’s ironic that at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, a mental health professional who helps others to deal with their problems is struggling with his own. I’m sat at home, having spent a night of almost constant wakefulness and black mood, staring out at a gloriously sunny day in May: seagulls arc on the thermals, a light breeze stirs the fresh green leaves on the trees.
Inside, it feels like someone has flicked all the lights out and severed the connections to the pleasure centres of my brain. I feel the weight of the shadows on my mind. I have little motivation to eat or move. I’m still in my dressing gown. But that’s okay – I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I don’t feel suicidal, but I have in the past.
In the past I have struggled with depression and Obsessional Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and accept with some inevitability that depression will creep up on me. I expect it more in the winter months as there seems to be a seasonal cycle to my moods. It is less expected in May. As a psychotherapist I recognised that I’m vulnerable to certain stressors but despite this it continues to catch me out.
Today is different somehow perhaps for two reasons. Firstly, I know that writing about my experiences helps me somehow to process and find some meaning in the darkness – especially writing poems; poetry illuminates the darker days. Secondly, it seems important to tell other people directly about my experience of depression especially in Mental Health Awareness Week. This way other people might not feel so isolated and stigmatised. I know both as a writer and psychotherapist that it is our connections to each other and the dialogue we share at the very least is a welcome light in the darkness and ultimately can save lives.
So I would invite you to share/ write about your experience of mental health or comment if you found this short article useful.