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The Lobster Quadrille

So, this week on Tuesday, 10th October, is World Mental Health Day. The World Federation for Mental Health Organisation stipulate the day ‘provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental healthcare a reality for people worldwide’. On a more grass roots level, it’s a day when people should feel totally open to talk about their mental health and their experiences.

Anyway, I thought instead of me ranting and swearing about how the day shows how backwards and restrictive our society is, by the very fact we have to have a day reminding people mental health is a serious thing – we don’t have a world physical health day (for my critique of the contrasting perceptions of physical and mental health follow this link: http://cubmagazine.co.uk/2017/09/the-queens-croquet-garden/) – I thought why not get into the spirit of things.

I, somehow, convinced my friend to interview myself and my flat mate, as she too struggles with depression and anxiety, during which we gave him free reign on all the questions he’d always wanted to ask us, but never did in case he offended us or seemed too intrusive.

It aptly began with him asking ‘what kind of questions can I ask?’ and my flat mate responding with, ‘anything, we are fucking mental.’

What did you feel like when you were diagnosed?

Me:
Weirdly relieved as it sort of explained how I’d been feeling, not like yay I’m depressed, but like by putting a definitive term to it I could understand it more.

Flat mate:
I already basically knew, I’d been using iTalk (sidebar: use this guys, it’s really helpful) so had noticed I was exhibiting the symptoms. It was more shocking hearing the doctor say, ‘you need help’ and at that moment I broke down.

How do you feel talking to a specialist and being vulnerable and sh*t?

Me:
Really good, I was nervous as f*ck at first but it really helps. Like due to my anxiety, I think about the worst outcome in everything but they break it down for me and bring me to a level by giving a totally unbiased opinion. Plus, I can get all my sh*t off my chest.

Flat mate:
It helps so much, I like seeing how they react to what I’m saying as I realise I’m not batsh*t crazy or exaggerating. Like reading 1 in 4 people struggle with depression doesn’t make me feel better about how I act, but talking to them and having them explain it does.

Did you want to lie and say you hadn’t tried killing yourself when you went to the doctor, as it’d be awkward? (This only applied to me)

Me:
No I knew I needed to, as unless I told them precisely what was wrong they wouldn’t know the best way to help me. It was more uncomfortable having to talk about exactly what happened. When they said ‘do you think you’ll try again anytime soon?’ I did feel like saying ‘not sure, let me check me diary’, but I realised it was quite a serious conversation.

Do you wish you could be strong enough to not go to the doctors/therapist?

Me:
I put it off and off until you both (my flat mate and friend) literally forced me to ring the counselling services. I thought I was being strong by not asking for help and I’d had bad experiences in the past with councillors. However, on my first session my counsellor explained that actually I was being strong enough to say I’m not ok and that I was doing something about it.

Flat mate:
You can be the strongest person and still need help.

Do you feel guilty about how you feel, like your problems don’t seem that bad?

Me:
That’s like the textbook response, but at the end of the day your problems are your problems, you can’t control how you feel. You wouldn’t go, ‘oh I’ve broken my arm but he’s paralysed so I need to stop moaning.’

Flat mate:
Yeah you should never diminish how you feel, nothing ‘went wrong’ in my life and I still suffer from depression.

What are the mood swings like?

Both of us:
F*cking terrifying. You go from being totally hysterical and crying, to being euphoric and bouncing round.

What gets you into states?

Me:
Well it can literally be nothing, I can be mid conversation and all of a sudden everything slows down and I feel a weight on me, or I feel really excited, or when stuff about my mum comes up.

Flat mate:
Anything really, there’s no trigger. Sometimes if stuff has been building up in the day it all explodes when I relax.

I saw the video you (flat mate) posted on Facebook about the need to stay busy, is it a big deal?

Me:
For me yeah, like a big source of my anxiety is that I’m not doing enough, so I feel the need to be constantly doing stuff, so I feel like I’m achieving something and not letting my sh*t get in the way of me doing well. This does mean I then burn myself out and end up doing f*ck all.

Flat mate:
I don’t want to fail, but I guess no one does, I shared it because I guess a lot of people feel the urge, but for me it doesn’t affect my anxiety.

Do taking tablets help? (I’m currently not on any medication however my flat mate is)

Flat mate:
Yeah massively, they calm me down and also lift me up so I can talk. My attendance at college was at 40% so it stabilised me and let me function. I mean when I don’t take them it’s scary and I can get really bad.

How do you feel about the stigma which surrounds them?

Me:
Obviously I can’t speak from experience, but if you’ve tried everything and you still feel like nothing is working what’s wrong with it? I understand there are side effects and controversies but if you have no other options.

Flat mate:
It frustrates me how drastic people think the change is, my parents were so against it but they came to understand it was the only thing left that might stabilise me.

What are bad coping mechanisms?

Both of us:
Excessive drinking or substance use, like yeah get f*cked and enjoy yourself, but do not do it to try and make yourself feel better. You’ll get messy but in a bad way.

Me:
I had to stop drinking for a while because whenever I drank I’d drink sh*t loads to numb how I was feeling and I’d just end up hysterical and having panic attacks.

Do you think mental health is sometimes glamorised?

Me:
Definitely, I remember in school, girls would get Tumblr pages all about how they were depressed and crazy, when they weren’t, because they thought it made them sexy and mysterious. When I’m having a funny turn I’m far from sexy, I’m a sweating, blubbering mess, make up down the face and fag in hand. But I guess it was only because they didn’t understand what they were talking about, it’s due to a lack of education. It’s the same with TV and films, either mental health is glamorised, not mentioned, or the person with the mental health is a total lunatic killer.

Flat mate:
I remember in school, cutting yourself weirdly became a fashion trend, but yeah it’s about a lack of education. We need to be teaching kids from a young age about mental health.

So yeah straight from the horses mouths, ladies and gentlemen, air your dirty laundry this week and talk about how you feel.

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