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March 12, 2018 | by  | in Opinion Shit Chat |
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Cutting the Shit Chat (Just for a Second)

It’s really easy for me to slip into a cycle of flippancy when it comes to talking about mental health; it’s really easy for me to deflect talking about the hard stuff with humour. There’s nothing wrong with that, I don’t think. There is value in escapism.  I do think, however, that it’s important not to get stuck in that cycle indefinitely.

This week I’m going to attempt to cut the shit and speak sincerely. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

In 2014, my first year, a friend of mine was co-editing Salient. He wrote an editorial for the mental health issue. It was, after a long time of feeling very isolated, the reason I finally went and got diagnosed.

The editorial spoke candidly about struggling, and about being kind to yourself. It was a relief to see someone say it out loud. Seeing someone who I admired so much admit he was struggling made it seem like it was OK, actually, that I was struggling too.

I don’t remember that time in a whole lot of detail. I do remember sitting in the overbridge at uni, reading the editorial, and crying. Then walking myself to student health.

Talking candidly about mental health is hard, but as Cam and Duncan said in that issue, we need to talk about it. We need to say it out loud.

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in October 2014. The diagnosis was a while in the making. In the years since, I’ve been to doctors and counsellors, I’ve come on and off meds. I’m still figuring it out.

Right now, I’m doing OK. I’m pretty stressed, I’m worried about my friends, but I’m doing OK.

There’s a part of me that’s worried this OK-ness that I’ve been feeling for the past couple of months has an expiry date. There’s a part of me that’s worried I’m going to get overwhelmed again, that I’m going to sink back into the intensely dark place I was in this time last year.

University is really tough for me. I expect a lot from myself. I often won’t attempt something if I don’t think I’ll excel in it; I’d rather not do something at all than deliver in mediocrity. I have an all-or-nothing mindset that results in periods of chronic stagnation with intermittent bursts of panic-induced activity.

Human interaction is really tough for me. I tend to give a lot of myself to others. I feel incredible pressure to be “on” when I’m around people; I read into silences as some deficiency in my character. I haven’t quite figured out yet how to comfortably exist without the approval of others.

It’s often easier to pretend I don’t care than to admit that actually, I care a lot, and that I won’t always be in control or live up to the high standards I set for myself.

Cam and Duncan openly talking about their struggles was powerful, and I am forever grateful for the impact that their candour had, and continues to have, on my life. Struggling is OK; normal; valid. Let’s talk about our mental health, if only to find comfort in the fact that we aren’t alone.

Success doesn’t always look like thriving; sometimes success is just surviving. I think it’s important to be reminded that the ostensibly simple act of surviving is admirable in and of itself.

I’ll be back to complaining about stupid shit next issue, promise.

Love you, xoxo

If you want to read Cam and Duncan’s editorial from 2014, you can find it here: https://issuu.com/salientmagazine/docs/mental_health_issuu

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