Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Mental Health Awareness Day

Today was Mental Health Awareness Day. I feel like mental illness is an incredibly taboo subject, people don't like to talk about it, they don't like to acknowledge it, perhaps because some people don't believe that it's a problem, or they don't understand it, or they're scared to explore it and accept it for what it is, an illness. Our minds can be broken just as an arm can be, only I think the healing process is a lot tougher. I've never had perfect mental health, I get anxious, I've struggled with OCD...and in some of my darkest days I've disliked having OCD more than my Type One Diabetes, more than my physical, potentially life-threatening illness, disease, condition, whatever you want to call it. I won't go into too much detail about it, but I'm of course not ashamed to admit my mental health struggles and admit that they have caused me hardship on a par with my diabetes.

You can't escape your mind, that's the bottom line and I think what makes it so difficult, thoughts and feelings are what determine our day, they're what determine our reaction to things and what make up who we are. Think about it, you have your own voice swimming around your head 24/7 and when that voice is negative, or scary or not what you want to think about, it's distressing and it's unpleasant. My psychologist always said to me that the more you try not to think about something, the more you think about it, and I've never heard anything more true. None of us are perfect and I'm yet to meet someone who hasn't struggled mentally, we of course to an extent are in control of our minds, but when that mind gets sick and doesn't work like you want it to, you in a sense are at a loss.

The mind is so powerful and despite it being mental, it invokes very real, very physical symptoms in people. Being anxious is me having a panic attack on top of the Empire State Building on a visit to New York last year because I'm so afraid of heights and the hustle and bustle of so many people 80 floors up is so overwhelming that my physical state went to pot. It's scary and it's the lack of control over what you're thinking and how you react to that situation, to this day I'll always be annoyed that I couldn't enjoy my time up that building because I was so anxious.

I've spent nights crying because dealing with OCD to me is not just wanting everything to be tidy and colour co-ordinated as people jokingly portray it: it's trying to push out negative thoughts and stop the "routines" that I carry out every day because my mind convinces me that if I don't do it, something terrible will happen. Mental illness is so real and so common and the stigma that people with mental health issues are crazy or that they're doing it for attention or it's "not real" needs to stop. I am incredibly normal! I'm one of many.

Thankfully, I get on ok with it all now, and I'm thankful that it's not worse and that I can function, lots of people with mental health issues aren't that lucky.

Your mind is so complex. Every day, every second your thoughts and your emotions are changing and your mind is trying to make sense of things and it's a busy environment. Honestly, who is normal, who can honestly say they've never felt anxious or affected by their mind and it's state?

It's like with Type One Diabetes, I'm sure none of us can say that we haven't been affected by it mentally. The fear of hypos, the fear of going high, the anxiety surrounding needles, the mental effect that physical exhaustion from dealing with a condition that requires your attention 24/7 has on you can be significant. Diabetes burnout...we all make the decision every single day to check our blood sugar and to take our insulin because we know we have to and if we don't it can have detrimental effects, but when you're going through diabetes burnout that mindset goes out of the window, your mind is tired, you get tired of the tedious everyday grind of living with Type One Diabetes. Thankfully for some these periods come and go, and for others they can get stuck in a rut. One of the many reasons I think psychological support for people with diabetes is so important, it's so psychologically complex, we have a lot on our shoulders, we make important decisions every single day and the toll it can have on your mental health is real.

I suppose what I'm getting at here, is that your mind and it's function and purpose in our lives is significant and when it doesn't work properly, life can't really work properly can it...we make decisions, react to situations, feel emotion...all with our minds...and if that busy environment that is swimming around your head is negative or impacted in some way by mental illness or the mental effects of something like living with Type One, things can get a little bit messy. It's hard to heal a broken mind, it takes a lot of strength and determination, to battle your own thoughts and be mindful and not let whatever you're going through take over. It can be done though, and of course, there is always hope and you're never alone.

Anyway, there are my rambles for today, my thoughts...


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