Today is Time to Talk day; a day where we acknowledge the power that even the smallest conversation can have.
Having experienced various difficult points with my own mental health (including before experiencing recurrent miscarriage), there are two conversations that stick out to me.
The first was with a friend. At the time I was experiencing high bouts of anxiety; and after a day out shopping including a panic attack, I was upset with myself. How could I have let myself get into such a state?
But then my friend turned to me and said something I have remembered ever since.
“This changes absolutely nothing, except for how you feel about it right now.”
She was right. This meant two things.
Firstly, just because my body was screaming DANGER! at me, it didn’t mean that anything bad was any more likely to happen. My anxiety was convincing me that something awful was imminent and trying to prepare me for it; but anxiety, although it very much likes to sit in this particular driving seat, is NOT A PREDICTOR OF THE FUTURE.
Do you hear that, anxiety?? You do not predict the future!! *Pause for applause.*
The second thing this meant was that she thought no less of me than had I not had that panic attack. She was still my best friend, nothing had changed.
“This changes nothing, except for how you feel about it right now.”
I honestly could not believe how much sense that phrase made, and still means to me.
One of the biggest things for me in having a healthier relationship with my thoughts and feelings was removing my own stigma in the way that I referred to myself. I remember thinking for the longest time, “I’m an anxious person”. And by constantly telling myself that, not only did I believe it, for a while, I became it.
A conversation with a therapist told me, “Everyone has anxiety. Everyone. What you need to do is recognise when you’re having it, take responsibility for it, and learn ways of becoming calm.”
This did something so important for me; it gave me power. I’m not “an anxious person”; I am a person who, sometimes, experiences anxiety. Just like everyone else. There is a fundamental and absolutely crucial difference between the two.
Now that I knew that anxiety is not an uncontrollable thing at the core of my being that I can do nothing about, this reframed my entire relationship with anxiety. It normalised it for me.
I am not anxiety. I experience anxiety from time to time.
Simple, but effective!
Both of these conversations have been hugely impactful in helping me to get through some really tough spots in life; including dealing with recurrent miscarriage.
Have you ever had someone offer to help you when they’ve seen you physically struggling? For example, grabbing an item from a high shelf in the supermarket that they can see you can’t reach; or offering to carry your suitcase up an icy hill when they see you dragging it behind you (this one actualy happened to me and I’ve remembered that chap ever since).
This years’ theme for Time to Talk Day is “the power of small”. And it’s spot on! The conversation I had with my friend took so little from her, and was only a few words, but it made ALL the difference. Similarly, with the therapist I was seeing at the time; granted, I was there for help, but it was this one thing that she said that was incredibly significant.
This is what we can learn going forward. Even the smallest conversation can make the biggest difference. And this can come from anyone, to anyone.
The point is, those moments are often really memorable; and it’s in those moments that we pause to reflect and think “wow, there are still really good people in the world, that care.”
Imagine if we could take that little moment of “I can see you need help, here’s something small I can do for you” and apply it to mental health, too.
Granted, its not as easy to see if someone is mentally stuggling. But I think that what I’m trying to say is, if we could make a conscious effort to offer small acts of kindness in relation to mental health, this could have a huge impact.
These moments don’t have to be huge. They can be as simple as checking in with a friend. It can be asking again if someone is okay. Or – my favourite one – it can be being honest about your own thoughts and feelings when you’re having a bad day so that others might feel more comfortable to be open about their own.
Now, I know, that is a SCARY thing to do. But we’ve got to start normalising the fact that we all have ups and downs; especially right now during a national lockdown. The constant stream of social media tells us that others are being productive, they’re coping better, they’re not letting lockdown life get them down; and when that’s all we see, we start to believe that everyone is doing better than us. But a small act of admitting when we’re not “living our best life” every day can help us, and others, to remember that that’s normal. Everyone has ups and downs.
These small moments add up. They contibute to shifting our perceptions of mental health, breaking down stigmas, and opening up a conversation.
So as you go about your day today, on national Time To Talk Day, try to remember the power of small; you never know what kind of impact you might have.