Today is ‘Time to Talk’ day (if you’re reading this tomorrow, then it was yesterday, and you are in the future, congrats).
What? I hear you quietly mouth at your computer screen. I talk every day, I don’t need a special event. I bet it’s the greetings card companies making shit up again, you know? Like Father’s Day?
No you fools! Time to Talk Day is an actual thing set up by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness to promote openness around mental health issues. Cos, let’s face it, they’re not the easiest thing to talk about are they? No one wants to hear their mate say they’ve been thinking a lot about suicide, or tell their girlfriend they’ve been hearing voices. Let’s face it, it’s just not good banter.
Plus the world has its fair share of people who think those with mental illness are just a bit sad and need to pull themselves together, like the rest of us! Add to that the millions of people who are sympathetic and baffled in equal measure, and talking about this stuff gets pretty scary for us crazies.
So, the idea of Time to Talk Day is that we all take 5 minutes to talk to a friend/family member/ colleague/stranger(?) about how we’re feeling, or how they’re feeling. Something a bit deeper than the weather, anyway. Or, to put it in artsy fartsy way our ‘internal weather’. I know, right? I am so deep.
Today I have chatted to a friend about mental health but I’m also taking five here: 5 metaphors for depression in 5(ish) minutes. Hope you find them useful, enlightening or hilarious. Preferably all three.
The Black Dog
I’ve never been a dog person, but some them are okay, the cute and not too jumpy-uppy kind. The Black Dog, however, sounds like a bit of a dick. Following you around, telling you you’re a loser, making your life crappy. I mean, that puppy is gonna be in Battersea Dogs Home for the rest of his days! Here’s a little video by the guy who came up with the whole thing. (If you’re interested, it is four minutes, which would technically leave you only one more minute to read my post. Decisions, decisions)
This is probably the most famous metaphor for depression going and it’s very powerful for some people. It doesn’t really work for me, though. A large black canine following someone around, sticking to the shadows, instilling fear? Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban any one?? #Potterforever #SeriousAboutSirius
Everything Painted Grey.
If you think being depressed is, like, being really sad, like, all the time, then I’ve got news for you: People with clinical depression wish they could feel sad! What they wouldn’t give for a good old sobbing session! No, no, depression is as much the absence of emotion as it is anything else.
When I was in sixth-form a kind teacher leant me a booked called Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron. (Thanks Mr Bradshaw). He described his illness as ‘everything painted grey’. Life holds no pleasure. You are so numb that it is almost hurts. No, that doesn’t make any sense, but neither does your own brain turning against you. Sooo…
The Permanent Hangover.
You know when you haven’t drunk for a while and then you a really heavy one? The kind where, by the time the shots are brought out you are too far gone to realise that this is a very bad idea?
You know how you feel when you wake in the morning? Head-pounding, stomach-lurching and with the overwhelming feeling that life would be better if you could just disappear? Even brushing your teeth feels like a torturous ordeal.
Yeah, that. But without the fun the night before.
The Lead Coat
This one is my favourite. Well, not really, it’s my least favourite. It is the actual worst. Because it is the one I find most accurate.
Imagine that every day you have to put on an invisible coat. No, not the cool Harry Potter kind, we’ve been through this people!
Imagine waking up in a coat made of lead, but that only you could see. Imagine have to drag it around all day, while no one noticed your extra weight. And even those who did could do very little to help carry the load. Exhausting? Yup. Maddening? Certainly. Lonely? Like you wouldn’t believe.
Told ya. The actual worst.
The Broken Leg That No One Could See
People with depression often fantasise about being hit by a car or falling off a balcony. Because if your leg was broken then you could stay in bed, and everyone would be sympathetic, and no one would ask you to do anything. #winning
The whole ‘it’s all in your mind’ thing, whilst true, is the most infuriating and, frankly, idiotic thing anyone can say.
I don’t know if you are aware, but the mind is actually located in the body. Fact. It’s not some ethereal hovering cloud where all your thought rain lives! It’s the brain. Which is an organ, which can go wrong like any other bit of the fragile hunk of flesh and bone we call home.
I mean the clue’s in the name: mental illness. Because you ARE ill. Just as people develop heart conditions due to stress, so do they develop mental illnesses. If everyone could accept that then we’d save a lot of time, and money, and lives.
What is your experience? Do you find it hard to relate to those who suffer from mental illness? Are you one of the people who feels misunderstood? Or do you have another metaphor that works for you? Please do share by leaving a comment, or tweet me @aafew.