Part 3: What's on your mind?
Someone recently shared this (https://bbc.in/2ti6HmG) honest, heartfelt "Portraits of the Mind" feature with us, where photographer Doma Dovgialo asked 11 people she had photographed to bravely reveal their innermost thoughts and share their mental health struggles.
It inspired us to think more about opening up. How often do we really share what's on our minds, and how likely are we to reach out when we need to?
Us humans are generally pretty skilled when it comes to putting on a brave face and cracking on - it's a coping mechanism, and heck it's necessary at times and there's nothing wrong with that.
That said, in the pursuit of "normality" it can be very easy to feel like we're alone in our struggles - especially in today's social media-mad world where everyone around us appears to be nailing life with great ease and contentment. Social camouflaging at its finest.
This is why, in our view at least, it's important to remember that so many people are fighting a battle we know nothing about... just because it's not tattooed on someone's face or imprinted all over Facebook doesn't mean that stuff isn't going down. In fact, it's most likely we cross paths with people who are struggling in their own ways every single day, we just won't realise it.
Now don't get us wrong... we're not implying that we should take comfort from the pain of others, or that we should start asking strangers "what's up with you then?".
This also shouldn't mean that we cast aside or disregard our pain as something we just have to deal with because everyone else is and you don't want to be the "weak", attention seeking one.
Perhaps instead, by reminding ourselves that we are human after all, doing our best to work things out as we go, and therefore our mental wellbeing is naturally vulnerable, then we can also be reminded that we're not alone.
Perhaps this can even help us to find some inner strength and to take a step forward, to reach out.
Why so quiet?
There are so many factors that might hold us back from opening up if our mental wellbeing is suffering. We may simply prefer to keep things private, which is absolutely our prerogative, or we may struggle to find the words, or feel we don't have anyone to turn to, or that our openness will be met by "it could be worse, you'll be fine soon enough" remarks, or we can see we're making decisions that are affecting our health but we can't seem to make a change, or our internal critic tells us we're weak and pathetic and should just get over it. And the list goes on.
For whatever reasons, we all power through, and there is a beauty and strength in that. Equally, there is beauty and a shed load of courage in speaking out, in admitting that we're struggling and that we may need help, help to make different decisions or to escape the internal noise that is holding us back - recognising that we also deserve to be heard, that what we're experiencing and feeling does matter. That we do count.
It's these moments of total, raw honesty with ourselves, and with another, that can pave the way for transformation.
After all, there's only so much repressing and suppressing we can realistically do before things catch up with us.The more we push things down, the harder things are likely to surface at some point down the line. Ultimately, we're putting off the inevitable. Because of the way the universe works with us, it's likely we'll find ourselves in situations or relationships that start to chip away at the walls we've so carefully structured over the years. It may not feel like it at the time, but in fact, these experiences are real opportunities to look inwards and explore, to learn about ourselves and to take steps towards self liberation.
Taking the first step
If you're struggling in some way, you know that something isn't right and you think you might need help but you're not sure where to turn, or where to start, try to keep it simple. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the advice and guidance out there, and stay trapped in the hazy internal fog, not sure which way to turn. Remember you're not alone, you're loved, nobody is perfect and try to take a small step forward.
The same applies if you're concerned for someone close to you. Here are some ideas for starting points:
Okay perhaps it's an obvious one, but if you can, consider speaking with a friend or relative. If there's someone in your life you trust and feel comfortable around, consider opening up to them
Look up mental health meet ups in your area, a safe space to talk without judgment (check out @mentalhealthmates on Instagram or www.meetup.com for starters)
Speak to your GP - be as honest as you can and they can refer you to local professional services
The Samaritans: call for free or email - a safe space to talk about anything that's affecting you, 24 hrs a day, 365 days per year (https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you)
Visit the mental health charity, Mind's website which guides you through where to start (https://bit.ly/2PF9M97)
If you need more urgent help, visit this page of the Mind website (https://bit.ly/2mmbu5x)
You've got this. There's more strength and beauty within you than you might currently realise. Trust us on that.
With love ♥️
Photo credits: Doma Dovgialo, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/portraits_of_the_mind