Time to talk – a personal experience
In Rose’s words…
Time to Talk Day was started by Time to Change and takes place on the first Thursday in February. It’s a day that brings the nation together to get talking and break the silence around mental health problems. Why? Because mental health problems affect one in four of us, yet people are still afraid to talk about it. For people with mental health problems not being able to talk about it can be one of the worst parts of the illness. So by getting people talking about mental health we can break down stereotypes, improve relationships, aid recovery, and take the stigma out of something that affects us all. Since it launched in 2014, it has sparked millions of conversations in schools, homes, workplaces, in the media and online.
“Time to Talk” really resonates with me because of my first (identified) experience of depression…
I’m in the doctor’s and he’s given me the prescription for what I’ve come in for. As I get ready to leave he says, “is there anything else, because you look like you’re about to burst into tears?” I start to cry and I can’t stop. As the initial outburst subsides, he asks some questions and listens for the answers – although the answers are slow in coming. I don’t really know what’s wrong or why nothing seems to matter; nothing other than doing what I have to do to take care of what I need to take care of and keeping my head above water.
He is patient and, after a while, is writing on another pad, “I’m signing you off work for a month. You can have pills to help but I want you to try something… every day I want you to do something for you, something that you enjoy doing. Can you think of something that you enjoy doing?”
I have no idea. But, after some prompts, I remember that I used to read and I used to walk. So that’s the plan – every day I will read or walk or something else that I remember that I enjoy. Joy is a word and there’s no feeling attached to it. The next day I get up, take my son to school and sit down to read the book I’ve picked up from the library. I sit there, book in hand, without reading anything. In the end, I force myself to read a few pages. I have to go over them again as I forget almost immediately. The next couple of weeks are more of the same but I do get to read a book and I do walk – I told the doctor I would and that helps me take the actions.
That was getting on for 20 years ago and I’m so grateful that my doctor noticed there was something wrong and took the time to listen. I was on a downward slide and that interaction started a change. It didn’t happen overnight – I’ve had low periods and times of anxiety, doubt and emptiness inside and I feel blessed to be able to say I’m where I want to be in my life. Perhaps it’s not surprising that now “filling myself up first” is high on my agenda – it’s one of our core themes on Fresh Air Fridays because we know it’s important. It means I take the time to listen for and take care of my own needs and joy is no longer just a word.