I’m writing this on the tail end of my biggest anxiety attack this year – so although it might not seem like you can be happier with a mental health issue, I’m going to explain how I am.
Matt Haig, author of Reasons to Stay Alive, wrote in the final words of his book on depression: ‘Nothing makes you feel smaller, more trivial, than such a vast transformation in your own mind while the world carries on, oblivious.’
‘Yet nothing is more freeing. To accept your smallness in the world.’
Haig wasn’t talking about the depression itself, he was talking about the perspective he had been gifted with after exiting one of the hardest bouts of depression in his life, the first.
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A mental health issue burrows into our very nature and brings to the surface primal reactions both painful, terrifying and, for some, clarifying and accepting.
Haig’s final words resonated with me more than any other passage in the book because they were the words of my own journey, as my own first bout had begun to dissipate.
Although I can’t speak for Haig, I’m sure he may share or understand when I say I believe my mental health issues woke me up for the first time in my life, at 25 years old.
Addressing a mental health issue isn’t about tackling the physical manifestation, as many, like myself, hoped it would be; that is just the side effect.
The manifestation forces one, who’s as desperate as I was to enjoy life like I’d never appreciated before, to see their true reflection and act on the cracks they see.
When I feel the pain and fear of an anxiety attack, which generally last around two or three days for me, I take it as a sign my inner compass is off balance and a change is required.
Learning to re-center yourself, by recognising and disbanding destructive behaviors, is something I would never have learned had I continued my life ‘asleep’.
Those destructive behaviors did more damage to me than anything since.
I’m happier because I’ve handed myself the understanding of the separation between myself and my mind; a stream of consciousness, neither true or real, and inherently negative.
I even have a better appreciation of the world and my body through mindfulness and meditation, a practice I wouldn’t have bought into before but has urged me to work on my appearance, mainly as a tool to work with my mental health.
I want what I wrote last year to sound foreign to me, and I’ve done some great work to get there.
I can see the reality outside myself; keeping my irrational emotions in check.
As hard as a mental health issue is to deal with, and I’m almost certain it’s up there with the hardest things people will ever have to deal with, there is always positives to be nurtured.
I didn’t happen into this community thinking I could be happy again, let alone happier, and for many going through things I can’t understand I may even sound insensitive, but it’s the positives I clung onto that guided me through.
Find your positives, they may make the journey worthwhile.
Read more from Dan Beeson, Head of Engagement at Gay Star News, here.