What I Do and Don't know.
I'll preface this article by stressing that I have no formal or professional mental health or psychological training or experience. And I do not claim to know more than any professional or to espouse that my research, knowledge and understanding hold up against qualified research and data.
There is a lot that I don't know. A lot.
But I think that I also know a lot. And here is what I do know.
Mental health, or more collectively, emotional health, is complex. Whilst many who suffer would be able to list a set of 'symptoms' or struggles, the experience for each of them is so individual and nuanced.
And I know, from experience, that this can make it extremely difficult to support someone. I know it is easy to say the wrong thing. I know it is hard to know what someone wants to hear on any given day; because it changes from one to the next. I also know that ignoring the situation, pretending it doesn't exist and saying nothing is more painful and damaging.
I had some ideas, after a few years of navigating through this as the main support of my husband Jared, of what was and wasn't helpful. But I wanted to check this against more people. I didn't want my reference range to be one person; even if I had been collecting this evidence daily over years. I needed to check - was I hitting the mark, or missing it?
I put together a short survey and shared it on a social media platform of mine. The invitation was for any one diagnosed with a mental illness, any one who suspected they may have an undiagnosed mental illness and any one who often felt inexplicably sad or anxious. More than 250 people from the ages of 10 to over 55 from all around the world responded. Mental health diagnoses included depression and anxiety, mood disorders such as bipolar, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, post traumatic stress and post natal depression, insomnia and various phobias. Roughly 20% of responders indicated that they had no formal diagnosis but felt that they suffered from generalised mood changes and sadness. The questions were multiple choice and scaled responses, but they also had the opportunity to answer questions with text.
This is what I discovered.
I plan to go into this in far more detail in future posts; so keep an eye out. There is a wealth of information in these responses and I am indebted to the voices of those who laid bare their vulnerabilities.