My mental health can't be defined, no matter how hard I try

February 20, 2017


I’ve been asked to write and speak about my mental health a lot lately for various people, platforms, and publications. And it’s great! Really. I’m so grateful to share my story and views, often surrounded by mental health professionals with an aim to support young people, and be a part of this huge mental health conversation. It’s important. I can only hope that I’m doing what I set out to do, and empowering people to stand up, speak out, and take notice of their own mental health. 

But…

Of course there’s a but…

Boy, it’s tough. Like, really tough. It might sound obvious or it might sound stupid. I want to write and speak about mental health, this is exactly what I signed up for and what I’m passionate about, but having to be completely vulnerable for the cause is exhausting, and I’m starting to feel like I have little more to give. 

The problem with writing and speaking for different platforms is that each platform wants a slightly different angle. They want a different focus. They want specific things… and sometimes those specific things just don’t fit. I guess it’s just frustrating that all the rewriting I’ve had to do doesn’t actually rewrite my experiences. If only.

No one’s mental health is the same, and no one’s struggles are identical. But people like order and structure and explanation, so I’ve often felt that I’m forcing things to make sense whereas really they don’t make sense at all. At this point you'd probably say, "Well just don't write for these people, then. Say no, explain why," but I want to write in the way they want me to. I want to create pieces that make sense, that detail and explain and empower.

In trying to put myself out there to support and inspire others, I’m dragging myself down. Making sense of your own mental health is a big ask. Therapy can last weeks, months, years to try and make sense of the inner workings of your brain, so trying to explain the complexities of your mental health in 800 words is impossible. But I’ve tried.

Don’t get me wrong, writing is therapeutic. Writing to-do lists, writing down worries, writing thoughts, writing a diary, writing blogs… they all help get things out of your scrambled head and into a separate space. My problem lies in overkill. I think writing will fix everything. I think I’ll have epiphanies and be able to sort my mental health into logical categories. Everything will be filed away and easy to decipher and deal with… 

But, obviously, absolutely not, friends. Absolutely not. 

Mental health doesn’t do order. It doesn’t do filing and organisation and logic and rules. I’ve been trying to define and explain my mental health for years, and I just can’t. There is no one moment in time where things went tits up, there is no one reason why I started struggling. God, I wish I could pinpoint it. I wish I could be a model case study for professionals. But it just doesn’t work like that and it never will. And trying to write about all this has been the exact opposite of therapeutic. It’s made me even more frustrated and erratic and confused about what goes on in my head. There’s been so much forcing that I don’t know what a real thought or behaviour is anymore. I’m even starting to think I’ve made the whole thing up.

Even writing about writing about my mental health is hard…

I’ve learnt that there’s a limit to what I can say about my mental health. I can’t define it. I can’t label it, I can’t make it make sense to you. Because I can’t make total sense of it myself. I’ve learnt that my head doesn’t have labels. I have problematic thoughts and behaviours and I can recognise and deal with them. That’s it. I don’t have complete anxiety or depression or OCD or BPD. I have elements of all of them. I don’t want labels or definitions to regurgitate out to explain myself. I’m not interested in desperately trying to diagnose and categorise myself anymore. I can’t wrap up my mental health story in a neat little box with a bow to hand to anyone.

Does that make my writing, my career, and my intent to talk openly about mental health and inspire, empower and support those struggling not legit? I am by nature failing and fraudulent because I can’t hand over that ready-made package?

I’m interested in conversation without expecting resolutions. I’m interested in being open and honest without being so vulnerable it stings and drains. I’m interested in empowering people, and encouraging them to be brave. I’m interested in self care, and I haven’t been doing a lot of that lately. 

I can’t fix anything. I can’t explain everything. But I can be honest, and I hope that is enough.

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