“What have you got to be worried about?” and other unhelpful comments….

Depression isn’t real!

Just recently this Twitter account has been brought to my attention.

I say Twitter account rather than using the associated name, you can see it for yourself, as I don’t want to humanise this entity in any way. The idiot appears to be devoid of any humanity whatsoever. This is just one of many tweets they have made on the subject.

Thankfully, I have never come across this nonentity before. I have no idea who they are or indeed any desire to find out any more about them. It appears though that they are a kick boxer – I think they have had one kick too many to their head.

The tweets I did read have no bearing on reality whatsoever and are among the most hateful & unhelpful comments I have ever seen relating to depression and anxiety. I hope they get help for their delusions at some point.

ignorance isn’t an excuse

Unfortunately though, and judging by some of the responses on Twitter, this attitude is still too common. I am not going to let this idiot or others like them get to me, you need to rise above. There is something lacking in their life that they have to spend so much time talking about other people and their issues. Enough about that – I’ve already spent too much time talking about them….I don’t want this to be a platform for promoting bullying and intolerance.

This type of thing really puts the cause of mental health awareness back. If people who are thinking about speaking to someone about how they are feeling read something like this, it could be the thing that stops them from speaking up.

It also made me reflect on the prevalence of people like this and comments like “What do you have to worry about?” and the simplistic “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!” often spoken by people that have a lack of understanding about how mental health impacts different people.

“What Do You Have to Worry About?”

Let’s take “What do you have to worry about?” for starters.

I’m willing to bet that loads of people who have suffered from anxiety or depression or similar have had this (or something similar) said to them or asked of them at some point. What the people asking don’t realise is that it’s a question that the individual has probably asked themselves time and time again, over-analysing and trying to work out what the hell is wrong with them!

Take myself for example, I’ve got a good job, a lovely wife, 2 great kids, friends, extended family, a home, money, I go on holidays, I have “stuff”……..but it didn’t stop me being affected with anxiety and depression.

The thing is it isn’t necessarily worrying about any one thing in particular. Where the anxiety/depression often comes from is much more complex, and is entirely dependent on the individual concerned. Some of the things that got me to that place were:

  • Perfectionism/unreal expectations – setting yourself unrealistic goals, that ultimately may be unachievable, and then beating yourself up as you haven’t achieved. Ultimately the results may be way in excess of what others have expected, but you haven’t met your OWN expectations. Continue in this manner for some time and you convince yourself you’ve failed.
  • Over-planning – a bit like the above in setting expectations. Thinking that you need to constantly be achieving something. Writing loads of lists of what you need to do and then re-writing and feeling like you’ve failed if you haven’t done EVERYTHING on the list when you set yourself the time to do it.
  • Over-analysing – every decision I made, every conversation I had, every meeting I was at, every conference call I was on. Where did I go wrong? What could I/should I have said differently? I wish I’d said/done this/that. Never what went well – always what went wrong….

These are just a few and I’m sure others can relate to these and many more.

The anxiety/depression comes from trying too hard to do too much for too long and something has to give.

Being asked the question or having the comment directed to you is one of the least helpful things that anyone can say. It just exacerbates everything you already think yourself.

To help, what you really need to understand are the deep-rooted reasons for the way you behave and react. Personally I found that, until I went that deep, I couldn’t start to put in place the strategies to overcome and cope with the unhelpful behaviours that led to the anxiety and /or depression in the first place. That isn’t an easy journey as you can end up feeling worse before you feel better, but for me the destination meant the journey was worth it as I know I am now mentally strong enough to deal with my brain and the way it works.

Don’t Worry – Be Happy!

That brings me to seemingly throwaway comments like “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!” If only it were that simple!

A lot of people I have spoken to who have been in a similar position, have experienced these sort of comments, maybe worded differently but with the same intent. They have heard this to such an extent they feel they need to have a mask to hide how they really feel.

Maybe they try to be the life and soul of the party and smile even though inside that is the last thing they feel like doing. They try to help others and take on extra tasks so they feel “useful”. However, no matter how much they do to keep active and busy, the one most tiring thing is trying not to let the mask slip.

It doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is or where you’ve come from it can hit any of us at any time. Given the right (or should that be wrong) circumstances coming together at the same time, just like with physical heath, your mental health can suffer.

I’ve said this numerous times before and I’m not going to apologise for it so here I go again……

Depression and anxiety doesn’t discriminate.

I also blog about music as it is something I love so let’s take some of these as examples.

Chester Bennington from Linkin Park recently took his own life. He was the singer in a successful band, had money and apparently everything to live for including a lovely family. Look at the picture his wife recently posted on Twitter taken shortly before he died.

 

He looks happy doesn’t he? But what was really going on? We’ll never know. He looked as if he was “Being Happy” but look what happened to him.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples of this in the music industry – Billy McKenzie from The Associates, Chris Cornell from Soundgarden, Stuart Adamson from Big Country/Skids – all seemingly successful in their careers but all took their own lives. “What have they got to be worried about?”!

I love the music of all of these bands and saw Big Country live several times. One of the bands “party pieces” was playing Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears” live. Given what I said earlier about wearing a smile when it is sometimes the last thing you want to do and with what ultimately happened with Stuart Adamson, it adds even more poignancy to the song and is hard to listen to now.

“People say I’m the life of the party,

‘Cause I tell a joke or two.

Although I might be laughing, loud and hearty

Deep inside I’m blue.

So take a good look at my face.

You’ll see my smile looks out of place.

If you look closer, it’s easy to trace

The tracks of my tears.”

Recently Ginger Wildheart and Sinead O’Connor have both gone through very public episodes where their mental health was suffering. When you are in the public eye and this happens, there seems to be an equal amount of support and criticism. A lot of the criticism comes about due to assumptions that because these are successful people they should “have nothing to worry about”.

That’s the danger of the modern world and instant reporting and commenting via social media. I am just glad they are both receiving the help they need and will continue to do so. I don’t want to wake up to the news one day that one of them has succumbed to the same fate as the others.

Can You Be Happy?

Of course you can! It may take a lot of work and effort but you can be happy – it is just not as easy as flicking a switch.

Maybe it is something you need to keep on top of constantly so that you don’t feel yourself sliding backwards.

Maybe for some people, prescribed drugs will help, for others therapy or CBT. Maybe it is a combination of both.

Maybe you need to accept that you won’t always be happy, but you raise your own awareness of this and have strategies to cope.

Maybe you need to talk about it.

The important thing to remember is, you don’t need to wear that mask, it is OK to not feel great sometimes.

Do talk about it though, don’t hide it, don’t just smile and say everything is great if it is not. It is hard to open up and talk, but it is worth it in the end.

Sometimes a bit of irreverence is good too. I’d recommend the book “F**k It”, also with this in mind, I’m going to leave you with the thoughts of Ginger Wildheart and Ryan Hamilton who wrote and recorded a song together based on their personal experiences of mental health issues……….. Sometimes you just have to say “Fuck You Brain!”