I awoke this morning to a text.
“Are you up?”
Three very short words, on the face of it quite simple words. I had just made my first coffee of the day, and as I reached out for my phone to reply, it was ringing. It was the author of the text who is a very dear and beloved friend.
“I’m up and I’m here” I quickly replied.
Those three small words in her text belied the anguish my friend was feeling. And right at that moment, my words were what she wanted to hear. She talked, I listened. I talked, she listened. She was reaching out for some form of help, not knowing what, but needing contact in this time of lockdown and whatever it means to be alert to the danger creeping through our world in an invisible cloak. She has COVID 19.
As if the physical health implications of that is not enough to cope with, the experience has triggered anxiety, feelings of fear and powerlessness. Because that is what it feels like when you are struggling with your mental health. It is like some inexplicable force that grips you and refuses to loosen its suffocating hold.
We talked for some time, until she knew through tears and then laughter what she needed to do.
I thought I would write something about ‘reaching out’ just as my friend did to me this morning. It was not because I am a therapist that she did that. It was because she chose to seek contact. Contact with someone, and that someone can be anyone. It just happened to be me. And this, on Mental Health Week, struck me as the most important thing we can do when we are struggling. Struggling with health, anxiety, loneliness, relationships, work issues, and the myriad of things that seem to knock us down, is to reach out, talk to someone and let them know how they might help.
I know for a lot of people it is not always easy to do that, especially if you are the one that usually sorts everyone out; the one other people normally turn to. And you may feel even more confused and anxious because you are the one who has always coped, but somehow not now?
“Remember, anxiety isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign you have been strong for too long.”
I remember saying those words to my friend, along with a few more to help her have a sense of what she needed for herself. And our conversation alone was the start. She reached out. And I know that was the start of her feeling better. Because she took action. And on this week where we think about our own mental health and what we might do if we are struggling and want to feel better, you might ask yourself how to do that? How do I reach out and ask for help?
Reaching out is somehow something we are expected to know how to do. It is not - it is a skill. What are we asking for? We often do not know right away, but we can get more specific. It may be as simple as a friendly ear, someone to sit with you or stay on the phone or check in with you regularly “just to make sure I’m alright.”
It may be help with children or shopping or housework or a home cooked meal. It can be anything that allows you to take a break, find some space, collect your thoughts and then you can decide on your next step.
Maybe you are unsure or do not know what you need? Just let someone know that too. You may be surprised by the ways they may offer to help you. If you have no family or friends near-by is there someone at work, a neighbour or someone from the past? They may have ideas or experiences you can draw from and they may be able to offer advice or point you in a helpful direction.
If you are struggling with stress, poor sleep, depressive thoughts and overwhelming feelings seek more professional help. Your GP is a good start. You could look up mental health services in your area. Sometimes we need to explore all the options available. Above all, tell someone how you feel. Reach out, connect. Do not ignore that little voice telling you all is not well right now. That is your instinct and it is part of a wise mind you can trust.
This is Mental Health Awareness Week so let us be more aware of ourselves and realise everyone needs help at one time or another, including those of us that pride in being capable and strong.
If you have something that you want help with and would like to contact me please do. We can find out what you need and what you might do. Therapy is available. All sessions are on-line right now via video connection and are likely to be for the foreseeable future.
If you feel you need further help, “I’m up and I’m here.” Stay safe and look after yourself.
Call on: 07964 056937 or email on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources that you may find useful can be found here