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'Mental health is part of us all; We’ve all been heartbroken, we’ve all had moments of glory'

This is the best advice I can give to someone going through a difficult time, writes Barbara Brennan.

DO YOU REMEMBER the days when things were easy? Did you ever realise that you are the one that made them that way? All the little things you did each day were all building up to something great overall.

I certainly didn’t realise that. I thought it was mad how many tiny things you did that really stood out as different. In reality though, they weren’t that different at all. It was more your approach to them and how you made people feel. One text. One smile. One cup of tea. Those were the tiniest and seemingly most mundane things you did, but you excelled at them.

You went out of your way to send happy messages to the people you care about, with no other reason than to make them smile. You smiled with your whole self – the one that reached the corners of your eyes – for anyone you met, and always had something nice to say.

The best advice I can give to someone going through a difficult time / YouTube

“You never know what someone else is going through” you said. “Give a smile, get a smile in return. It totally lifts you up, and its free.” So that’s what kept you in such good form all the time. Obviously there were hundreds of other things too, but those were the ones that stood out the most.

Funny how over the years though you’ve sometimes let things slide until they were so bad that you became totally consumed by it all that you couldn’t see how to start again. You’ve come through so much, and yet sometimes you still get so stuck that you become paralysed. And then there’s the guilt, and the blame, and the shame. Why do you do that?

Just because you’re having a tough time doesn’t mean you’re always going to, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You’re not alone, and yet you find ways to make yourself feel like that. You heap blame on yourself as if the struggle isn’t enough, and you wrap it all in the cloak of shame. It’s heart-breaking.

Nobody wants that for you. In fact, I guarantee you that everyone wants you to be your best self, for you and for them too.

People can sense when your shine has gone

Did you not realise that the more you do that and the more you isolate yourself, the more people worry about you? Not just your family because they know you inside out, or your friends because they love you, but your colleagues too.

We are all human beings and have a gut feeling, whether we choose to access it and listen to it or not. People can sense when you’re not yourself. Your shine goes. People notice that. They notice when you don’t get your work done, or when you don’t eat. The little things. Even when you try and hide it, or pass it off as something else, people notice something.

The days when you’ve been struggling the most but still managed to fake it through your day – what were the things that made it bearable? Was it the tea in the middle? Did you make sure you used your favourite cup?

I bet you didn’t. You were so busy worrying about things that you probably didn’t even taste that tea. Did you remember to get outside – not with the purpose of going somewhere, but just to be outside and breathe? Who did you talk to? Or did you just keep your head down and keep conversation to a minimum for fear you might burst and it would all come leaking out of your eyes?

All of us have ups and downs

And what would have happened if it did? Would that have been so bad? I guarantee you that somebody would have made you tea and it would have tasted amazing, because it was made with care. Somebody would have noticed your distress and asked if they could help. Somebody would have reached out to you. Somebody would have reassured you.

Even when people don’t have the answers or may not even know you, by nature we are all human and have a general sense of compassion towards each other which leads us to be kind in moments of distress and difficulty.

All of us have ups and downs every day, not just the big ups and downs that look like illness. Mental health is part of us all; we’ve all been heartbroken, felt the joy of something incredible, we’ve all had moments of glory when we’ve done something great or achieved something important, and we’ve all been disappointed and hurt over different things too. In its very essence that is what mental health is. It’s all of those things; all of our emotions and feelings and thoughts every day.

So start again. Today. Right now. Pick something small that will make you feel better and do it. Then do another, and another. Don’t wait anymore.

Barbara Brennan is an artist, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a suicide survivor, and a See Change Ambassador.

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