Talking is f*cking hard
Today is Time to Talk Day 2020.
I want to start by saying that it’s a fantastic campaign that does a great job in kicking up awareness for mental health, and particularly mental health issues.
But, I don’t want to beat around the bush here. To cut to the chase, talking is difficult.
Really, really fucking difficult.
And I say this as someone who publicly writes about his mental health every single week.
I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I’m an emotional, sensitive guy.
I don’t get embarrassed too easily.
I absolutely love talking (often to the annoyance of my family and friends).
And yet…I still find it incredibly hard to talk sometimes.
Despite all of the above, despite being able to talk the hind legs off of a donkey, I still can’t shake that little gremlin of self-doubt and shame that pops up occasionally.
Particularly when things are tough.
Even now there are things I’d love to share with mates or write a post about, but I always feel the constricting feeling of vulnerability takes over.
Often it ends up coming out in drips and drabs once alcohol has made me think I’m invincible, but I don’t want to have to rely on a couple of gin bowls to open me up.
When I do have to talk about difficult things with people, I often feel my heart rate rise, my palms get a little sweaty, and find it a little harder to maintain eye contact.
I like to be an outspoken, opinionated person, particularly when it comes to mental health, and I’m not afraid of holding back when I write things online or sit on panels.
And yet, I often feel a bit of anxiety afterward.
“Did I go too far?”
“I hope people don’t think I’m a dick.”
“Oh man, should I really have said that?”
“I bet I don’t get invited back for that talk”
The point is, talking isn’t easy. For any of us.
Okay, it’s time to talk…but how?
So, you want to talk.
But how the f*ck do you do it?
I’m not going to tell you to “just do it…it’s worth it”. If you’ve read down this far, then I’m assuming you’ve probably heard that before, and you ain’t here to hear it again.
So, I want to offer something that I hope is a little more practical.
First, I think it’s useful to stretch out the definition of what “talking” might mean. I want to argue that it doesn’t necessarily need to mean opening up to another human being, face-to-face, with speech.
Sure that’s what the dictionaries may say, but let’s bring a new meaning to the word.
It can mean different things to different people, and the best thing you can do for yourself is to find what definition feels right for you right now.
I first started “talking” by creating an anonymous blog online that I could use as my own version of a sort of diary entry and engage with people in that way.
I posted regularly, pretty much every day, about my struggles with my mental health and my journey to recovery.
I bitched, moaned and complained.
I wrote about my hope of getting better.
I penned how I was finding antidepressants.
I talked about what therapy was like.
I even opened up about the suicidal thoughts that were whirling around my brain.
I eventually revealed myself on my blog, and then shared it on my social channels, but it took about a year.
Then, people started conversations with me about my mental health or their own, and I didn’t feel such a pressure to open up anymore.
And I know plenty of people that have found their own ways of “talking”.
James from our team started “talking” through journaling.
Liam started “talking” by actually physically talking to his nan.
I know people that “talk” to AI chatbots using their phone.
Some people write music to express how they feel.
Some talk out loud to themselves.
Others go to therapy or counselling, either on their own or in groups.
Some just have a good ol’ cry with their mates.
Why should I even bother talking?
The list could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. No-one ever needs to do something because they feel that they should.
The only piece of advice that I do want to give is that I truly believe it’s important you don’t bottle things up. Problems always seem bigger when we keep them confined to our brains.
I’m not sure why, but the simple act of just getting things out of our heads and onto paper, blog post, music sheet, friend, therapist or some other source seems to have the wonderful power of shrinking our problem down, even if it’s just by a bit.
So, I’m not going to sit here and tell you to “just open up to someone”, because I know how hard that can be.
But what I do want to say is it’s worth taking that first step. Whatever medium and source that is for you, just starting to “talk” in some capacity really can make things a little easier.
Still wondering “okay that sounds fab, but I really don’t know where to start”
Get onto Amazon or down to your nearest WHS Smith, pick up a cheap notepad or diary and just start writing.
Don’t think about it too much.
Don’t have a plan of how many pages you want to do or key points you want to hit.
Simply start with the question of “how am I doing right now?” and see where you take yourself.
You’ll be surprised at what can start coming out, and how you may feel after.
It might not change your world, but it’s a good place to start.