By Isobel Ellul

It comes as no surprise to any of us that mental health issues have become so much more acute during this pandemic, especially with the restrictions and lockdowns. Instagram’s Let’s Talk Real (@letstalkrealgib) attempted humbly, without trying to trivialise, to chat to many affected, both on and offline. In fact, the messages just came pouring in…

COVID has given us all a kick in the bottom, has forced us into self-reflection, dealing with our fears, learning coping mechanisms in order to keep sane. The inability to balance our lives with social activities that bring us joy, the lack of human contact and touch that brings us comfort, the loss of control and spontaneity, have all stirred feelings of claustrophobia, ennui, frustration, anomie – and at times, despair. 

On Let’s Talk Real, Phoebe Kelly talks about her struggles with depression from 17 years old, and how her friends saved her from a deep hole during lockdown, including Beatrice Garcia; Nadine shares her story and empowering positive outlook, reflected in her many tattoos; Aroa Nuñez and Iris Pisarello speak about the challenges of lockdown in the UK, away from home; Simon talks lockdown in London, bringing him back to the brink of suicidal thoughts and Tony Gaul MBE shares his attempted suicide stories, which motivated him to reach out to others to support and guide them.

It’s OK to show vulnerabilities, it’s a sign of strength.

They all speak the same language: how it really has been about trying to keep your s*** together, pushing yourself, how to let go and go with the flow, to live in the moment and accept we cannot change things out of our control, but can control the immediate here and now. Self-care, mindfulness, self-love, affirmation that you will be alright and that it’s OK not to be OK. It really has been one day at a time for many, however, Let’s Talk Real has shown that it’s good to share and talk, that we are all in this together. It’s OK to show vulnerabilities, it’s a sign of strength, we are human sentient beings.

So many people are dealing with negative feelings every day, hard for them to reach out and talk about it because it’s often impossible to explain… this has been 2020. So be that friend or loved one who takes the time to notice, but doesn’t push for answers. There’s not always an explanation; that is mental health for you. No quick fix, no standardised ‘remedy’, no one size fits all, no such ‘normal’, a ‘healthy’ mental state is so individual.

I love the phrase ‘the art of psychology’, because so it is. The mind boggles, literally. Perhaps, more talking, openness, honesty and being real with yourself and others, not living a lie, gets you back to your individual ‘normal’. We need the space and time in society to sensitively talk, actively listen and empathise, because everyone has their story to tell.

Everyone has their story to tell.

The internet, especially during COVID online times, has been full of advice and support for those suffering from mental health issues. The common themes for recovery being:

  • Accepting and acknowledging that there have been changes and that you’ve not quite been yourself.
  • Accepting that you need to speak to someone. It is difficult to find the right words to express what you are going through; however, it is important to try to express how you’re feeling.
  • Although a simple chat about feelings may be enough for some, others may need to seek professional medical mental health advice. Make that appointment, privately if necessary.

As Phoebe explained about her depression, a journey many of us can relate to, let’s take note, acknowledge this and start on that first step of healing: “When you’re going through it, it can be so dark and lonely… I was just existing. Stress at university brought out the negative traits. I struggled in silence… with intrusive thoughts, uncomfortable in my own body, self-hatred. I didn’t deserve to be alive… I leant on vulnerability…”

Thank goodness it’s 2021; slowly bringing balance back to our everyday activities and more importantly, the life as we knew it of choice, freedom and spontaneity, without fear. It’s good to talk. Let’s talk real. Let’s keep sane.

#LetsTalkReal #MentalHealthIsHealth #UncomfortablyNumb #CovidChallenges #MentalHealth #SelfCare #SelfLove

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