Reflective Journal

Simple conversations, go a long way

A few weeks ago I found myself sitting across from her in the canteen of a Mental Health Unit. I observed her restlessness, rythmicatically tapping her hands and feet, eyes darting from side to side and listened to her switch rapidly between topics of conversation. I remember feeling uneasy as I watched her stage another award winning performance for those around her, obnoxiously expressing that she didn’t need to be here and I’d made it all up. Occasionally I would second guess myself, and the guilt would creep slowly in as I sank into the dining room chair watching the clock tick.

Within the realms of my own home, I always understood her behaviour to be a little eccentric, recognising inevitable highs and lows. Yet, there were occasions when I mistakenly interpreted her volatility as a substantial character flaw, leading me to label my own mother as a nasty person. I think I even went as far as calling her a bitch at times. However, as I witnessed the desperation in her voice, the urgency in her speech, and heard her articulate how she believed she had been manipulated, convinced we were all conspiring against her for financial gain, a realisation struck me. The guilt I harbored wasn’t rooted in the decision to place her in the unit; it stemmed from a profound sense of failure, a regret for not being successful in getting help for her sooner.

Many a days after work, I would visit the hospital eager to see an improvement in her health. However, as days passed, it felt as though she was drifting farther and farther away. There were moments of physical clinging, desperate attempts to prevent my departure, echoes of her screams in the hospital corridors, and, at times, declarations that I was no longer her daughter. This phase of life has undeniably been my most burdensome, and lonely.

Yesterday was world mental health awareness day. Whilst I am grateful to the raising of awareness, I am also inherently disturbed that we do not recognise that at times our conversations do not go far enough. Since being sixteen years old I have been seeking the support from the NHS, Social Services and the Lancashire Constabulary , all of which have failed myself and my family for over ten years.

Throughout this enduring ordeal, I bear the scars of navigating guilt that should never have burdened me. Night after night, I grapple with nightmares and overwhelming anxiety, dreading the possibility of going through this cycle once more, with no tangible resolution. What’s more, I carry the weight of guilt knowing that millions of other individuals, families, and children will continue to be let down by the governments insulting efforts. Campaigns are non-existent and their direction to websites, links and podcasts on mindfulness are simply degrading.

In the absence of the support mechanisms needed from the government, I urge families, friends, teachers and businesses to establish safe spaces. These spaces should encourage people to share their experiences, fostering connections that not only allow for transparent conversations but also provide support in building lasting relationships where mental health and illness are no longer stigmatised.

Simple conversations, go a long way. Start by asking random questions about your colleagues family life, hobbies and achievements; provide ten minutes out of your day to share a memory with a friend, shed a tear or evoke laughter. Over the course of the last few months by exploring resurfacing memories from childhood, observing the ways in which mental illness can present itself, and engaging in difficult conversations. I’ve gleaned invaluable lessons from doctors, nurses, patients, as well as family members, friends, and colleagues. Through embracing vulnerability, I’ve discovered sanctuary in unexpected places.

Remember, healing doesn’t come with a hefty price tag, but I assure you, time is its most precious currency.

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