Of course, Mental Health is unique to individuals. What helps me may not help you, and vice versa. But, nonetheless, I decided to put together a list of the things that do help me, just in-case you, reading this, are looking for something new to try.
My schedule has been thrown pretty out of whack lately with starting University and a new games Internship, which caused me to become disconnected with the world and thus worsen my anxiety.
So, to ground myself, I narrate what I’m going to do to someone to reassure myself – to reassure my brain – that I know what I’m doing. Even simple things, like what I’m going to make for tea, or what work I’m going to do and when I’m going to do it.
I may not always follow my plan – and that’s completely fine, because it’s a comfort to know what I have coming up when my brain finds it difficult to think.
That’s kind of what I’m doing here; narrating what techniques help me, so I’m aware of how I’m helping myself. Connecting myself, grounding myself.
2. Take a day off.
…And by ‘a day off’, I mean A DAY OFF.
Not just, “Oh! I’m not in School/College/Uni/Work today!” but an actual day of doing nothing. No plans. No forced socialising. No doing work anyway (this one’s at you, Freelancers.) Take a day to yourself, sat in pyjamas, playing Dishonored 2 (cracking game, by the way) to – as I stress in the point above – ground yourself.
Being busy every minute of every day, whether that be with friends or with work, isn’t healthy, and we all need to learn to shut off.
I really struggle with this; you might too. If I’m not working, I feel guilty.
You could have written another poem, by now!
You could have got that research done, by now!
You could have edited that short story, by now!
Ignore that voice in your head. Ignore it like fantasy writers ignore diverse characters (like, seriously guys, c’mon.)
Give your mind a break. Just as our bodies need sleep to function properly, as do our brains – so let your brain rest.
And – it’s okay to say, “No,” to social plans if you’re not up to it. Take a day off.
3. Recognise your triggers.
When your Mental Health takes a dip, make note of it. Note down what’s around you, how you feel, what you’re doing. Look for themes in what may have caused your Mental Health to struggle, star any that may be a trigger to you, then figure out how to combat it like the strong person you are.
Your brain can’t magically figure it out if you don’t help it. I’m lucky enough to know what causes my Mental Illness, because I took time to figure it out, and, again, reconnect with myself so that I could help myself. You can’t help yourself if you don’t know what’s wrong.
I always wish I had another me to talk to, another me to help with my own problems – so that’s what I’m doing here, sat on a train, writing to myself. Talking. Thinking. Reconnecting.
I hope it helps you too.
Comment below what you do to feel better; it may just help someone in need.
The sand-coloured wooden hut offers protection. It’s mauve-cushioned seats welcome you. True, there’s an entire building between me and the torrential rain, but something about the hut comforts me.
A flock of girls also take cover, gathered around one corner of the large olive couch (surely, they could spread out a little rather than sit on each other’s Designer Knees?) and chirp like Seagulls gathered around a juicy piece of gossip.
The sound of high-heeled shoes echoes against the floor.
click click clickclick click clickclickclick click click click
Trees outside wave for help against the wind, green leaves reach out desperate to grab onto something, but they are only ignored by the girl – unprotected by my Hut – that is fighting for survival herself. She struggles with a plastic mac over her head, chestnut hair at a 180-degree angle, and looks at me, jealous of the hut that protects m – oh, dear God, she’s looking at me, pretend you’re a moody artist staring at the rain, oh God.
click click clickclickclick click click click
“I don’t know what’s wrong with her, but maybe, maybe—”
“Is she a creative writer, or something?”
Snippets of conversation swim their way to me amidst the wails of the weather. I don’t know whether the scraps are linked, but I wouldn’t be shocked.
Rain and wind crash against the glass window, like the ocean smacks a cliff, and drowns out the eight-or-so girls, so I turn my attention to my little safety hut.
click click click clickclickclick click click clickclick click click click click
A lamp stands tall at the edge of the hut’s table, his white arm stretched proudly high to defeat the darkness, unaware that he is OFF on the wall. He’s humble, turned to face the wall shyly; he doesn’t want you to thank him, he’s just doing his job.
click click click click click click clickclickclick click click
Rays of light trample the gales and dominate the sky. The flock of girls leave; it’s safe to venture out once more.
To preface this blog post: this is not an attack on you if you do use humour of this variety as a coping mechanism. I’m not saying you’re wrong to do so, but simply that, in my personal experiences, it has had only a negative impact on me. This is, in its entirety, just my own opinion.
If humour helps you, that’s completely okay. I’m glad you found a way to help yourself that works for you.
It all started in High School – a dreadful era in everyone’s life, I know.
A friend of mine had developed depression, and the only way he knew to cope with it was to make endless suicide jokes. But it didn’t end with the ‘haha kill me’ jokes. He and my closest-friend-of-the-time would pretend to hang themselves on the corner of streets.
This made me incredibly uncomfortable, so I told my wholeheartedly-trusted-friend-of-the-time and asked him to stop when around me as it made my own suicidal thoughts worse.
And he made me feel guilty for it.
He guilted me to believe I was an awful person, and that if I said our friend shouldn’t fake-hang himself on street corners to cope with his depression that I was wishing death upon him, because it was exactly that: his coping mechanism.
I didn’t want to be responsible for someone’s death (duh) so… I joined in. I started to disguise my problems with humour.
“I could do with a shot of bleach right now.”
“Give me the sweet, sweet, release of death.”
[Sees dead bird in the street] “Haha, same.”
Hiding behind humour didn’t help me. I just grew to ignore my illness – and mental illness should not be ignored. Not to mention, suicidal jokes became a Trend, with a capital ‘T’. People who, to the best of my knowledge (and some of whom I am still very close to today) didn’t suffer from mental illness began to make these jokes, which is one of the main issues I have with humour as a coping mechanism. It becomes ‘trendy’. It normalises it. It dilutes the severity of the illness.
It’s a similar occurrence with meme culture. Although it could be seen that these memes make us feel less alone (seen below), again, they make it almost popular to be mentally ill.
The last thing we as a society need to do is lessen the brutality of mental illness. Particularly suicidal thoughts.
‘I think it’s helpful, but I think if you rely solely on it then you can start to forget the importance of things in the world as everything just becomes another coping mechanism.’ -Jian Li
When writing this piece, I asked a number of people about their opinion on the matter. One person said:
‘It’s also a form of a cry for help, like it’s easy to see a bottle get run over in the middle of the road when you’re with your mates and say, “Same,” than it is to outright tell them your suicidal.’ – E. C.
This, I understand. It’s terrifying to tell someone how you feel. You don’t want someone to glare uncomfortably at you, so you throw a joke in there to ease the tension and to give yourself control. Nothing can go wrong if you’re laughing, right?
But, in my opinion, this is exactly why ‘humour’ of this variety has a negative impact on us. We have grown so dependent on it that we can’t express our emotions in a constructive way. We can’t tell people how we actually feel because people will be shocked it’s honest, and not a joke. We can’t tell people how we actually feel because people will feel uncomfortable that it’s honest, and not a joke. We can’t tell people how we actually feel, because we’ve taught ourselves not to.
‘I literally end every emotional rants […] with, “Thank you for attending my TED Talk,” because I can’t take my own feelings seriously even in times of crisis.’ – Sahra
But just because I think it’s wrong doesn’t mean I’m going to stop altogether – not so easily anyway. I’m a hypocrite. I have made a conscious effort to cut down the amount of self-deprecating jokes I make about myself, and I have felt better about how I’ve dealt with my mental illness since. I figured out the root causes of my illness’ and have thus been able to figure out how to deal with my problems, how to avoid them, and how to make myself feel better. (Side note: this obviously isn’t a result of making less suicidal jokes, but I recently celebrated a year of being suicidal-thoughts free! Woo!)
I do still make some jokes – of course I do. I’ll never be perfect. There’s no such thing. I just… really like to point out my flaws.
Of course, it’s not black and white. It’s not one way or the other. My opinion isn’t fact, and opinions depend on each person, how they work, and their life experiences. As seen by the Twitter Poll below, I was hugely disagreed with for my view on this topic, and that’s okay!
Feel free to drop your own opinion in the comments. Let’s discuss!
Confession: I found this article particularly difficult to write. What if I offended someone? What if it made people hate me? And I, the filthy hypocrite that I am, proceeded to use humour to make myself feel ‘better’ about it all. And then I had an existential crisis because it only buried my emotions.
We all know what Vincent Van Gogh’s artwork looks like, but do we know the stories behind the paint? In this blog, we’ll delve into the tales behind five of my favourite of Van Gogh’s masterpieces.
Skull – May 1887
Drying cracks are visible in many places, such as immediately below the skull. The paint has cracked because Van Gogh painted the skull over an earlier picture.
The Yellow House (The Street) – September 1888
This piece depicts where Van Gogh lived in Arles, Southern France, from May 1888 – May 1889. His four rooms, rented at 15 francs per month, are visualised by the green shutters on the building. Van Gogh sent a sketch and description to his brother Theo: “It’s tremendous, these yellow houses in the sunlight and then the incomparable freshness of the blue.” He had planned to turn it into a ‘Studio of the South’; a place where like-minded artists could live and paint in harmony.
It is here that he and fellow artist (and close friend) Paul Gaugin lived together, with Gaugin moving in on the 23rd October. However, their personalities began to clash; their contrary ideas on art strained their relationship. In December, their relationship hit the breaking point. In a fit of rage, Van Gogh cut off his ear and gifted it to a prostitute named Rachel to safe-guard it.
Van Gogh’s stay at The Yellow House ended on the 8th May 1889 when he willingly committed himself to the Asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole.
Sunflowers – January 1889
Sunflowers used to be one of my least favourites of Van Gogh’s works, until I learnt the heartfelt story behind it. This particular piece was painted in Arles, at The Yellow house (see above) and, interestingly, only used three shades of yellow. In total, Van Gogh created five Sunflower canvases, two of which hung in the room of Paul Gaugin, as Van Gogh knew how much his friend and fellow artist loved the flowers. Gaugin was thoroughly impressed and considered them to be, “Completely Vincent.” He later requested one of the paintings as a gift, which Vincent was hesitant to give him.
Starry Night – 1889
One of Van Gogh’s most popular works, painted at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole; the Asylum he willingly committed himself to in May 1889. The Asylum is where Van Gogh was officially diagnosed with epileptic fits, and he was thought to have been recovering. However, he relapsed; he began to suffer from hallucinations and suicidal thoughts. This change is marked in Van Gogh’s artwork by the darker colours incorporated into his artwork. The blues of the ‘Starry Night’ dominate the piece. The swirls create a dreamlike and ethereal effect which highlights the rift between reality and Van Gogh’s dream-like state. The deep-black spire that essentially suffocates the painting represents Van Gogh bringing God to the depicted village. Moreover, unlike the majority of his work, it is completely imaginary; it does not represent the scenery from around the Asylum.
Almond Blossoms – February 1890
A hugely symbolic painting of Van Gogh’s. Almond trees bloom in early spring and represent new life, awakening, and hope. This masterpiece was a present to his brother Theo and sister-in-law Jo for the birth of their son, Vincent Willam. Their son went on to found the Van Gogh Museum.
“As we told you, we’ll name him after you, and I’m making the wish that he may be as determined and courageous as you.” -Theo, to Vincent Van Gogh.
Flowering trees appear to have been important to Van Gogh, as he painted a series of other almond blossoms paintings: Blossoming Almond Branch in a Glass – 1888 and Blossoming Almond in a Glass with a Book – 1888.
Monday walks like he doesn’t want to.
His blood is pure coffee,
the bags under his eyes, 5p at Aldi.
Tuesday sees an open door, walks into the frame-
reacts five minutes later,
interrupts your conversation with pointless crap.
Wednesday is the optimistic one:
“Keep going! You’re halfway there!”
(Everyone wants to punch her in the face.)
Thursday would go out for a pack of cigs,
listen to their Wallowing in Self-Pity playlist,
not come back to their wife and kids.
Friday is in pyjamas,
smells of pepperoni pizza,
is quite the master thief in Skyrim.
Saturday destroys their liver, “What the hell!”
She wears cheap perfume
that fails to mask her sweaty skin.
Sunday bakes cookies for Mum because,
“She was looking a little pale,”
the white dove of the group.
A stone body; cement eyes
dominate with their Medusa stare.
Steel fists— a burst of movement.
Crimson poison gushes through split knuckles;
A crumpled body; eyes a dam
until the defences crumble
and the river overflows.
The soul cleansed of poison;
the stains washed out.