Dear Diary:

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Last month my friend’s brother suicided and I wrote about it here. Since then I’ve heard from a passel of friends who’ve related their personal experiences with suicide. I was wholly overwhelmed by the sheer number of responses – I honestly had no idea so many of your lives have been shattered by the experience of a loved one ending their own lives.

We really are doing a terrible job of openly acknowledging suicide, of sharing its anguish, grief, suffering and obviously, by extension, supporting one another through the heartache and despair wreaked upon the bereaved families and friends. It seems to me that Bell Let’s Talk day should be a monthly, not annual event.

“People are scared to talk about it,
but they should be scared about not talking about it.”

[HRH Prince Harry Windsor]

In her e-mail to me, one of my friends wrote that “we all have mental health issues to some degree, every single one of us, the difference is merely the number of degrees”. The number of degrees, yes, but reading your stories, two other key factors have been the self-care coping mechanisms in place and the supporting characters – both professional and familial – involved in these tragic tales.

My friend continued, “I have always been impressed with your mental health care regimen”. What? Me? I do nothing in the way of mental health care. She was adamant, though, she says my journalling “is a very positive and effective mental health care remedy”. Hmmm…

Intrigued (and more than a little surprised) I went to the cupboard and dragged out a pile of notebooks from a number of years, opened them and began to read. There are some intimate details, some brave admissions, some nonsense, some random thoughts jotted down to assist my memory, details of problems I’d struggled with, poem fragments and lots of (too much?) raw truth. Reviewing the notes I’d written, words that were given scant attention at the time, was a revealing, uncomfortable, disturbing and eye-opening experience. 

Mental health self-care? I’m not so sure, but H. is resolute.

Journal entries are like letters to oneself which, I suppose, is why so many begin Dear Diary  These notebooks are a safe, non-judgmental, private place to document hurt, fear, worry, confusion, sadness and torment – every story shared without fear of censure, ridicule or rebuke. I try write something each day regardless of whether my heart is light – happy and carefree or heavy – sad and burdened with concern and strife. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as opening my notebook to a clean, blank page and, with little thought, letting the words pour out – no editing, no spell-check, just spontaneous expression.

Mental health self-care? Perhaps. ‘Though it would require more attention, more analysis and more time than I ever spare for all those hastily scrawled thoughts.  What I have learned this week though, is that our minds are utterly vital. Mental health is fragile. We all need to consider the importance of sustaining and protecting it. Some self-care is necessary. An awareness of the scales tipping in the wrong direction and recognition that attention is required are both essential, but it is absolutely crucial to seek professional counselling when solo attempts fail to work as hoped.

’Til next time, y’all…    

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