Today marks a big day for mental health awareness as the Canadian telecommunications company Bell commits to donating five cents towards mental health initiatives for every post on social media using the hashtag: #BellLetsTalk.
I've been scouring this thread on Twitter all day. Many posts are generic along the likes of "You are not alone" or "Mental health matters". However, some are quite illuminating, including statistics, graphics and personal stories. Personally, I've found it relieving to share snippets of my personal story alongside others. Some details might be deemed as too morbid for every day conversation, but are acceptable today.
My favorite idea that seems to be going around is the comparison of anxiety to the common cold. If I were to tell somebody that in all my 25 years of life, I have never suffered through a common cold, they would have a very difficult time believing me. I feel the same when someone tells me that they've never experienced anxiety. Of course, anxiety affects us all on different levels. Some experience it daily and chronically. For others, it comes and goes. But it's definitely universal.
As much as I love this hashtag's dominance on social media and the powerful soundbites that brevity encourages, I would encourage my fellow writers to blog as well. Some of the personal stories shared can fit perfectly in 140 characters and some require a little bit more elaboration. It's my opinion that the sharing of personal stories can be very therapeutic. People's experience may not be quite the same as yours, but if it's similar, they can relate and be encouraged by your honesty.
Here are four things that came to my mind while tweeting that I thought were too complex to sum up in 140 characters:
1. #BellLetsTalk about the fact that beauty does not have one standard appearance, despite the fact that I and many others think it does. As Mindy Kaling has said, you can be naturally curvy to the point that you may appear chubby even when you work out consistently and eat well. But I'm simply not okay with the appearance of my body when I am at a healthy weight for me. I'm afraid that people will think I'm lazy and without self-control when in fact, I am doing all the right things. I starve so that I can fit the uniform standard that I believe exists in this society - I starve so that when people meet me, they think I'm naturally that skinny.
2. #BellLetsTalk about having the self-control not to tell someone how you feel about them because you don't think it would be helpful to them. Is it really our call to make that decision? Isn't it their right to know? Who are we to say that somebody is too fragile and overwhelmed life to handle the truth? Is it okay to pass off a fear of rejection as "doing the right thing?" It's been four years of this internal struggle and that's why when I try to help you feel better, it always comes out wrong.
3. #BellLetsTalk about guilt - especially the guilt that lingers from the moments in which someone confides in us and we react in the completely wrong way. We replay those moments in our heads over and over again, each iteration involving our giving a different response from the one which we gave in reality. There's that fear that in responding in a negative way to someone's cry for help, you scarred them permanently in a way for which you will never be able to apologize.
4. #BellLetsTalk about hope - the hope that we so often forget is there. The hope that we drown in alcohol or sleep or television so that we can be anywhere but here. Let's talk about the hope that others have for us, despite our continuous rejection of such hope in favor of negativity. Let's talk about the goals we have and how negative coping mechanisms may feel good in the short term but detract from our ideal selves in the longterm. Anxiety may be a universal human emotion but so is hope.
Whenever I forget my purpose in this world and even start doubting that there is any purpose at all, I remember my favorite scene from "The Two Towers" in which Sam tells Frodo that the good in this world is worth fighting for. We all feel like giving up, sometimes more consistently than others. But when we hold onto something - that there's some good in this world - that's a comforting thought.