We all need support

This weekend I’ve been ill. Not anxious. Not depressed. Not lying in bed with the weird-energy-sucking-flu. Just ill. For the first time ever I missed a lecture for a reason other than I couldn’t see the point of getting out of bed – I missed it because I was coughing, croaking, sneezing, and generally feeling full of cold so I decided to spend the day getting better rather than go to a lecture which would probably exacerbate by symptoms. It’s a tad ironic that when you have obvious visible signs of illness that you don’t feel bad about not doing things, but when you have an invisible illness you don’t think you should be slowing down and trying to get better and feel guilty when you do. So I’ve spent most of my weekend in the safety of my flat, only venturing out to buy food because, by some miracle, I have an appetite again. Not just that, I actually don’t see eating as a chore that needs to be done in order to just carry on with things – I want to eat and actually bought food because it looked interesting, not because “it’ll do”.

But while I’ve been curled up in the safety of my little bedroom, alternating between re-watching The Good Wife on Netflix, listening to Train and Prides (they’re bands Mum and Dad) and the occasional bout of work to prepare for a presentation I have to give tomorrow, I’ve also had a lot of time to think about the past week, because it’s been pretty damn great if I’m honest with you (and that’s not just because I actually managed to attend all of my lectures when I wasn’t under the weather, rediscovered my love of Star Wars or got embarrassingly excited about the new Suicide Squad trailer).

It’s been one of those weeks that you know you’re going to remember for a really long time because it’s been full of positivity, full of things that have made me happy, and most importantly, it’s been filled with an overwhelming amount of support.

It’s been a good week because of the responses I’ve had from so many people after I shared this blog. The reactions I’ve had were totally unexpected, and there have been moments where I’ve been completely overwhelmed with the kind words of support and encouragement that have come my way this week. All of the emails, Facebook messages, texts, face-to-face chats and hugs, they’ve blown me away. Not because I didn’t think people would be supportive – I know I’m lucky enough to have met many people who are kind, genuine and supportive and who will always be that way – but because of the sheer quantity of messages I’ve received and because of how mixed this group of people has been. Because it’s not just been my close friends and family who’ve been supportive, it’s been people who I know but have only spoken to on a few occasions, it’s been the complete strangers who have liked blog posts I’ve written without even knowing me. It’s made me realise just how many of us are affected by mental health, and that none of us are alone. It’s meant that for not one minute have I regretted my decision to share what I’ve been writing, because it’s brought me closer to many of the most important people in my lives and opened my eyes to just how amazing people can be.

I could go on and on about how much I appreciate the support I’ve had this week, but I’m going to save that for another time, because there’s quite a lot which needs to be said not just about those who have been so incredibly supportive this week, but to those of you who have been there in the weeks and months prior to this. But there is one thing I would really like to say (other than “Thank you!” that is).

You see the thing that’s struck me this week more than anything from talking to so many people, is how often we compare the problems we face in our lives with those of others. I’m guilty of it, and I know many other people who do it too. For many of us, it’s just in our nature to do so, to think that what we have to face is nothing compared to what someone else has to go through.

It might be true, there might be someone out there who’s been through a much worse time than you (I think it’s pretty much guaranteed really that we can all think of examples of people in worse situations than ourselves), but that doesn’t mean what you go through isn’t important too.

Last year there was one thing which I wanted people to know about the reason why we had a college welfare system:

“No matter how big or small you might think your problem is, if it matter to you, then it matters to us.”

The ‘us’ part isn’t really relevant to the point I’m trying to make, but that was the ‘motto’ that I kept telling people. I guess what I’m trying to say is that even if you think someone has been through worse than you, that doesn’t mean that what you’re going through isn’t worthy of being listened to or that you don’t deserve just as much support. Because you do. Don’t fall into the trap like I did of thinking “Well X has it much worse than me and they’re doing fine, what’s my excuse?!”. Because they might not be fine. There’s a lot that can be hidden behind a smiling face, a cheery photograph that gives the impression of coping when really you’re not. It’s a slippery slope, believing that because there’s someone worse off than you that you don’t deserve support. Believe me, I’ve been on that slope for the past two years.

I suppose what I’m trying to say, even though it’s taken quite a lot of words to be able to explain it, is that we all need support for what we have to face in our lives, even if we think our problems are only minuscule in comparison to others. The thing to remember is that you matter, even in those times when you think you don’t.

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