TTTThe distinctive “ding” of a reminder on my phone followed immediately by an message notification stirred me from what little sleep I had last night.

The reminder was telling me to take my meds and goes off every morning (as well as other times during the day) and so I knew what it was before even opening my eyes. But the message, now that was part of “the unknown”.

unknownI am so not a big fan of the unknown!

Especially when I am just waking up and especially after such an unsettled night.

Laying there for a moment or two longer I gingerly tried to move my legs to see if they were ‘locked’ as I call it.  I have had trouble with my legs and knees for some time now and they tend to lock into one position at times, especially when I sleep and I have to slowly and carefully manipulate them into unlocking.

Having done so I managed to roll over and grab my mobile phone and look at it for a while until my eyes focused.  Oh how I miss the days when my eyes focused immediately after waking up and I could spring out of bed ready for the day.

The message?  It was a reminder from my bin collection company reminding me that I needed to “top up my account” as they put it.

TW SIGNSlowly I started getting out of bed and getting myself washed and dressed.

This body of mine may not be very old in the grand scope of things.  But years of ill-health and (let’s be honest here) casual even at times neglectful treatment of it has taken its toll.

And my mind is no better, especially not this morning.  Not after such an unsettled night.

No, there is no other way of putting it.  My mind was on over drive last night and the harmful – even, at times, suicidal thoughts – were raging.

Before dressing I checked myself over.  Had I done anything to myself last night?

Thankfully the answer seems to be no.  I am so thankful for this.  I know only too well the self-inflicted recriminations and guilt that I experience after such episodes where I do.

Having washed and dressed I made my way to the kitchen and made myself a coffee.

“I need to divert, to refocus, to take charge of my thoughts.” I told myself.

2Cor105“Should have prayed before you even got up” I reminded myself.  I usually do but it is just another facet of how my mind is this morning.

“Yes, I need to pray and I need to get some praise and worship music on.” I decided.  Truth is that I generally do have praise and worship music playing but at times like this it is a life-line and part of my “rescue package”, rescuing my mind back from the dark thoughts.

Taking my coffee to my study I sat at my desk and started choosing the music I wanted to listen to this morning.

My phone rang and it was a number neither I nor my caller id recognized.

I looked at it for a moment or two.  Again with “the unknown”.  In truth I don’t like speaking on the telephone at the best of times, but speaking on the telephone to someone I might not even know is even worse.

“Do I answer it or let them leave a message?”   Trust me the temptation to just let them leave a message was big.  “But I need to face these things.”  I tell myself.  “I need to take control and be strong.”

Perhaps those who know me casually may wonder at just how much these things seem to be affecting me.  My size and ‘public persona’ don’t give the impression that I lack confidence.  But those who know me better know how much I struggle with these things.

I prepare myself and answer the phone.

It is Francis, a brother in Christ from my church. I like Francis although, if I am honest, I don’t know him very well.

(Hey, I am a guy.  And a guy with mental health issues.  Socializing is not one of my strong points.)

Francis called to see how I was doing as I have been sick and away from church for a while now and he was concerned and just wanted to let me know that he and others were praying for me.

Our call ends and I sit and think for a moment or two.

I so needed that call this morning!  I was so shaky this morning and knew that I was in trouble.  Things that I would normally do as a matter of course, – praying first thing, playing my praise and worship music, getting my mind organized before I attempted anything else – had fallen by the wayside.

I take some time to reflect and to pray and give thanks.

This latest episode of ill-health has really knocked me.  But you know what, I am still here and still fighting and still able to see hope.  And what is more important I have been so very blessed.

The church I attend, folk within the church, folk from my bible study group, and folk I know only very casually. Have been so very kind and so very loving.

Meals have been brought in to me.  Folk have been going shopping for me. Mopping my floors and doing little bits of housework for me.  Running me back and forth to the doctors and pharmacy.  Picking up walking frames and the such for me.

Disability, physical illnesses and poor physical health can be so obvious at times can’t they?  People notice them and respond to them.  Why?  Because they see them and they are often not easy to hide and we so often don’t have a choice but for others to know about them.  And thus people want to respond to them.  And certainly, as is the case with my church, they want to help and to show their love.

And I am so very grateful for this!

But what about our mental health – what about when that is poor and we are struggling mentally?  How often do we hide this away?  How often do we keep it secret for fear of ridicule, or being judged, or be thought weak?

And in the process how much are we limiting the way that others can help us or show their love for us?  And even more than this, how much are we limiting their ability to consider and understand and learn about mental health and just how many people are affected by it?

Today, in the UK, is (as you will no doubt have noticed from the opening image) Time-To-Talk-Day.  It is, as their website states, “24 hours in which to start conversations about mental health, raise awareness and share the message that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, neither is talking about it.

conversation-badgeWell I may not live in the UK anymore and I may have made Ireland my home but I am still British and feel that I still have the right to contribute and so this post is my contribution.  My conversation about mental health today.

But more than that.

It is my way of recognizing that there is – even when my mind has seemingly gone off the rails overnight – still hope!

And once again recognizing that this is not a battle that we have to fight alone.

I started this blog, all those moons ago, in order to share about my mental health. In so doing I hoped to try to help myself and others understand more about mental illness and poor mental health.  And in the hope of in some small way fighting the stigma there is about mental health.

In truth, I feel things are improving concerning these things and indeed that there is less stigma when it comes to mental health, than there used to be.   But in truth we are still not completely free from that stigma and still have a ways to go.

But I am both thankful and hopeful!  Thankful for the distance we have come and the love has been shown along the way and hopeful that we will get there, and of the love that can still and should still be shown along the way.  And yes, when it comes to mental health I do believe that the times they are a changin.