There is way too much taboo about talking about our mental health. Even those who experience mental illness are not 100% honest with each other. Most of us have our mask on nearly all the time, pretending to everyone (even ourselves!) that we are ’fine’ when on the inside we are breaking.
Our masks are especially strong now having had Christmas and everyone saying ‘Happy New Year.’ We respond with the same reply but do we truly and honestly feel it? Most of the time, NO.
This is why me (@balloons_brain) and fellow twitterers have come up with the hashtag #MASKOFFJANUARY meaning that for January we are asking people to drop their mask, tell people how they are truly and honestly feeling; whether they are having a good day, bad day, having feelings of doing harm to themselves, ANYTHING.
All we ask is that you are honest, and that you listen and help people to feel less alone with their struggles. This will help people who have a mental illness to be themselves and get support, and help those without experience to understand the complex and scary emotions we go through with our mental health problems.
Being able to talk openly to people (aside from my incredible therapist) has been vital on my road to recovery. I have one friend in particular who made a point of researching all my diagnoses. As a result she 100% understands and has been able to support me in a way not many others have. I have been able to share even my darkest thoughts – and that I will be eternally grateful for. Opening this dialect with her has made me realise how important it is for me to speak honestly about my feelings to more people, whether they understand it or not, getting the conversation out there is what matters which is what inspired #MASKOFFJANUARY for me.
@SoviDreams my fellow collaborator says this:
@balloons_brain and I have an interesting personal story. We are close friends from a long time ago who fell out of contact, probably due in part to our mental health issues. Fate threw us back together again after we had both been through tough times. @balloons_brain had been really struggling with mental illness. I’d cared for my mum through a terminal illness for several years and then became mentally unwell myself after she died. I felt so incredibly alone. I joined twitter as I had heard about the mental health community. @balloons_brain had recently joined too and was establishing her wonderful blog (http://www.balloonsandthebrain.com) aiming to fight the stigma surrounding mental health. By pure chance I was contacted by @thrivingbeyond, who had liked my posts, about ways of establishing a more authentic conversation with a project that we then set up with the hashtag #mharttherapy. We asked other twitter friends to collaborate and I knew @balloons_brain was the perfect person. Whilst discussing the project we set up a group chat. At first it was about the project but now all check in with each other daily. We even Skype chat now! Here are new friends able to talk more openly about their mental health. I am so inspired by them and their stories. We have also learnt ways in which our struggles are similar. For the first time I feel less alone.
Whilst talking to @balloons_brain I realised how hard it is for us, and our friends in the mental health community to really, truly be known, understood and appreciated for who we are. Even between ourselves we feel the need to hide our struggles but those struggles make us stronger, more compassionate and able to help others so we said: “OK let’s do this. Let’s take our masks off and see where it takes us.” So far, so good.
We are both still learning to speak more openly and if we’re being really honest we are not yet very good at doing this in real life yet but we are really trying! More and more, both on social media such as twitter, as well as in real life, people are learning to talk more about mental health and to listen and try to understand. A lot of our friends have gone through mental health problems at some time in their lives and I can honestly say that our more authentic conversations are literally keeping us alive.
At the end of the day we all want to fight the stigma and end the taboo and the best way of doing this is to make our feelings heard on a public platform. We should be able to drop our masks all the time but for some reason the world is all about keeping up appearances. Let’s start the New Year with trying to be honest about our feelings.
So come and help us fight the stigma and tell the world how you are feeling by using #MASKOFFJANUARY and share how you are feeling.