As a professional boxer, most people around me only see the finale – me stepping into the ring, in great physical shape and performing well under the lights and cameras. Amidst the occasion, it is easy to assume that everything is fine.
As my family and friends watch me compete, my true state of mind is not really questioned. And so, I continue to war with my 'lower thoughts' just as I do in the ring, alone.
To be honest, whether I was asked how I was feeling wouldn’t hold much baring as I don’t want those close to worry about my sanity or keep a watchful eye on me. I don’t want to be wrapped up in a blanket. I don’t want to be treated differently or receive sympathy. I don’t want to be a cause for concern or considered vulnerable.
Going by the reaction of the public and my peer group to when celebrities or mutual friends are struggling with their mental health, I get the impression that people expect the individual in question to be able to maintain control of their sanity systematically. An inability to do so suggests a 'feebleness' and a 'failure' to pull the strings in one’s own brain. This can be frowned upon or even mocked.
I think this is what separates mental health issues with physical health issues. If an individual had an illness that we could see, sympathy and concern would dominate our emotions. Forgive the assumption, but I believe the general population are better programmed to accept them as victims as ‘nothing’ can be done for those suffering. The outcome is out of their control. However, when it comes to mental health, sympathy and concern can be found amongst other reactions. Such as teasing, exaggerating and pouring scorn upon those affected.
I make a calculation, and I decide I want to spread positive thoughts, optimism, smiles and laughter. So, I easily ignore any notion of sharing my true feelings even if I don’t completely shut them out.
Poetry helps me express myself to myself and is very therapeutic to me, a form of release that allows me to identify with greater scrutiny what exactly the underlying issue is. I find my poetry is more honest than my conversations, hence the darker tone of my poems.
I recall telling a friend I wrote poetry as a form of therapy. The response was being labelled ‘feminine’, along with a chuckle. These comments make people go further into their shell, facing the dark alone.
I also remember as a child telling an adult I was depressed. I was told I knew nothing about depression and was dismissed, swiftly. Maybe I didn’t know what depression was at such a young age but what I did know was that I was in battle with something within that I was struggling to gain a monopoly over. I managed to get through it, but there are numerous people who do not.
Mental health can affect you, your home, upbringing, work place, child. So, don’t be quick to dismiss someone. Just like double checking you have locked the front door, do that with your fellow human being. Double check they are ok before you proceed.
It is important for people going through things to realise they are not alone. I try to treat my negative thoughts like my opponents. I can't let them win, I refuse to accept defeat, I will persevere until I am victorious. Any previous wars with myself will only better prepare me and strengthen me for my next one.
It is a routine one-man process for me most of the time, but I am sure if I wasn’t against opening up, things would be a lot easier for me. Sometimes it is easiest for me to share with people that are not the ones closest to me, people I don’t necessarily see every day. I would rather avoid sympathy and people fussing over me. Extra attention is not my goal.
The more people that share their experiences the less people will feel isolated. Talking about mental health and building understanding could definitely save lives. My message to those struggling silently is to share it, but I can only speak for myself. Another’s remedy may differ to mine, whatever your outlet or release may be, use it.