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Time to Talk 2024

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The English language can be a minefield at times. There are so many words upon which you can stumble. The number of words that belong to the mental health stratosphere, at times, can be quite overwhelming, and really could be questioned as to how helpful they are. Thursday, February 1st is Time to Talk Day 2024, and the message for this year is to encourage people to talk about how they really feel about mental health.

 

Words that are new to me

 

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Alexithymia. A word that, at the very least, wouldn’t be the hardest word to find in the dictionary, as it begins with A. However, it wasn’t a word I was aware of until last week. This was mainly because, I felt I was in this state, where I couldn’t explain my feelings in any particular words. Searching Google in an attempt to validate what I felt in that moment,  up pops the word, alexithymia. The definition of it is the cognitive inability to encode, identify, and describe one’s own and another person’s emotions. According to the Autism related charity, Autistica, 1 in 10 people are estimated to have Alexithymia, with it being most prevalent with those who have Autism, as well as mental health conditions such as Anxiety and Depression.


Labels are and aren’t helpful


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Deciding whether labels are helpful or not depends on who you ask. Having words to explain how you feel can be important. I’d rather explain something in one word rather than take up the airtime trying to tell you how I feel (or don’t feel). But then there comes a point where there are so many terms to describe something quite specific. This can become unhelpful and you can just go round in circles. With mental health, it is more important to get to the bottom of what is going on, rather than just finding another way to define an existing problem. Why? Because otherwise, things would never get solved, and someone could continue through life without any kind of solutions for support and instead focus on the very thing that is making life more difficult.


As someone with the double diagnosis of Dyspraxia and Autism, whilst also suffering from Anxiety, I would say you could put the three of these conditions into a Venn diagram, and they all have an impact on one another. When I had my first discussion about Autism in June last year, it appeared that the majority of features linked to my anxiety, are actually very much linked to Autism. And of course, with the heavy overlap between Autism and Dyspraxia, there is so much of a relation there. But beyond that, is where the complexities lie. So I try to talk about my diagnoses in a way that hopefully, people will understand.


Finding your confidants:


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What is so important when it comes to mental health and wellbeing, is having that person (s), to feel safe in expressing your thoughts to. For me, this generally involves someone with the kind of life experience where I feel I could learn things from, particularly ways I can be more practical over time.


I would say the practicality of things is something I am focused on more to this day, so that I don’t just end up thinking about things without taking any action. But of course, any individual can learn the art of being more practical from anyone of any age. I’m not just talking of life experience in terms of people a lot older than myself. It could just be anyone with a better grasp of how to show up in situations in a practical sense.


Anybody who you do decide to confide in, should genuinely be honoured that you have trusted them to give you advice that takes into account the sort of individual you are, whilst giving you that nudge in a direction that could increase your skills and talents.


That’s what it’s all about


(Image alt-text: a girl with black hair is pictured, wearing a white jumper. She is sitting, writing a letter. There is a caption above her head in red and white lettering, which reads: “Write yourself a love letter.”)

What days like these are all about, is shining a light on ways we can help each other to feel accepted. One such way I think would be very helpful for people to use each week, is an idea along the lines of progression postcards.


These could either be written by yourself, in order to acknowledge even the smallest ways you have made progress in a given week- or you could ask one of your confidants. The skill is in people being able to listen to others and acknowledge what they do. Everyone has a purpose and a role that they fulfil. Sometimes, when you don’t see those tangible things day to day, or in other words, those obvious ways you know you’ve had an impact, it can be tricky. But there is always one thing that everyone does that collectively, we can be proud of!

If there is one thing you take from this, I hope that you will feel comfortable giving people the platform to discuss what is going on for them.   This does entail great listening skills which can be acquired, even by those who may find mental health tough to discuss. But as long as you are curious and show an element of sensitivity in your approach, just maybe you could make someone feel like they can open up and in doing stop feeling overwhelmed and realise that they can discuss and improve their mental health.

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