This is not the post I planned to publish this morning, which will wait until later in the week. However, events take a turn, and they make you reassess what is important.
Yesterday an old friend of mine, a gentleman who was very kind to me and my then girlfriend back in 2005 when we were conducting an ultimately doomed long distance relationship, went missing. It hit the headlines not just in NI but on local news sites across the UK, and I was part of an organised search targeting parts of Belfast that, thankfully, was successful – the good news came in as I had had to leave the search.
David Armitage has been open about his mental health, but as we looked for him one of his colleagues shared with me how he serves them in exactly the same way as he served Becky and me all those years ago.
I was blown away by the support David received, including the people who joined the search. NI at its best.
The stigma that still surrounds mental health though reminds me of a poem I wrote years ago. Another David – the Rev D Neilands, who was chaplain at Methody until his untimely death from cancer – used to borrow this to read occasionally in assembly there.
Come with me on a journey, into the depths of your mind. Deep inside, where noone else can see, where your deepest thoughts are stored.
Thoughts of what you are, what you’ve done. Stuff you’ve done that you want noone to know about, stuff about you that people never see. Stuff between you and God, perhaps even stuff you try and keep even from him. Thoughts of what you really are, well below the facade we present to the world… where our true loneliness manifests itself, temptations haunt us, and where the deepest love we have is found.
But… what if things were reversed? What if our deepest thoughts were revealed to everyone rather than the outside?
How would we feel?
Would we be ashamed?
Or… would we be relieved that once and for all we could be ourselves, truly ourselves without needing to worry what people think of us, because everyone but everyone already knew what you were like and you knew what they were really like as well?
10 October 2000. The journey I’ve been on since I wrote that…
As with many of the readers, I’ve struggled with depression. I’ve been spared suicidal thoughts, but far too often what remains of my self-esteem gets knocked for six.
Last night I was talking to a friend who pointed out how much I’m respected by my friends, how could I have low self-esteem. I reminded Jonny of the reasons why he shouldn’t have mental health issues, because he is a pretty awesome guy for dozens of reasons – yet at the same time, he suffers from depression, just as I do.
It’s ok not to be ok. It’s more than that.
Nobody really wants their deepest thoughts revealed.
But we do need the safety to be who we are. To be accepted. To not have to pretend just to fit in.
As I said to Jonny last night, to be able to grab friends who will never suggest you are being silly, but who will watch with you through the great darkness.
When you need help, get it.
Some websites and phone numbers…
Samaritans – 116123
Domestic Violence helpline – 0800 2000 247
Men’s Adviceline – 0808 8010 327
PIPS – 0800 088 6042
Andy has a very wide range of interests including Christianity, Lego, transport, music, and computers. Anything can appear in a post.
Andy tweets at @andyboal