I have a friend who’s the strong, silent, metallic, tentacled type. Let’s call him “Gerald”.
Gerald doesn’t talk about his feelings much. In fact, he seldom says more than one word at a time. (1)
The late, great Jake the cat was more chatty. Jake liked to say “Hello!” when coming back inside. Okay, so he actually said: “Ai ai ai!” My husband and I – and, probably, our other cats – knew that meant “Hello!” Or perhaps: “Eh up, love.”
He was a Yorkshire cat, after, all.
I’ve written before about the pleasure which animals have brought to my life. About how chatting to cats like Jake, and my current animal friend, Arthur C Rat, without fear of judgement, or interruption, has been a great comfort.
Animal companions are great. I love being around them: mine, and my friends’ and family’s pets, too. But for me, and I suspect many others with mental health problems, they can’t replace human friends.
I met up with someone I count as an old friend – in the sense of closeness and long-standing, not age – the other day at a local teashop.
Since she’s a writer friend, we chatted a lot about writing, and books. But we also talked about what’s been happening inside her head, and mine. Including my recent, mercifully short, trip on The Self-Loathing Express. It’s a train a lot of people with bipolar, depression, and other mental health problems know all too well.
I consider myself blessed that I have friends – including my writerly one – who visited me at home when I was seemingly stuck to the settee through the immobility that usually accompanies my depression. Who visited me in psychiatric hospital, even though, as another old friend commented whilst looking around the place: “If you weren’t already depressed when you came in, you soon will be.” (2)
Friends who met me for walks, and tea, and cake. Who encouraged me when I began taking those first, tentative steps toward one of my many recoveries.
It was good to talk. And to listen, and be listened to. And yes, to have a laugh. Because you can have a laugh with – rather than at – people who are mentally unwell.
It’s Time to Talk. And it’s well past Time to Change.
Thursday 5th February is “Time to Talk” Day. Join the conversation. Support “Time to Change”.
(1) No prizes for guessing what that one word is.
(2) That was some time back. The current facilities are much newer, and better.