True Colours

The other day, I posted a question on a mental health forum I am part of, which has 55,000 members.

‘If you could ask just one question about your mental health, what would it be?’ Nearly every answer was, ‘why can’t I be normal?’

We are now living in a world described as the ‘new normal’. It may, on the surface mean masks and antibacterial hand gel wherever we go, but with the impact of the pandemic on every single persons mental health, talking about it should also be part of the ‘new normal’.

I was having a ‘normal’ evening in front of the TV last week and while writing this, my subconscious was picking up on the same advert being shown in every ad break. Finally, when I stopped to look up, I noticed it was a well-know medical insurers, ‘normal campaign’.

The narrative began, ‘Everyone’s trying to get back to normal. But what is normal now? Is it feeling anxious about your family? Anxious about everything? Is it missing your mum endlessly?

Feeling detached constantly or crying secretly?’ The premise of all these questions in the ad being, people are experiencing feelings and emotions brought on by this unprecedented world crisis but they are not alone, it is ‘normal’ and they should reach out for professional support.

But what people need to understand is there wasn’t a ‘normal’ pre pandemic either. Who has a ‘normal’ brain? We all have our oddities. We all have our struggles. We all function differently. There are 7 billion types of ‘normal’ in the world – one for every single person living on the planet.

These podcasts have got many people talking to me saying they can relate to the things we discuss, sometimes making them realise for the first time in their life, they don’t feel 100% right. But I also come across people who do still feel very awkward talking about mental health. If time allows me a chance to dig a little deeper it is often clear to see that these people are not willing to admit they aren’t as ‘normal’ as they think they are.

I have discovered in the last few years that when you have experienced a point in life when you have been forced to stop suddenly, be it through mental illness, physical illness, bereavement or another tragic life event, your perspective of what is ‘normal’ will change forever. You really have to be thrown into the washing machine of life to make you realise the smallest things are all you need to be happy.

For billons of people in every corner of the world, they got stuck on the spin cycle of that washing machine of life on March 23, lockdown day.

People have never had this amount of time in their ‘normal life’ to analyse what was going on inside their heads and for many, this has given them this once in a lifetime opportunity to reflect and realise life is not a rehearsal. A lockdown mental health review was not a bad thing for many but for those who have never done it before, it can be a pretty scary reality check and may have resurrected months if not years of underlying issues– perhaps revealing things they didn’t like and have never liked about their lives or themselves. Life usually comes with various diversions where issues come and go but during lockdown there were no diversions and people had days, weeks if not months, to mull over their lives.

We still have a very long way to go to make it ‘normal’ to talk about mental health; this journey is a new one for many, but we have to accept who we are inside, avoid hiding it and also be prepared to stand in the light and be seen as we are. We shouldn’t be afraid to show our true colours, which hopefully like a rainbow, the iconic symbol of hope through the pandemic, will be a lasting reminder that some good has come from our world grinding to a halt, enabling us to reflect on what is important in life, accepting we are all as vulnerable as each other and most importantly, embrace our own, new, ‘personal normal’ – whatever that means!