Are we really experiencing the same things?
You might be familiar with hearing the phrase “we’re all in the same boat!”, especially because we are all living through a global pandemic, at the same time. Those assumptions though, miss out the nuances of our own personal physical and mental health experiences. Being “in the same boat” requires you to physically be present in the same vessel, witnessing the same surroundings and riding the same waves. So how exactly can we be in the same boat if our mental health experiences are oceans apart?
Therefore, this metaphor of being in the “same boat” implies we share the same fate; but life is just not that simple. It’s easy to draw on our own experiences when relating to others’, but it’s time
, to stop using this phrase to make assumptions or and draw conclusions about how other’s might feel.
Mental Health Awareness week is the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate our approach towards understanding mental health by not assuming our situations are the same, but rather creating equality by feeling safe to share stories, normalise that it’s ok to not be ok, and by providing supportive networks.
My mental Health Journey
My personal mental health journey started long before I was even aware it had. And when it caught up with me, it was a confusing and frightening; and something I wasn’t sure how to cope with because of the twists and turns of the “storm” that we call life.
I lost my mum, survived the tragic effects of alcoholism within my family, witnessed abuse and turbulent relationships; and consequently, grew up in the care system. All of these things made me feel ‘different’ and all I wanted was to hide these perceived abnormalities. The things I call my personal storm. The very last thing I wanted to do was share these things, mainly through fear of judgement.
Looking back, as a child, there was very little in my immediate control. Every day was simply a chance to learn and one step closer to adulthood. In the moment, though, I wasn’t aware just how much my developmental opportunities were influenced by the happenings, and the people around me. In my experience, 18-year-old me didn’t know that the life I experienced as 7-17-year-old me was set to test me. I didn’t know how different it would make my experiences going forward. It wasn’t until I attempted to start ‘adulting’ that I was faced with stark realities.
Though Uni for me was an amazing and life shaping experience, it was also a wake-up call that my upbringing and background was very different from those of my new friends. Being a care leaver, I left for Uni with a clapped-out Micra full of everything I owned because not only was I leaving home for the first time, but I was actually leaving for good.
I found this a difficult situation to come to terms with, and something that left me with a family-shaped whole in my life. But in this moment of weakness, I found inner strength, and a voice I never knew I had.
I turned to talking therapy which I accessed through my Uni, and it helped me connect with my life, myself and my mind more than I ever thought it would.
Being open about my experiences
Little did I realise how much these situations and experiences would A) shape me and B) be something I would regularly relive throughout my lifetime. For example, normal day-to-day conversations referencing parents, family time and childhood memories have forced me to make decisions over whether I mask the truth to save awkward reactions, or whether I gently explain my story. In the past I might have hidden these things, but today, I choose to share where appropriate because I cannot rewrite history; and nor should I feel I have to.
So, for me, Mental Health Awareness Week is about educating, learning and bravery. Afterall, our outlooks, experiences, and DNA are all a bit different.
Therefore, my challenge to you, is to create a greater sense of understanding by practicing the art of active listening. In doing so, we can appreciate how we might be riding the same storm, but in very different boats – aka our lives and minds. For example, try integrating the 3 Rs – Repeat, Reflect and Respond – into your conversations and take some time to reflect. It may help someone more than you know.
Thank you to Tia for sharing this thought provoking blog.
If you need more support?
If you are a young person struggling with your mental health you can contact us at email@example.com to find out more about the support we can offer you. This includes support groups, counselling and our Wellbeing Check- in befriending service. Read more about these on our services page.
If you need to talk to someone right now
The Samaritans 24/7 Phoneline –
The Samaritans offer emotional support and a listening ear, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s a FREEPHONE number that can even be called from a mobile with no credit.
– Call them on 116 123 (24hr),
– Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Connection 24/7 Phoneline for Dorset –
A helpline for people of all ages in Dorset who are experiencing mental health issues & need support.
– Call 111 and select ‘mental health,’
– Or dial 0300 1235440 to access support.
Gives help on a wide range of issues – you can call and email them; post on message boards and chat to a counsellor online.
– Call 0800 1111, currently 9am to midnight,
– Or email them securely from your online Childline account.
Papyrus provides confidential support and advice for young people struggling with thoughts of suicide and anyone worried about a young person.
– Call 0800 068 4141 or 07860 039967, 9am to 10pm weekdays, 2pm to 10pm weekends and bank holidays,
– Or email: email@example.com