This week has been the first time in a while that I’ve actually enjoyed social media.
No longer has logging into Facebook been a miserable stream of endless gifs, ‘tag your mates’ and self-important bullshit. Instead I’ve witnessed more open and honest posts about anorexia, depression, bipolar and tons of other personal battles with mental health. At times it’s made for tough reading, but my word it’s been refreshing.
To thank for this, there’s #mentalhealthawarenessweek – an annual event organised by the Mental Health Foundation with the simple yet effective premise of tackling the stigma that surrounds the issues that would otherwise exist in silence within our brains.
Needless to say it’s a great event, and one that each member of the P&P team looks forward to each year. Not just because it improves our social media feeds, but because it encourages more people to say ‘fuck you’ than we’re otherwise used to.
Why is this a good thing? The answer is simple. By saying ‘fuck you’, people make a proactive step towards a certain kind of freedom. Freedom not from their mental health problems, but freedom from the stigma that surrounds them.
Freedom from the bullshit, the people and the damaging structures that otherwise overshadow their lives – it’s a freedom that’s often ignored, and one I’d love to see more people embrace.
Earlier this year I decided to try something new in a bid to pursue this ideal known as ‘freedom’. I not only changed my career, but attempted to change my approach to life as a whole.
Saying a big ‘fuck you’ to working five days a week was my first move, followed by a much more mindful approach to sleep. Within days I recognised that the former was providing me with more time to be creative and do the things I actually wanted to do with my time on earth, while the latter allowed my brain to prepare for the daily ritual of carrying out the wider process.
Having set these initial ground rules, I then set about saying ‘fuck you’ to a whole load of people – metaphorically speaking of course, I’m not a monster.
Not only did I wave two fingers to a raft of negativity in a professional sense, I also decided to go a step further and remove one or two entries from my phonebook – people I knew I didn’t like (to be clear, I’m not sure they liked me much either) and those I knew added nothing but negativity.
Then came the best bit – the social media cull. It was here where I went on my biggest detox to date, firing out digital ‘fuck yous’ to those who I knew to be hiding behind their handles – the kind of people that use Instagram and Facebook as a PR tool to boost their ego, rather than a positive outlet for communication. Seriously, fuck those guys. *Clicks unfollow*.
It took a little while for my subconscious to catch up, and there was plenty of self-doubt to be had along the way. Whenever this happened, I just went back to this simple mantra in my mind: time is precious, don’t waste it on things that don’t deserve it. I was also conscious to keep in mind the learnings of a great book I recently read too – a lesson that cites how we all have the power to choose what’s worth suffering for in life and what’s not.
For me things that are worth suffering for include my loved ones, my campervan and an honest approach to life. These values matter to me not because they’re intrinsically good, but because they make my life better – in that they not only suppress any suffering, but actively make strides towards tipping the balance in favour of happiness instead.
What’s inspired me this week is the number of people that have shown similar values. Values that include talking openly about their own personal struggles in a bid to create a more honest environment in which we can all live. Values that say a big ‘fuck you – this is me, deal with it’.
One day I hope we won’t need #mentalhealthawarenessweek to help us take action, but for now it serves an important role. Maybe if you didn’t share your story this year, you’ll find the courage to do so next year – that’s your call and nobody else’s.
In the weeks that follow, I’m already preparing myself for more social media dross to return. But for now, I’m quite happy spending a few extra minutes on my feed. Feel free to judge, there’s no prizes for guessing my response.
— Alex Lester