The Island: Without Bear Grylls

When I think about mental health I imagine it as an island. One of those cartoon pieces of land that, as a child, I was always worried i’d get marooned on and in preparation had to always be ready to know what CDs I would take with me (Now 44 or Aquarium by Aqua were strong contenders but this is besides the point).

You’re alone on your little island with your deck chair and your hula lei, the sun can be shining but the weather is temperamental. Your family and friends are on little boats just off the shore and Albatross by Fleetwood Mac is playing softly in the distance. This is a good day, remember this as a good day. Some days it might rain and some days it might pour. Your deck chair might hurt your back or your hula lei might snap but you can still hear the music and remember that the good days aren’t far away. Some days the mist hides the little boats, they’re still there but you find it harder to reach out. But the weather is temperamental and soon the sun will be shining again on your island.

For some of us, the music has stopped and the rain hasn’t given up for weeks, months, years. The monsoon has lasted for so long you begin to acclimate around it, even find a twisted comfort in your isolation. You’re finding it harder to reach out to the little boats but ‘what if they didn’t want to see you anyway?‘. On the days the sun attempts to warm your skin with its rays, it can quickly mutate into a glaring spotlight, beaming down on you and highlighting every blemish, blotch, and scar for the world to stare at. Your comfort zone has become a toxic environment that you are scared to leave in the fear that it’ll leave you open to be judged, to be laughed at, to be torn down.
The flowers from your hula lei are muddied and scattered across the sand but it’s hard to find the motivation, the enthusiasm, the courage to pick them up and piece them back together again. You can see the people you love in the little boats offshore but the water between you has become a frightening journey and can’t tell how deep it is.

On the really bad days storms can engulf your little island and you’re left treading water. The waves keep pulling you under, you’re gasping for breath and losing the strength to swim. You’re drowning, it’s scary and it’s painful, and you want it all to end. You begin to romanticise the idea of letting the waves pull you under to release you from your corrupted paradise forever. The idea of slipping away creeps into every part of you and keeps you awake at night wondering if it really would be for the best. I can promise you with my whole heart that it isn’t.

Remember the good days that you have experienced and the great ones yet to come, remember the little boats, listen out for the sweet sound of music. Swim to the boats, they will always be there. Be patient with yourself and wait for the sun, piece together your hula lei and wear it with pride. Trade in your deck chair for a pink inflatable sofa because why the fuck not? Know that the storm in your mind can always be conquered and that you will always be strong enough to swim if you have to. Know that there are others struggling through the same storm and that you are not alone and never were in the first place. Be a Merman, be a Mermaid, be Michael Phelps if you aren’t into all that, but most importantly be yourself and learn how to love and accept every part of yourself, even the gruesome bits.

Written by Caroline Fergus | 22.07.2018

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