Today, October 10th marks World Mental Health Day – a day for global mental health education, awareness, and an advocacy against its social stigma.

One of our members who suffered with depression as a result of his diagnosis, Greg, has agreed to share some of his thoughts in a 3-part Community News series entitled ‘Unseeing the bus’.

‘Unseeing the bus’ carries an incredibly positive message for anyone struggling with their mental health. I’ve shared below a few quotes Greg sent me from an earlier diary entry, to show how low Greg felt prior to writing the piece. Our hopes are that for anyone feeling this low right now, that ‘Unseeing the bus’ shows you can “…still come out the other side and feel like yourself again…” (Greg).

“I hate hospital. I hate my condition. I hate every single thing about my lonely, pitiful existence. This is one horrible place. Handover between nurses is crap. The doctors don’t care. The nights are long and dark.”

“I want to cry. I am so scared, and I don’t know what to do. Please help me. This is too hard.”

“The lows are very deep.”

Unseeing the bus #1

“Live in the moment because tomorrow you might get hit by a bus.”

I had heard that phrase many times. I had said that phrase many times.

But when I got an incurable cancer diagnosis, it brought on a completely new meaning.

It’s an odd phrase when you think about it. Whenever it is said, does anyone actually visualise a bus coming to run them over the very next day? I used it as a throw-away line, a nice feel-good sentence to get someone to stop worrying. But I am not sure anyone even remotely thinks that it could happen. That a bus is literally going to hit them. The urgency of tomorrow being their last day on Earth.

It got me thinking. A lot of people wait their whole lives at the bus stop. Eyes closed, facing the other way. And some people never see it coming. Some live a full life and are ready for it when it hits. For others it comes as a massive surprise, ending their life so suddenly that they leave this place filled with regret.

But after being diagnosed with cancer, I just felt like I had been dragged out into the middle of the road, my eyes pinned open, my feet cemented into the ground, and I must watch this bus rattling towards me with its piercing white lights, whilst I just stand, transfixed.

And when I was all too acutely aware of the bus’ existence, all I could think was what’s the point?

I stared into those bright lights. But they only spread darkness. I tried blocking my mind. I tried burying my head in the sand. But in the end, aching sadness always prevailed. The kind of sadness that lurks in the corners. It waited for weakness and just breathed. A shallow, defiant breath. Like a friend on your shoulder always offering its advice. Like a picture-perfect postcard with a ghost in the wind. Like a chain around my neck with a key forever lost.  And that bus made me contemplate thoughts that I never want to contemplate again.

So, I desperately searched to unsee it. To get back to that bus stop, close my eyes and face the other way. If you can see the bus, I considered, surely you can unsee it too, right? After all, you can untie a knot as easily as you tie it.

But it didn’t work, and I remained totally blinded by the inevitability of it.

And then, out of nowhere, something struck me.

And it wasn’t a bus.

Instead, I realised that I am never going to unsee the bus. I am never going back to the bus stop. I won’t ever close my eyes and face the other way again, no matter how hard I try.

Because it dawned on me that everything – every single thing – is temporary.

Innocence, happiness, good health – they are all temporary. If you are lucky, you will experience them. You will know what joy they bring. But even if you do, they won’t last. Sooner or later, they will float away in the wind.

But by the same token, so will the bad things - despair, madness, the darkest of thoughts. They are all temporary. They can only ever be temporary, because every single thing that has been, is, or will be, is temporary too. So today, you might find yourself buried in the pit. Today, you might find your emotions so out of control that you feel you can’t cope. Today, you might find yourself staring straight at the bus as it approaches with venomous speed. But, when all is said and done, all of those things are only temporary.

Because as mad as it sounds, I realised that in the end I really only have one option, whether I like it or not. And the ironic thing is that is to live in the moment. Take each breath as it comes. Whether it is a happy one, a bored one, a frustrated one, or my last one. My only option is to experience that one simple breath. Because the truth is, the bus has always been there. And it really doesn’t matter whether I can see it now or not. It changes nothing.

So, the next time I hear that phrase, I will truly appreciate what it means. And I will never take it lightly again. But, I will also not let it consume me with darkness. I will not let it drive me into the pits of despair.

Instead, I will just embrace that very next breath and…

“Live in the moment because tomorrow…who knows?”

Thank you to Greg for sharing the above with us. I hope that some of you who read this piece are able to take positives from it.

Thoughts on improving your mental health and staying positive? Go ahead and share them with us using the comments section below.

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