Tomorrow is 1st February and it marks the end of a very long, wet and muddy January, the beginning of longer days and (hopefully) warmer weather. It is also a day to raise awareness for mental health. Time to Change #timetotalk is aiming to promote taking the time to talk about mental health and help break the stigma.
I am lucky that I have never been diagnosed with mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and depression, but that does not mean that I have not suffered with symptoms that point towards these things. I know many friends and family that have, diagnosed or not, which is unsurprising when 1 in 4 of us experience a mental health condition. That’s a pretty high number right?
Farming is one of the industries where mental health is not talked about as freely, mainly because it is such an isolating environment. I read recently about a suicide of a young farmer, who was 24 years old. Farming has one of the highest suicide rates of any occupation, with one farmer a week taking their own lives, which is a shocking statistic, but very much a reality.
Right before I moved to Devon to start my ‘farm life’, I lost a very close friend of mine to cancer. I’m not sure I properly grieved for her, because I had so many other things going on in my life at the time. Trying to pack up our flat by myself, trying to find a job, trying to sort out tenants for when I moved out, travelling every weekend back and forth to Devon to see my other half and for interviews which I was constantly being knocked back for.
In Southampton, I had an excellent support network of friends, colleagues and a brilliant, often busy social life. I knew that moving to rural Devon would be a massive change for me, but I didn’t realise how much. The job I have now does not involve an office full of people, it is just me and the family of 6 I work for (who are super lovely and nice, but it is not the same). When I am not at work, it is just myself (and the animals) during the day and I see my other half at night. Occasionally I bump into the other people that work on the estate (about 5 in total, one being my other half) and I take every opportunity to talk to them when I can. But it’s momentary and fleeting and I certainly wouldn’t start spilling my inner feelings to them stood in the rain in my wellies and waterproofs.
By no means am I alone, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get lonely. I didn’t realise how much I relied on my friends until I didn’t have them around me anymore. My other half has been brilliant and has noticed and picked up on changes in my behaviour and forced me to talk about it and confront these issues.
Those that know me, probably would describe me as quite a confident and outgoing person. But recently I’ve shyed away from many things that would involve taking a risk and possible failure. I’ve been very cautious and dare I say, clingy. On the outside it probably looks like the opposite, but social media, as we all know, can tell a different story to reality. Plus, it makes you feel good to share the successes in your life, why would you focus on the failures? No one wants to be ‘that’ person who moans about everything, when actually I’ve got everything I’ve ever wanted and live in virtual paradise right?
And I do. I try to remember that when I’m feeling these things, that aside from being a bit lonely and scared of the unknown, I am very lucky to live here and do what I do. And I am happy, happier than I’ve ever been. But at the same time, I have moments of lowness that I struggle to shake.
But I’m here to tell you that despite this, I’ve found a way to cope. I use social media in a very different way than I used to. I’ve joined many Facebook groups relating to ‘smallholdings’ or the various animals that I keep and recently gained a new-found love for Twitter, following many people in the same situation as me. I’ve actually made new friends, online and in person! One by joining a local charity fun run and one who I started chatting to on Twitter and realised we lived near each other, and we’ve since met up. It is such an invaluable form of communication, because when you’re having a bad day, it’s good to know someone else has been through it and come out the other side, even if they are managing a herd of Llamas in the Highlands of Scotland! I’ve been so pleasantly surprised about the friendliness of absolute strangers and their willingness to give limitless advice and guidance, which I have found so helpful and reassuring.
The friends that I left behind in Southampton have also been amazing. Even if they wouldn’t know the first thing about tagging a pigs ear or dealing with an egg bound chicken, they have all been so supportive of me, and many have made the effort to come out to visit. They still text and call and haven’t forgotten me, which I am eternally grateful for.
So today, I’d just like to help raise awareness with this piece by encouraging people to talk about their issues, or issues that they know other people are going through. Make time to talk, or even if they don’t want to right now, just make it known that if they do feel like talking, you’re there. Because I am, for anyone that needs it. It can be a lonely world out there, especially in the rural countryside, but you only have to ask for help and people will surprise you. #timetotalk