Written By Amelie Marron
Author Bio: I'm a Drama and Theatre Arts graduate with a passion for writing, indie music, travelling, art in all its forms and hummus. A passionate body positive feminist, mental health advocate and lover of all things creative, I am most often found solo-roaming museums, theatres, cinemas and book shops. - Instagram: @amelie_marron - Blog: flightsandfeelings.blogspot.co.uk
"Look at us: running around, always rushed, always late - I guess that's why they call it the human race. What we crave for most in this world is connection. For some people it happens at first sight, it's when you know, you know. It's fate working its magic and that's great for them. For the rest of us, it's a bit less romantic, it's complicated, it's messy, it's about horrible timing and fumbled opportunities and not being able to say what you need to say when you need to say it."
The phrase 'eat your heart out', most commonly used when discussing extreme loss or grief, referred in the 16th century to the act of suffering in silence. The scarily relevant undertones of the expression should mean more to us today than ever before. We live our daily lives at meteoric speed, as if we are hurtling towards something but we have no idea what it is. We live life in the fast lane, but not in the idealised pop song sense: rather it is as if we are running on treadmills, side by side but merely coexisting, running faster and faster against the heat, never stopping, never connecting, never taking time to think.
This frantic lifestyle goes, almost paradoxically so, hand in hand with a dependence on addiction; whether this be alcohol, drugs, food, toxic relationships, self-harm, exercise, gambling or any other extreme pattern of behaviour that offers even the smallest sense of relief, or release from our entrapment. Why then, are we even surprised that mental health conditions have risen drastically in the past 20 years, with 1 in 4 people suffering from a diagnosed psychological illness at some point in their lives?
It's as if we've deliberately got ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place with no choice but to turn to the behaviours we think will help us... help us what? Recover? Feel better? Be happy? Smile? Feel worthy? Of course not. These behaviours do just one thing - but a thing so powerful that we keep coming back for more, time and time again. They make us numb. They enable us to not feel. And that's the heart of it.
We live in a world in which emotion is practically a taboo. A world of fake smiles and false promises, a world in which we hear without listening, talk without speaking and see without looking. Everything is surface deep in the public sphere - so what happens when we go back to the private one? What happens when you get back from work after a long day and find yourself faced with reality? What happens when you aren't surrounded by work colleagues and you have to spend time with yourself? Your defence mechanisms kick in. You go for that stupidly long gym session on an empty stomach. You reach for that bottle of whiskey. You head to that casino. You pick another pointless argument with the person you know is destroying you but you can't let go of. You reach for that box of chocolates and eat. And eat and eat and eat. You eat until you feel sick and then you eat some more. You eat until you are sick and then you eat even more. You eat to fill that hole, that void, that empty space where your feelings should be.
You eat not to feel. You drink not to feel. You over-exercise not to feel. You gamble not to feel. You cut yourself, to feel a pain that is purely physical because the emotional pain is too much to bear. But what you don't know - what you cannot and do not see - is that the mechanisms your brain has put in place, those voices that tell you that you will never be enough, are doing far more harm to you than allowing yourself to feel would. You're not numbing the feelings, you're delaying them. You're leaving them to fester like a sore wound, to feed the demons in your head until such a moment when you're all alone, when you get home, when you are literally sitting prey.
Why then, do we not let ourselves feel an emotion when it comes up, rather than deferring or numbing it? Why don't we reach out there and then and talk about how we are feeling? Why do we fear doing this? Because that's the way the modern world works. Despite some incredible progress in and around mental health, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders and many more are still viewed more than negatively by the general public. And what do we do with things we don't like to think about? We turn away. We pretend they don't exist.
So today, I ask that we each take a step towards putting a stop to this trend. Let people know that you are here to listen, even if you maybe can't fully understand. Reach out, even if your hand shakes. Speak up, even if your voice trembles. Make a change, even if your resolve falters. Together, we can dispel the stigma. Together, we can make a connection.
"Look at us: running around, always rushed, always late - I guess that's why they call it the human race. But sometimes it slows down just enough for all the pieces to fall into place. Fate works its magic and you are connected. Every once in a while, something unexpected happens and it pushes us all forward. And the truth is - what I'm starting to think, what I'm starting to feel - is that maybe the human race isn't a race at all." - The Switch.