For those of you still waiting on an explanation of whatever the hell the Swedeman is and entails, it’s coming. That post is about ¾ written, but it’s turned out way longer than intended and I’ve been super busy – but it is coming. In the meantime, and in accordance with my new flexi-post mentality, I’m going to talk about something completely different.
I was on a training course today for work that I actually enjoyed (that’s not the punchline). It was called ‘Talk like TED’, all about how to do presentations in a competent, engaging manner like a TED talk. If you have no idea what a TED talk is, go and watch one now, they’re really great. Honestly. Even the seemingly most mundane topics can be fascinating.
Anyway, in between learning the proper way to wave and gesticulate when talking to groups of people and coming to an organic mass consensus that David Blaine is a boring shit, I did something that I had not planned on doing, today or ever. I talked about the whole mental health, depression-suicide thing with work colleagues. I did not wait for a colleague to find my blog and question me on it.
Rather, a set of circumstances emerged in the training exercises that led to me having to give an emotionally grabbing one minute talk on why I do triathlon, so I opened with the line “I’m pretty bad at suicide”. Bam. Loaded pause. Emotional sucker punch. People listened. Could I have lied and made up something different? Yes, if I was a better liar. As things stand I tried it when fleshing out the minute, and it wasn’t convincing.
Talking about mental health at work kind of seemed like the last big white whale for me. Talking about it with strangers, or writing stuff on the internet, sure. That is easy, because it’s very, very simple to mentally divorce yourself from the consequences of that. Talking about it with friends? It took work, but yes, I can do that now. Largely as a result of this blog, me forcing my own hand on the matter.
But talking to work colleagues is different. The stakes are a lot higher when your professional reputation could be at stake – maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but 100% you will always think it is. After all, I can choose my friends (I like to think I’ve chosen well). Internet readers still exist more as a concept than a tangible reality in my weird head. But you can’t change the people you spend x amount of hours a day trying to not slip up and impress, day in day out. Unless you change jobs, but I’d rather not have to do that yet.
Yet, work is probably one of the most stressful environments we find ourselves in on a day-to-day basis. I get the trust issues – colleagues are colleagues after all, people you get on with sometimes honestly, sometimes just because it’s in your best interests to do so, but very very rarely your besties – but if there is ever a place where mental health discussion should be more prevalent in the modern, western, work-hard-play-nothing-at-all-‘cos-your-knackered-and-all-you-want-to-do-is-go-sit-on-your-sofa-and-watch-Strictly-in-your-pajamas world, it ought to be the workplace, I feel.
Despite the heavy risk to me coming out with this, the world did not end. The reaction was positive. Everyone agreed afterwards that mental health needs to be discussed more in our department, especially with the super-highly-charged tournament months ahead in 2019. Maybe something will actually come of that. Maybe it won’t. Either way, it kinda feels like I made some kind of significant step today, more or less by accident, but it happened. So I guess that’s something, huh.
Listening: Eleanor Longden – The Voices In My Head; my own introduction to TED talks years ago. It’s pretty good.
Reading: Guardian Long Reads – How the Sandwich Consumed Britain; which for my money is the best long read since the one about the rival mole hunter guilds.