I have a cold.
A cold that won’t go away in the next minute, hour, day or maybe even week.
A cold that’s unrelenting in its onslaught of body aches and low-grade fevers.
A cold that smothers my chest when it sits on top of it.
A cold that’s burrowed into my head.
My cold shuts my bedroom door and turns my phone onto “Do Not Disturb.”
It grabs me by the throat, leaving shortened breaths and a slew of tissues and pen-littered pages in its wake.
It spits in my food and textures my makeup with blotchy indentations and reddened tramlines.
But my pen has run dry, the sheet is blank and my speech is slurred.
I don’t have the answer.
And that’s because there isn’t one.
Poor mental health (persistent or fleeting) may not always translate into mental illness, but that certainly doesn’t lessen the struggle of coping with it and its accompanying symptoms.
I don’t take any SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), and don’t have any anxiety or mood disorders. I’m incredibly fortunate for that, and my heart goes out to anyone who goes through this debilitating struggle.
But poor mental health of any kind should never be overlooked, undermined or compared — whether it be an illness or just a really awful day.
You’re a bad person.
Nobody likes you.
You’re never enough.
Some days, these thoughts swirl in my head in unrelenting assaults. They feel overwhelming and inescapable, stopping me in my tracks and leaving me alone under my covers.
But it’s not always this way. My usual whole-hearted laughs, beaming smiles and tragic stories — from falling down staircases, to my most recent flop of being stuck in a locker room filled with naked middle-aged women at 7 a.m., as I desperately tried to remember which of the unlabelled lockers I’d left my bag in — are always just around the corner.
What I’m trying to say is that my default has almost always been huge hugs, laughs and smiles, and I’m very grateful for that.
But constantly being upbeat can have its disadvantages; whenever my thoughts and feelings get in the way of being happy, it can feel like I’m completely lost.
I’m lucky; whenever I have one of those days, the people in my life always rush in to help me through it. And I can’t thank them enough for that.
But what if I don’t have the answer for what’s upsetting me?
Well-intentioned questions of “how?” and “why?” make me stumble on my words and trip over my tongue.
I have no idea, I want to tell them.
So, how do you solve a problem that doesn’t have a name?
Poor mental health often isn’t tangible or medically-diagnosed, so it can feel especially helpless.
The inner workings of our mind — from intrusive thoughts to worries, insecurities and negative self-talk — isn’t something we can easily pinpoint and explain in a play-by-play commentary to someone else.
It’s virtually indescribable.
But this ineffability certainly doesn’t mean the suffering that comes from poor mental health should ever be ignored.
By anyone. Yourself or others.
You aren’t weak or a complainer.
You’re hurting, and that’s OK. You don’t have to have all the answers, or explain why you feel the way you do to yourself or someone else.
You aren’t your thoughts.
So be patient with yourself, and know that you’re going to be OK in time.
Sophie McNally is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sophie McNally is an assistant sports editor at The Spectrum. She is a history major studying abroad for a year from Newcastle University in the UK. In her spare time, she can be found blasting The 1975 or Taylor Swift and rowing on a random river at 5 a.m.