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Why I Carry a Mental Health 'Umbrella' as Someone With a Mood Disorder


There is a Stephen Fry quote about thinking of moods like the weather. The essence is that the moods we experience come and go and like the weather, we have no control over when they happen. We just need to ride them out and have a “mental health umbrella.” I absolutely adore that quote — and Mr Fry himself — and it really struck a chord with me. I find it incredibly comforting and very helpful to think of the moods I experience in such a visual way. Following on from what he said, here are a few of my thoughts:

We can’t always predict the weather. We have a good go, but sometimes it rains even though the forecast was good. It’s very helpful to have an umbrella when this happens. I like to hold my own umbrella, and it’s taken practice to discover the most effective way to hold it. I’m still learning, but sometimes I might need help with putting my umbrella up. If the rain is quite heavy, I might even need assistance holding on to my umbrella. I might need reminding that it is doing some good, and I shouldn’t just give up on it and throw it in the bin, even if it’s not as effective as I’d like. Of course, we all know that sometimes, when the weather is really stormy, umbrellas really aren’t much use at all. Sometimes, the rain comes at you from all angles. It’s still worth keeping the umbrella though, because the rain won’t always be that heavy. Sometimes I get caught in the rain and I get very wet. But in the end, I will dry out.

For me, quite often it will be rainy. It doesn’t make any difference that I want it to be sunny. Sometimes, it just rains. In fact, sometimes it rains so hard that it feels like a monsoon that is never going to stop. Most of the time, having the umbrella helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’m working on getting a bigger and stronger umbrella.

Then, sometimes fairly quickly and sometimes not, the rain will stop. The weather is OK for a while, which is really nice! Then the rain will start again, often without warning, which can be really frustrating. Sometimes it’s just a little shower. I can put the umbrella up and hardly notice it. Sometimes it’s a steady downpour which can be more challenging. Then the rain stops and it’s OK again. The sun might even come out a bit, here and there. There could be a few clouds or maybe the sky will be mostly clear. Just when I’m thinking I can put the umbrella away, it’ll start to rain again. Then, out of the blue, very occasionally, rather like the British weather, the sun comes in abundance and it’s a beautifully light and sunny day with not a cloud in the sky. There might even be rainbows! How fantastically glorious! It feels like it’s never going to rain ever again. Because it’s so wondrously bright and warm, I want to lay in the sun. I certainly don’t need an umbrella! Who doesn’t want to lay in the sun on a beautifully sunny day? It’s a truly marvelous feeling and especially fabulous when it’s been raining so frequently. The only problem is when I’m enjoying the sunshine, I don’t want to go inside. I don’t want to cover up, because I won’t get too hot! I’ll be fine! Because everything is fine when the sun is out! Of course, in reality, if I stay out in the sun for too long, I’m going to get too hot. It’s important for me to try to cool down and put some sun cream on to at least minimize my chances of burning to a crisp. This is when I could do with the umbrella again, but this time to use as a parasol. Sometimes I might need reminding of that.

Sadly, the sun will eventually go in and fierce thunderstorms often follow — the one when the rain comes down tremendously hard and there is a lot of banging and crashing. But those storms too shall pass. The weather will return to “normal” in the end. At some point, the sun will come out again. At some point, there might even be more rainbows.

I’m hoping that by learning as much as I can about the weather, I will become a better forecaster. And even if I cannot always correctly predict the weather, I can make experiencing the extremes much more bearable by always carrying my umbrella.

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Unsplash photo via Maark Jefferson Paraan.