by Diana Rusu
You might have noticed that we recently started to write a Romanian blog, because why not, but more so because we found a gap in today’s Romanian culture when it comes to (speaking about) mental health. In my 4 years of living in London, I realized it wasn’t easy for anyone to find support whenever one would feel confuse, insecure or anxious. And I was often experiencing this overwhelming confusion and sometimes even depression. But somehow, I found myself many of times in various groups of friends or with complete strangers (the perks of working as a barista) being the shoulder they needed to cry on. I’m not the type to brag about my skills whatsoever, but I often found my mouth opening to speak without my consent. I mean, in a good way, I just could not stop! I remember when a girl came in the coffee shop as I was closing and ordered some tea. When all the customers left and I started cleaning up, she suddenly told me her boyfriend had decided to leave the country to travel without her, although they had planned a long trip together. I could sense a panic attack coming, but managed to talk, even though it was, for me, a really difficult subject. The kind of subject you don’t talk about because it sort of happened to you. She left the shop smiling and at peace, while I was struggling to keep up with my words (that can, apparently, bring a sense of awareness, presence and calm to others, except myself).
How do you handle a panic attack, be it yours or someone else’s?
Later that year I managed to learn how to talk to myself with kindness, though this would not have been possible without psychotherapy.
I remember when Iulia and I were working on the Heartbrunch website, and as we were writing the About section, Iulia came out with couch climbers. When this heartbrunch idea popped into my mind, I didn’t want it to be exclusively focused on the mind matters – whatever that might translate to – so I slipped a timid spiritual in there. Now, just like the father, the son and the holy spirit, Our Heartbrunch who art in heaven, cannot be expressed in one sentence. It is about the body, the mind and a bunch of other important stuff like gender and diary-style love thoughts. Something like the unfinished Reveries of the Solitary Walker that Rousseau started in 1776, in Paris (and never got to end).
Better yet, if we were living in the 18th century, our blog would definitely have had a Mesmerizing section, because we would most certainly have been followers of Mesmer. Born May 23, 1734, Mesmer was also a patron of the arts, supporting the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when he wasn’t too busy curing women of hysteria with his animal magnetism. What a good subject to write about! And maybe later, at the dawn of the 19th century, we would have been Madame Benvenisti, one of Freud’s grateful Viennese patients. But not everyone knows that she was the one who gifted Freud with a Victorian day-bed, in around 1890. The sofa covered in a multi-colored, Iranian rug and garnished with cushions was so dear to Freud that he brought it to his new house in Hampstead, fleeing the war. This was the couch that later became a pop culture reference to psychoanalysis.
So, let’s climb it together.
One thing I would really want to explore more is the panic attack room. That’s why we are launching an invitation to talk about what’s in our mental health first aid kit, survival kit, secret box, whatever you want to call it.
Personally, I like the concept of paraphernalia.
The term originates in Roman law, but comes from the Greek parapherna, "beyond (para) the dowry (phernē)". Paraphernalia were the separate property of a married woman, such as clothing and jewellery, but excluding the assets that may have been included in her dowry. For example, a partner "could not sell, appropriate, or convey good title to his wife's assets considered paraphernalia without her separate consent" (source).
What's in your mental health first aid kit?
If the dowry represents your relationship with the ancestors, your heritage, your background, your social existence, then what you have apart might be serving another you through a collection of tools, safe spaces and all sorts of mechanisms for whenever your feelings and emotions are too much to handle. Some time ago, I wrote about my to do list in case of panic attacks, but if I were to put together a mental health emergency kit, this would probably change every other day. Luisa Omielan's show What would Beyonce do? saved my life about a year ago, five days in a row; later I discovered her follow up show - a true manifesto "about depression, self worth, fighting for your career and deserving of love"- which I absolutely adore. E. Tolle's voice reading, Allan Watts, Tash Sultana's notions of heartbreak and freedom, having a clean, organized, kitchen with lots of light and space (not necessarily for cooking), a good handful of essential oils, my notebooks and blogs, books I haven’t finished, Virginia Wolf, books on Iulia’s list, a letter I wrote to myself a few years ago. Hugs, sleeping in the other's arms. Sex, lots of it, and sometimes cigarettes. Meditation. Being in a park in London (and I could carry on with the list).
Since May is the mental health awareness month, we’d love to read your stories on what's in your mental health first aid kit, or if you have one. Spread the word and don’t be shy! I mean, look at us. We’re climbing our imaginary couch laughing out loud, hungry to explore the world around us. It does get easier when you have an emergency kit, we promise!
photo from the author's family collection