Ask Kira: Why does it feel attention-seeking when I talk about my mental health?

Because it’s not always easy to talk about mental health IRL.

Australian pop sensation Kira Puru is one of our favourite homegrown musicians. Known for her charismatic on-stage presence and no-holds-barred approach to life, she’s the type of person you just know is bursting with excellent life advice. With that in mind, we thought who better to be FJ’s modern-day agony aunt than Kira herself? So without further ado, welcome to our new column, Ask Kira, where she answers FJ reader’s difficult/messy/embarrassing life questions.

Why does it feel attention-seeking when I talk about my own mental health?

“Hi Kira, I need your help. I have been diagnosed with a mental illness but find it so hard to talk to my friends about it. I’m an open person who talks freely about taboos, but this feels different. I’m scared about what they will say and think, and I don’t want their perception of me to change. How do I even start this conversation?”

Hi! I’m sorry to hear you’ve been struggling but glad to hear you’ve been given a diagnosis. I hope this offers some solace and helps you find the best way to form a recovery plan and hopefully, feel better soon. I can understand how talking about your own mental health situation can be different and more difficult than talking about other taboos, it’s okay to feel scared. You don’t have to come out to your friends if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. Your health status, mental and physical, is nobody’s business but your own, so take your time and hold off chatting to them until you feel ready. You might find comfort in first connecting with people who are experiencing similar issues to you and had to have the same difficult conversations.

Perhaps try looking for some discreet online communities and support groups for people who share the same illness and/or friends and family of those with a similar diagnosis. There might be valuable first-hand advice for you there. Though you should never feel obliged to discuss your personal health matters with others, these hard conversations help us all move towards a world where there is less stigma around mental illness, and that place will be safer and more comfortable for us all. You are no less beautiful, capable or valuable than you were before and your good friends will use your diagnosis to better understand and support you.

Why don’t self-care routines work for me?

“Kira, am I dead inside? Jokes aside, I can’t seem to find a self-care routine that works for me. Baths are boring, walks are ok, reading feels more like a chore. As someone who thrives off productivity, I don’t really know how to chill. Help!”

I can relate! Although I am actually quite good at relaxing, I’ve struggled a lot with needing to be productive to feel good. I blame capitalism! Self-care culture is kinda toxic in my opinion. Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, it doesn’t always look or feel good, and it isn’t laying in bed all day eating chocolate. Perhaps you could try a methodical approach, by addressing specific pillars of health individually. Depending on which reference you use, these are something like sleep, stress/emotional, nutrition, physical, social, financial, and environmental.

If productivity is your vibe, try knocking out one activity that serves one of these pillars each day, and see if that works for you. As a fellow productivity addict, I like to relax by doing activities that can give me a sense of accomplishment. I like photography, but I think any number of creative hobbies could work here – drawing or painting, pottery, gardening, playing an instrument, scrapbooking, origami, glass blowing, sewing, tie-dying, the possibilities are endless. Bottom line, it can be anything! Keep trying things and you’ll stumble across something that feels good eventually. You’ll probably learn, see and do a lot of cool shit in the meantime.

I think I need help, but I don’t want anyone to know.

“Hi Kira, first of all, can I just say I’m so glad a forum like this exists. I wish Dolly Doctor was still a thing (RIP print media, amirite?). I’ve been feeling strange for the last few months, and not like myself. I’m not sure when or why it started – nothing has happened to make me feel this way – so I feel guilty for feeling like I do. I don’t want my parents and friends to worry about me, so I’ve been trying to act as normal as possible. I don’t have a car, my mum usually pays for our doctor’s appointments, and we’ve had the same family GP forever. How can I talk to someone discreetly?”

I am living my real life Dolly Doctor fantasy right now and I really appreciate you calling that out. Thanks for writing in! Super proud of you for making the hard decision to reach out about what’s going on for you. You’re not alone, I can’t speak for anyone else but myself but my informed guess is that we are all feeling a bit out of sorts right now. It’s a weird time right now but there is never a bad time to check in with yourself about your own mental hygiene. Here is a list of free Australian mental health helplines that you can call to chat about how you are feeling.

Alternatively, you can set up a telehealth appointment with a different GP to discuss a mental health treatment plan, some of these will bulk bill too! Under Medicare, you can receive up to 10 rebated therapy sessions these can be with a practitioner of your choosing or your GP can assign you someone. Don’t be discouraged to reach out to people just because you aren’t able to pinpoint how you’re feeling. There is no shame in not feeling 100 per cent, or in just recognising that you might need some extra support. Good on your for taking the first step!

Kira’s new single ‘Idiot’ is out now and you can listen to it here. You can catch her performing as a special guest for Thelma Plum this November and December, tickets available here. Read the first instalment of Ask Kira here and the second instalment here

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