Monday, 8 February 2016

We currently lack the vocabulary to deal with mental health issues..

Dear Reader,

How are you today?

When I ask you this question - and you do a quick reach into your memory for the answer - what do you consider?  Long-term health?  Injuries - minor or major? Short-term stomach or headache? Cold or cough?  Mood?

I'm asking for two reasons.  The first is because I'm being polite.  You might realise this and brush me off with a 'fine' or 'good', no matter how you feel.

The second is because I really care.  (I usually do).

In which case, I'm asking about your mental health as well as your physical.  For they are inextricably linked, of course.

If you doubt this, consider the research. For example, it is known that the colour of the pills we take affects the effectiveness of those pills at reducing pain - part of what is described as the placebo effect.  This is even culture specific - it has been suggested that with blue pills, which usually have a calming effect, the effect is reversed on Italian males because it happens to align with the colour of their national football team.  

Another example by anecdote:

"A builder aged 29 came to the accident and emergency department having jumped down on to a 15 cm nail. As the smallest movement of the nail was painful he was sedated with fentanyl and midazolam. The nail was then pulled out from below. When his boot was removed a miraculous cure appeared to have taken place. Despite entering proximal to the steel toecap the nail had penetrated between the toes: the foot was entirely uninjured."

"So the way pain really works is much more complicated, interesting, and in some ways useful. A nerve should never be call a “pain” nerve. It doesn’t detect “pain.” It only detects some kind of stimulus in the tissue … and the brain decides what to make of it, how to feel about it, and what to do about it, if anything."  (from

So - your mind and body are very much connected when it comes to pain.  If you are, as I am, a migraine sufferer (or migraineur, to use a more neutral term) you will also know this.  Stress undoubtedly causes migraines.

So. Imagine I have asked you how you are, and you can be reasonably sure I am waiting for an honest answer (because I care).  You feel...well...funny.  Uncomfortable.  Odd.  A knot in your stomach. A weird pain in your chest.  You think it's emotional.  It might be because you had that strained conversation at work today about a project you don't feel fully invested in, or you've been drinking too much coffee and your brain is butterflying around; it might be that you feel hormonal and emotional but can't put your finger on why, or lonely even whilst surrounded by people.

Some of these things, and many, many more, we just don't have the words to describe concisely.

So, I propose some additions to our beautiful language.  Some I have poached and some I have simply plucked from my own imagination:

1.  Inexplumfortable (adj): you feel uncomfortable, but don't know why
2.  Lingeroneiroi: (noun) the feeling of strangeness because you had an unsettling dream that you can't shake
3. Greng-jai (Thai) (noun) you feel like you would rather someone not do something for you because it makes you feel like a burden to them
3. Endocrinslavement (noun): You feel full of hormones and that they are dictating your behaviour
4. Etiré (French) (adjective):You feel overwhelmed by other people's demands on you
5. Iktsuarpok (Inuit) (noun) :The feeling of of disquieting anticipation, waiting for someone to arrive or something to happen.
6. Packesel (German) (noun): you are the person carrying everyone else's burden at the moment.
7. Toska (Russian) (noun): the feeling of spiritual anguish, of yearning, without a specific cause
8. Saudade (Portuguese) (noun): the feeling of grief and longing for someone who is lost to you
9. Torschlusspanik (German) (noun): the feeling of panic because opportunities are diminishing and you need to make a decision
10.Dépaysement (French) (noun): the feeling of being a fish out of water, out of your comfort zone

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