(TW: Mental health, depression, anxiety, paranoia, bipolar, hearing voices, name calling, self harm)
Ill mental health is a funny thing; it affects everyone in such different ways, for such different reasons.
Personally mine at the moment is focused on the anxiety and low moods. I am anxious all of the time, paranoid that the next thing I say will be taken wrong, or that everyone is looking at me funny, I am annoying, people can’t stand me, nobody wants me around, I don’t fit in. I get stuck in a rut. The thoughts go through my head over and over, taunting me. I know that this is just a part of my mental health condition but I can’t help but wonder what if? What if that wasn’t just my head telling me she looked at me funny? What if he really did wish I wasn’t there at that point? What if they were pissed off with me still talking? The constant battle trying to work out what is my head and what is reality.
It makes things impossible sometimes. I don’t know if it is worth talking to anyone, I just feel like I am going to be a waste of their time and I clam up. It is horrible. I hate it and I wish I didn’t suffer from this. I am on medication, but it doesn’t make everything better, not yet anyway.
Why am I saying all of this? Well firstly the obvious, this is my blog and I feel like writing about my mental health so I am going to write about it!
But there is another reason. This is the reason I helped start Free Your Mind. It’s the reason I have been so vocal about mental health in general for so long. It doesn’t go away if you ignore it.
Think about how often people take days off school or work. Think about how often when people are off they get a ‘Get Well Soon’ card. Now think about how often those taking a day off for mental health get anything more than a ‘Cheer Up’ or ‘Smile, it will be okay!’. Would you tell someone with a broken leg to just start walking, it’ll make it better? Of course not. That would be avoiding the problem and making it worse.
Ill mental health works in the same way as any other medical issue. It doesn’t just go away. Clinically depressed people don’t suddenly start feeling better because they put on a smile one day. It isn’t easy to talk about, simply due to the nature of it. It is hidden, you can’t tell by looking at someone that they are depressed, you can’t tell that they hear voices by glancing in their direction, or even having a small chat with them. This stuff is hidden. But it doesn’t have to be like that all of the time.
Mental health is hidden because people do not feel able to talk about it. Yes, some of that can be down to the conditions themselves – they can make it worse and make the sufferer feel unable to speak about their worries, I know this because I face this issue daily. But it can also be down to the reactions. I mention above about ‘get well soon’ cards. How often do you ask someone how they are really feeling? In Britain we have a way of saying we are doing well all of the time. It is seen as rude to some people to drone on about your life, “Hey, how are you?” “Oh I am good thanks, how about you?” “I am fine thanks yeah.” Such a common thing to hear we have become desensitised to it.
What would happen if someone replied with a longer response? “Oh not too good, my mental health hasn’t been great lately and I am really struggling to leave the house at the moment.” I wish it wasn’t the case, but often this can be met with resentment. ‘Why did I need to know all of that?’ ‘I was just being polite, I don’t need to know that.’ I remember as a child being told it was frustrating. People didn’t need to know the ins and outs. Honestly? I can respect that. Not everyone can deal with being told everything, not everyone feels able to cope with it. But it is attitudes like these that can worsen the ability to talk about ill mental health.
I won’t list them. We can all think of a dozen names off of the top of our heads when it comes to name calling. It is a horrible thing that can be experienced by people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and class. Anyone can be the victim.
The thing is, mental health has the same catchment. Anyone can be affected. Here I mean those who are being called names, and those who are around them. You could be there with your best friend, insulting somebody at work, telling your friend how you think they are “absolutely crazy,” and how “you’d think they were bipolar by the way they act”. You might not think anything of it.
But what if your friend is coming to terms with their mental health and they have just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder? What if they are concerned they may have ill mental health themselves? Have you ever thought about those around you before making a joke? Before making an offhand comment? Think harder. 1 in 4 people is a lot.
Another issue? People always think they have the right solution to mental health, and don’t think about how you know you can be helped.
I have suffered from depression for a long time. I have built up techniques that can help me. It used to be that my only coping strategy was self-harm. I hated it, but it helped me. Now, I find quidditch helps. I find staying in bed and reading a book, going on facebook, blogging all help. I have various coping mechanisms and you will find that a lot of people with ill mental health have their own. They may not always be healthy to the outside eye, but sometimes this is what the person needs in order to battle their inner daemons.
Too often people on the outside are quick to suggest solutions to ‘make it all go away’. Unfortunately? It is not that simple. Trust me on this one. Unless someone directly asks you for help on how to cope with something, or how to distract their mind, do not offer advice willynilly. Unless you are a medical practitioner, and in charge of their care, chances are you may not know the best thing for them anyway. You don’t know what has been tried before, you don’t know what could have triggered them in the past. Sometimes they just need you to stand there and listen.
Have you ever been to the doctor, wondering if they will tell you that your worries are unfounded? That you are over thinking something? Have you ever checked with a friend, said “Hey, my knee is pretty swollen, do you think maybe I should get it checked out?” Sure, it doesn’t happen every time. Often you know that you can go and you can speak about this. Broken legs are seen all the time, it’s not like you’d have to hide it away after.
But mental health isn’t. I have spoken to hundreds of people with mental health issues over the years and one thing I always here is that they wish they knew how to reach out to people. How to tell them that they are not okay. One reason I am leaving university is I felt stuck in that position so often with my course. I felt unable to say hey, I need some help. I am really struggling. I needed sometimes not to have to make up a physical alignment in order to explain my mental reasons for absence from class.
I won’t talk much more on this topic tonight, it is difficult to cover and I know this is not going to be the last of what I say on the matter. All I want to leave you with is a few images.
Mental health stigma is horrible. It needs to be removed. Please don’t be someone who adds to it. Start up a conversation. Mention mental health, say you read this post if it helps. Bring up the topic. Get some thoughts going. You never know, someone may need help to bring it up. They may need someone to lend an ear. Be there for someone, you never know when ill mental health could impact your life.