A little off topic from my normal posts but as today is World Mental Health Day. I wanted to share my thoughts.
Mental illness can happen to anyone, it is not prejudiced with who it decides to strike. Yet why is there still so much stigma, discrimination and lack of understanding around it?
According to Mind, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, and in England 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.
So that means you more than likely know someone who is suffering, or who has suffered with some sort of mental health issue. The thing is because people don’t feel like they can talk about it openly you may have no idea who that is.
So do I tell you a secret or do I hide behind my facade? How many of you would know that I suffer daily with anxiety, depression, agoraphobia and panic disorder? The truth is my illness has cost me friendships and a job I loved. One of the reasons for losing friends not just because some got tired of my excuses of not going out, but I pushed people away. I was ashamed of who I am and what battle I was going through. The sad truth is it is in that time I needed my friends the most.
Not everyone with a problem will fit the stereotype, but like I already said most will be those around you who you would have no idea. The type who are putting on make-up through tears because they do not want to leave the haven that is their home, but have to fulfil responsibilities. The type that smile and laugh and join in conversations but inside are cringing and want to curl up in a ball. The type that post to social media making it sound like they are #winning at life. (Yes I have done all of those and more!)
There is something very difficult about admitting to the world that you have problems with your mental health, and yet I have no problems saying I have asthma. If I had a broken leg I wouldn’t hide it. It would be in plain sight, people would see and offer the appropriate sympathy. It’s exhausting trying to hide it, but better that then have the fear of what others might think. I mean I already tell myself I’m weak, I’m a failure, I’m not good enough. Surely that’s what others think too. I think the hardest thing for a friend or loved one is knowing what to say to someone who is struggling, you want to say something right, but unless you have truly been in the depths of dark depression you will not know what the right thing to say it, hell I’ve been there and yet I struggle to find the right words to comfort a friend or loved one. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know, letting them know you are there is all you need to do.
I’m really rambling now, I really wish I could articulate this better but I want to finish with one thing (OK maybe 2)
Do not judge anyone. You have no idea what they are going through or what battles they have gone through just to get out the front door. Just be kind, always! It costs absolutely nothing to be kind and yet it is worth so much more to someone who is in desperate need of that kindness. I cannot tell you the difference one text or one genuine “how are you?” can make to someone suffering and feeling alone, I’m not being dramatic when I say it could be the difference between life and death.
Lastly to those of you reading who can relate or are going through it, it does get easier, learn to take one day at a time, hour by hour if need be and be kind to yourself, always. Please if you haven’t done so already reach out and ask for help, whether that be your GP, partner, or the Samaritans. Despite what people may think, it IS an illness and it can be treated. It may be a long road but you will get there. You are not alone. Find things you enjoy doing, avoid social media and the comparison that comes with that, and surround yourself with people who love you. Rest! Get plenty of it and don’t (unlike me) feel guilty for doing so. Would you feel bad for resting if you had the flu??
It is OK to not be OK you are not a failure, you are not alone you are loved and very much valued.
Some useful numbers:
Samaritans – for everyone Tel: 116 123
Childline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number won’t show up on your phone bill
The Silver Line – for older people
Call 0800 4 70 80 90
(I struggle to open up and share things as personal as this, I have debated posting this or not, but I hope by doing so I can help at least someone feel like they’re not alone, and maybe if you know me in real life somethings will now make sense.)