Hello again! So, I hadn’t planned on writing a blog post today, but considering it is World Mental Health Day, with the theme of Psychological First Aid, I couldn’t not talk about it. Particularly as the reason I started this blog in the first place is because I want to help break the stigma associated with mental health.
So because of this, I wanted to write a blog post talking about my own mental health, because something I strongly believe is that talking about mental health can help to break the stigma. I definitely feel (and this is just my opinion) that over the past few years, mental health has been covered a lot more in mainstream media, and people do seem to feel more able to talk about it. I don’t know if this is just because over this past year I’ve been looking into it more, so I see it more, or if it’s actually the case. I really hope it’s actually the case.
But even then, the fight is not over. The fact that people still feel ashamed (myself included sometimes) to talk about their mental health means that there is still more that can be done. We need everyone to talk about their mental health, whether you have suffered with any kind of mental health condition or not. We all need to take care of our mental health in the same way we need to take care of our physical health. And by talking about it, we open up a doorway to help each other to either get better, stay better, or at least know we are not alone.
So leading on from this, I would like to share a few ramblings about my own mental health, and things that I think can be done in the future to help other people :
- I’ve had anxiety my whole life and didn’t know it. Over this past year I have realised something about myself. I have been living with anxiety for the majority of my life and I never knew it. Because I didn’t know enough about anxiety before, to acknowledge it. I gave it excuses: I’m just a shy person, everyone overthinks things, I’m just exaggerating. I was convinced it was just me being silly sometimes, and the rest of it was all normal. The nervousness, nail-biting, irritability, sleepless nights; I gave them all excuses. It had never occurred to me that it was actually a condition that I could maybe get help for. It didn’t even cross my mind, and to a certain degree I just got used to it. I had a really happy childhood, and wouldn’t change a thing about it, but it is interesting to think back now at certain things and think “huh…that was my anxiety”. So because of this, I realise how important it is to talk about it.
- Understanding mental health is the key to getting help. Helping children from a young age could potentially make all the difference in the outcome of their lives. Children shouldn’t be sheltered from mental health issues and should be encouraged to talk about their emotions. If schools taught children from a young age that mental health is just as important as physical health then maybe children will start asking for help when they need it, because it’s entirely possible that a lot of children don’t even realise they need it at all.
- This past year has been one of the hardest of my life so far. Since starting University in September 2015, my life changed very rapidly, and it caused me to become very depressed. I suffered a very deep depression that I thought I would never escape from, and it was bloody horrible. Depression is something that is so difficult to explain, it’s more than just a feeling or emotion; it’s gut-wrenching, sickening, numbing. It feels physically impossible to explain the mental torment that went on in my mind when I was at my lowest point. And something I will never forget is how I was treated by the first doctor I spoke to about it.
- The right doctor can make a lot of difference. I’ve mentioned it on here before, but I think it’s extremely important to talk about, particularly on World Mental Health Day. My doctor at university told me that I was making myself depressed and I needed to help myself by leaving university. She let me leave her office sobbing. This reaction from doctors happens to way too many people and it needs to change now. It’s not okay. This is why we need to talk about it, we need to teach people and explain to people the right ways to treat each other. Certain doctors need to learn the right way to deal with mental health crises, because if handled incorrectly it can have devastating consequences. Because to be perfectly honest if it wasn’t for my friends and family I don’t know what I would have done.
- There are many different ways to treat mental health conditions. And none of them are inherently wrong (as long as they’re safe). Anti-depressants may not be for some people, but they may be a literal life-saver for others. I know too many people who have suffered the negative effects of the wrong tablet, but I also know people who couldn’t function the way they do today without them. Everyone’s body works differently, and it is very difficult to know how something will react. That’s why I think it’s important to not shame people for either decision, but rather support them no matter what. If someone decides to take some form of medication in order to help them, then it’s no-one else’s place to tell them it’s wrong. The same can be said for people who choose not to take tablets. It’s a personal decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and should be supported.
- I’m doing a lot better than I was this time last year. This is another personal one. Since leaving Exeter University in January I’ve had a long and confusing 8 or 9 months (although now that I think about it they haven’t seemed that long at all!). There have been filled with many good things as well as bad, but they’ve been hard! I’ve called 2016 my ‘gap year’ because I’ve learnt a lot about myself, and have done a lot of things I didn’t think I would be able to. As I sit here and type this I can genuinely say to you that I feel like I’m in a good place in my life. I feel mentally ‘stable’, and can finally feel genuine happiness; something I really thought I was starting to lose. There was no definitive point where I can say ‘that’s the day I stopped being depressed’. No, it’s a whole long process, and for some people it takes a lot longer than it did for me. With the help of my family, my therapist and a lot of taking care of myself, I can finally say I’ve escaped the darkness. At least for now, because I’m not naive enough to think that it’s gone forever. It might be, but it might rear it’s ugly head again one day.
So to end this post (that got a bit longer than I had intended) I want to say one thing: I’m not someone who says you can ‘think your way out of depression’ because in my opinion that is a very dangerous thing to tell people, and I personally feel that it’s just not true. But I do think that for some people it’s possible to get better, even just 10% better, if you get the help you need. Whatever help that might be! Whether it’s anti-depressants, time off work, travelling, moving back in with your parents, seeing a therapist, going to hospital-whatever you personally need. And that again, is why I think it’s so crucial to talk about it. If we don’t feel comfortable talking about it, how are we ever going to get help? Or help someone else? It just can’t happen if it’s still seen as a taboo subject. So I’ll end this post here. Hopefully if you read this today, you’ll share it or at least think about some of the things I’ve talked about.
Today is World Mental Health Day: Today is the day to do it. Talk to someone, ask for help, tell someone you love them, ask someone if they’re okay, make a doctor’s appointment, write a blog post, make a poster, shout it from the rooftops! Do whatever you need to do to get the word out. It’s okay to talk about mental health!
I hope this post gets to someone who might need it and I hope it hasn’t offended anyone in any way, as it’s just my take on things. If you relate to anything I’ve written, share this post with someone, and if you need help, please make sure you get it. There are some links on my blog to web pages that could be useful here.
Thanks again for reading.