I’ve ummed and ahhed about whether to post this now but then I was just like, why the hell not?
Some of it might sound harsh but it’s all based on my own experience and opinion (and for some of it, I really don’t think I’m alone in thinking that) .
I think it sometimes takes someone with the level of mental health lived experience to ‘get it’ of what you’re going through. If you haven’t experienced a mental health problem then it’s difficult to understand what is happening or going on with someone struggling with mental illness. They can’t just (omg hate the following two terms) “snap out of it” or “pull themselves/yourself together” . It doesn’t work like that, there’s not a magic button in my body that I can press to get rid of all the fucking shit going on inside my head. Just because you don’t see anything physical doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist!
Leads me on nicely to the next bit – mental illness can cause physical symptoms as well – headaches from holding yourself tense, tiredness, aching and tense muscles, lack of motivation, that kind of stuff.
It doesn’t make me less of a person having anxiety or depression. And more recently post traumatic stress disorder (not fully diagnosed but likely – I’ll get to it later).
Your hilarious comments about people that have mental health problems or mental illnesses after going on an awareness course for mental health at work… Yeah really funny isn’t it, someone internally struggling mentally who isn’t coping . Sometimes I can’t remember things, I am sometimes overwhelmed. Some days are all too much, others are great. Just because I have a mental illness, doesn’t mean I can’t do my job as well as anyone else. In fact, some aspects of my job I’m actually better at BECAUSE of my illness.
The above rant was because I heard some inappropriate comments at work the other day from people that had supposedly taken a mental health awareness course, and regardless of that, should know better. The stigma and discrimination those of us with mental illness is, in places improving, however in a lot of industries, there’s a hell of lot of stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness, even stuff like phoning in sick if my anxiety is too much, sometimes you don’t know the reaction you’ll get. Even writing this, knowing what happened after I told my line manager about my anxiety, with what followed, with the gaslighting and emotional abuse, it just shows how much of an issue that is faced.
For anyone stigmatising, I really hope you don’t ever have to go through what I have to go through on a daily basis, what I’ve fought through in the past few years, what many many others have coped and not coped and struggle and fight with daily. Anxiety isn’t something I can just switch off on command, or take off like a piece of clothing and put away. It’s there, it’s constant. It’s like permanent stage fright, like a constant adrenaline fix, constantly on alert.
Now. The post traumatic stress. I’ve not actually had a confirmed diagnosis of it , but I’ve had symptoms. Cause – gaslighting over a prolonged period. Stuff like intrusive thoughts of what happened, flashbacks – these are horrid , both of which cause real, intense anxiety when they happen, intense anxiety when I see people that resemble the abuser. Things like that are the erm…. Current status.
Oh yeah. Besides all of that. If any of you regular readers remember, I’m also a Time to Change Champion, which, in brief, means that I have lived experience of a mental health problem. So I’m really enjoying doing things associated with that and here is a link to a recent radio interview I did with our Time to Change Coordinator
I also recently went to see “Reasons to Stay Alive” (can’t remember if this was mentioned in a previous post, apologies if so) on stage last month. Incredible, a lot of things were very close but needed to be said. We have to talk about mental illness and mental health. No one ever died from talking about mental health, but too many have from feeling like they couldn’t talk.
I guess the above is why I and a lot of fantastic others are doing what we do with Time to Change, trying to get people to see that we aren’t dangerous, scary or any other words that have been thrown at mental illness in the past and present . We just have an illness that affects our chemicals in our brain – you can’t see it, but why are we going to fake depression/schizophrenia/anxiety/bipolar? They, and other mental illnesses are bloody awful to go through. Respect someone when they tell you they are struggling with this, it usually means they feel safe with you.
It’s coming up to Christmas and a lot of people, including myself, can struggle around this time of year. It can be because of the shorter, darker days (seasonal affective disorder) , it can be because of the pressures from society where everyone (not) is getting together with family etc for Christmas and all the “perfect” Instagram and Facebook photos are doing the rounds, making you feel like complete shit, that you are somehow different or inferior, when a lot of the time it’s not a realistic reflection of the truth. Christmas isn’t all smiles and happy, its sometimes awkward silences, drunk rows, inappropriate comments. You don’t see that on telly. For me, as well as the problem of seasonal affective disorder, I hate hate hate Christmas shopping. My anxiety doubles from its ‘normal’ baseline when I have to go out into town at Christmas time. The crowds, the noise, the crushing and squashing. People seem to turn into absolute arseholes too, barging and no respect for personal space!!
I usually cope by working as normal, only going into town where I need to and where I do, going in early when it’s less busy, and I have been organised for once and done my shopping early. I keep in touch with friends, time with family, writing (planning something else alongside this blog as we speak), and a bit of photography – example below 🙂
Speaking of the arts, I recently enjoyed an event named “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know” which was something I wouldn’t normally go to, as it was a poetry event. However I decided that I’d try it, one to push outside my comfort zone, and two, as it was organised by a fellow Time to Change Champion. It featured different poets , all of who have lived experience of mental illness. The content was excellent, with some poems really resonating.