This is a tricky one to write, which is exactly why I feel I need to do it. It’s definitely not for pity, it’s just something I genuinely feel very strongly about. Writing has always been cathartic for me, so I decided that I need to talk about it.
Why is it so hard to say when you’re not well, mentally? It feels like an admission of guilt. Even in 2017, with far more widespread discussion of the subject than ever before, it still feels like something dirty or nasty that you shouldn’t be speaking out loud. Once, I broke my leg, and I’m quite happy to tell you about it (it’s actually a funny story, but that’s one for another day). I’m lactose intolerant and have psoriasis on my scalp, none of which are exactly glamorous, yet I’d far rather talk about that than anything to do with my brain. Heck, I’m even more comfortable talking about the (thankfully benign) lump in my breast I found last year than sharing my mental diagnoses.
I’ve suffered from depression, and been treated for it over a series of years. I suffer from anxiety, something that I deal with on a daily basis. More recently, and the one that’s been the real kicker – I’ve started treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder. The quite frustrating thing is that I didn’t realise what it was and so ignored it for far longer than I could have done. I rather naively thought OCD involved counting street numbers and not stepping on certain paving slaps and washing your hands a million times a day and being neat and tidy. That is sadly a reality for some people, but the disorder is far broader than that. It turns out there is a massive, frustrating stigma of generalisation out there and online, to the point where it covers up the real issues that many people face, which in turn makes it less known and less understood.
I thought it was just a bit of the anxiety I’d grown used to showing it’s ugly head when I’m convinced every morning that my house has caught fire because I left the oven, toaster and my curling wand on. I thought it was normal to just have to nip back inside from the car to triple check the back door was locked, you know, I’m just being cautious right? When you’ve driven ten minutes down the road but have to turn the car around because even though you saw the oven was off, it might have switched itself on and everything you love will burn if you don’t go back. Having to set your alarm earlier to get up and ready in the mornings, to allow enough time to double, triple, quadruple check that everything is safe, to eventually make it out of the house, but not without an unpleasant feeling of unease. Thankfully, I’m now realising that not everyone feels sick until lunchtime that your loved ones are trapped in a burning house, and that you don’t necessarily always have to feel that way.
Again, I’m not telling you this for pity, I wanted to share. It’s hard to talk about, so yeah, let’s talk about it. As a teenager, in the midst of a fairly tricky situation involving A levels and a recent diagnoses of ME/CFS, it was fairly difficult to accept diagnoses of depression and anxiety, to the point where I couldn’t say the ‘d’ word out loud. I still can’t sometimes. I understand that personal issues are difficult to talk about, but I still don’t really understand why mental health is such a difficult subject to speak about out loud. It is however getting easier. More people are talking, and I’m so grateful for everyone with a platform and a voice to speak out who is using it to share their experiences, every single story shared makes the whole thing that little bit more normal, moving ever so slightly closer to it becoming more of an accepted subject.
Not talking about mental health isn’t just a problem when it comes to sharing your story though. Not talking about it makes it harder to realise, recognise, understand and accept, which in turn delays and postpones treatments making things harder for those suffering. I am very lucky that I have a close unit that I can talk to about how I’m feeling, but even with that took me months and months before I realised that what was going on in my brain would require some extra help. If we talked openly about our thoughts, feelings and minds, it would be easier to spot when something isn’t right. In today’s world and climate, it’s become normal and accepted to feel stressed, mentally exhausted, worried and down. Yes, these are all emotions that are part of life and being an adult in our society, but it’s not normal for them to overrule. If this all sounds too familiar then I implore you to please, talk to someone. Talk to a friend, family member, or better yet your GP or Doctor. If your daily life is being affected by your mind not feeling right, it’s just as much an issue as any other medical problem. You wouldn’t accept if your leg wasn’t working properly for 4 months, you’d get it checked. If you’d had a stomach ache every day for 6 months, chances are you’d see someone to do something about it. You should be doing this for your mind too.
So please, if you feel you need it, call someone. Talk to someone. Book that appointment. Speak out, and don’t keep it to yourself.
So that’s my two cents on the matter, and this is just me letting you know where I’m at. An explanation if I’m struggling to write or get words out, as with all mental issues and the joys of new medication, brain fog runs rife and writing gets difficult. I’m still here though, and will be back as and when I can. Thank you for reading.