Don’t roll your eyes just yet.
I admit that the title might sound a bit daft, especially considering the nature of this blog. I know you might be thinking that I’m expecting the world and his wife to sit around in a circle and talk about how depressed they are. I’m not. That’s not the point of this post.
When I started talking about my mental health, especially in work, I was amazed to find so many other people who were living with similar things. I didn’t feel so crazy anymore, I didn’t feel so alone. More importantly people’s reactions have left me feeling accepted in a way I’ve never really felt.
Now when I say talk, I don’t mean pouring out all your thoughts and feelings to colleagues who aren’t interested. I don’t mean telling them the darkest things that have happened to you or going into gross detail about the way things are affecting your body. You do need to talk about those things yes, but just maybe not with the world.
When I say we need to talk about mental health, I mean we need to start being more open and honest about our experiences. We need to demistify some of the taboos for those normal folk out there. If we talked more openly, the big awkward elephant in the room would become just another piece of furniture.
I’m not ashamed of my mental health. It’s part of me. Part of who I am. For this reason I have a mostly open and honest policy about it. (Hence the blog.) I’ve been through depressive lows that have made me want to kill myself and anger that has made me hurt myself. I’ve gone through manic stages that have led to extreme reactions. I’ve had fear that has kept me shut in one room afraid to open the door. I’ve had joy that’s made me tremble and shake, made my words come out so fast it sounds like I’ve taken something.
I’m happy to talk about all of those experiences, especially if it makes someone else feel less alone, feel more understood or just helped.
I know that other people aren’t so open, happy or confident to talk about it.
Even now, in this day and age, there’s a big stigma around mental health. Even people with it can be harsh towards those suffering. If people aren’t treating you with kid gloves, afraid you’ll break into a million pieces they’re accusing you of trying to getting attention. Or in the worst case avoiding you altogether.
What’s worse is that as a sufferer you know all this. You know how people are reacting because maybe you’ve reacted that way before yourself. There are of course people who do use their situations for attention, that’s not exclusive to mental health. People can be arseholes whether they’re fit and healthy or on their deathbeds.
Talking about mental health seems to be this big taboo and in my opinion it’s because it’s hard to hear about. Especially from someone you care about. It’s not really something people can help with.
With a physical illness people can do physical things to help. Ease pain, carry things, fluff pillows. They can do little things to help in some small way ease the hurt. With mental illness they can’t. You can’t fight the demons inside someone else’s head.
That’s heartbreaking and incredibly frustrating.
Which is why I think it’s even more important that we need to have more open and honest discussions about mental health. I think we need to encourage people to share their fears.
We need to educate each other, we need to understand that anxiety is not just sitting in a corner terrified, that depression is not just being sad, that OCD is not just being incredibly clean, that personality disorders are not talking to yourself. We need to understand that when your mentally ill you can’t just pull yourself out of it. Perhaps more important than simply needing to be educated is keeping an open mind. Of course no one is going to know everything about mental health, just like people aren’t expected to know everything about religion, sexuality, race. Being open minded and open to learning though will go far.
It’s only when we start to have this openness that people will start to feel they can talk more about what they’ve been through. People will start feeling like they can open up. People might not feel so isolated and might not get to a point drastic action, whatever it may be,vseems like the only open.
You shouldn’t be ashamed of having a mental illness. You shouldn’t feel bad for asking questions and educating yourself.
Most importantly though you shouldn’t be ashamed to talk or afraid to ask for help.