Ok, this post is a bit more serious but I’ve been wanting to write about this for months because it’s so important to me and constantly niggles away at me daily. Please remember that these are my opinions and you may not agree with some or any of them. If you do, fab, lets chat MH.
Also, writing about mental health DOES NOT in any way mean that you are attention seeking. This opinion of such close minded people makes me furious. Sharing your thoughts and story can seriously help people which is what everybody wants. It can also help people in your life understand you a bit more which may seem such a small thing but by educating them, gives individuals a much clearer understanding and positive attitude towards mental health.
Every single day, you either read or hear somewhere, that more and more people are suffering from some sort of mental health illness. In fact, one in four of us will be affected by mental illness in any year. Today, it is being talked about more often in news reports and the media and people are becoming more open about mental health illnesses and are more likely to share their stories than before. However, the stigma surrounding mental health STILL exists and personally, I believe this can worsen an individuals state when suffering. Just because some people are beginning to open up, doesn’t mean that there’s is not so many others that are suffering in silence.
I wanna start with the basics. The word STIGMA is defined as ‘a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.’ Just by putting this word against the term ‘mental health’ makes me so so so angry.
Even without mentioning your own experience of mental health, if you just touch on the subject as a whole, you get such a range of different reactions. Talking about mental health is so important and the attitude you have towards it can really change how society deals with it. I mean, obviously, not one single positive attitude to mental health illnesses is going to change how it is handled, but if people change their attitudes and approach it positively as a whole, then together we can all make a difference.
I can completely understand why people feel awkward talking about mental health and if somebody opens up to them they can feel completely useless and very uncomfortable. It can be difficult to deal with and sometimes you just don’t know what to say. But I’ll touch on that later. Moreover, this NEEDS to change.
My own personal experience of trying to get help hasn’t been that great to be honest. And I’m someone who never complains about a service, let alone our health service. And this post isn’t a rant on the inefficiencies of our health care professionals, I know fine and well all doctors, nurses and anyone in the field, work their arses off for us, every single day. It’s just the system and lack of funding that really frustrates me.
I have suffered from anxiety and depression for just over two years now. At the time, I was in complete denial and refused to believe there was something wrong with me. The most important thing I know now, is there is nothing ‘wrong’ about suffering from a mental health illness. It is called an illness for a reason.
I cancelled so many appointments I had made to talk about how I was feeling and it wasn’t until my flatmate at the time dragged me out of bed and told me enough was enough. I needed help.
Anyway, 2 years on, I have the most fantastic GP who completely understands me and my way of thinking. I’m one of the lucky people who has been fortunate enough to build a good relationship with someone that can help. But anyone who suffers from any kind of mental health illness, knows that sometimes our silly little brains tells us having supportive people around us still isn’t enough.
I never realised things had been building up again to such a point where I felt that there were no options left for me. Sometimes it’s hard to realise that your mind is going out of control. That’s the thing about depression, sometimes you have no idea you’re rapidly spiraling downwards and you have absolutely no control.
April 2016 was my turning point. I’m not going to tell the story of my turning point because I believe that to some people, that could be a trigger. And that is not my purpose whatsoever. I want to raise awareness not make the problem worse.
A few months beforehand, I had recently come out of a serious relationship which is hard for anyone. But I was near the end of my undergraduate dissertation so I knew that I had to push the breakup and heartache to one side and power through and stay on track to get this degree under my belt. How completely wrong was I?! I did manage to cope through the dissertation and managed to get it finished and was so proud of my work but, I had completely ignored my emotional well being.
I felt like everything was happening all at once. Now that I had pretty much finished my degree, I had a lot more spare time. And everyone knows, spare time = mind overload. My recent heartbreak began to creep up on me and I had no idea what to do. I cried and cried and cried which is normal for anyone going through a break up but I just didn’t know what to do.
Because I was almost a graduate, I was going to have to move out and find my own place, and a job. Finding a job was my main priority. I spent everyday applying for jobs and hadn’t managed to get anything. It was starting to get me down.
I honestly had no clue what to do with myself and all my spare time, so whenever anyone suggested a night out, I would jump at the idea. I was going out 3 nights a week and effectively, drowning my sorrows. I felt like since I had no job and no classes to attend, I had no reason to get up in the morning. It was horrendous and it makes me feel so sad looking back and seeing how low I was.
As I said, I’m not going into details but one night, I couldn’t take it anymore and that’s when everything turned around.
It was how that was dealt with that still shocks me. I was analysed and asked a million and one questions by a psychiatrist at the hospital who told me ‘there’s nothing wrong with you, you just have emotional issues.’ Firstly, I find it really difficult to open up to people and it takes me a long time to trust, so opening up to her took a lot for me and to be told there was nothing wrong with me, it felt like, excuse my vulgarity, but it felt like she had shat all over me. Secondly, her telling me there was nothing wrong with me, made me convinced I was making it up. That’s when I really thought I was going crazy. That wasn’t a very enjoyable experience as you can imagine, but a doctor I was referred to recommended my personal GP to give a second opinion, as he had known me for over 2 years and the psychiatrist who analysed me had known me for 10 minutes.
I’m not even sure what to write without sounding ungrateful and sounding as if the system failed me. My GP was absolutely furious with how I had been treated as he said it could have triggered me even more. He dealt with that side of things and tried his utmost hardest to get me an emergency appointment with someone who could help. I was still feeling pretty low that I didn’t think anything else would actually help. Tbh, I had tried everything before, medication, counselling and classes but absolutely nothing had worked for me. I wanted to get better more than anything in the whole world, there’s honestly nothing I had ever wanted more. I just knew that I couldn’t go on feeling so low every day of my life.
So, shock horror, I was put on a 12 week waiting list, that turned into 16 weeks. I mean, 12 weeks is a long time to do some proper damage to yourself. What if you weren’t as fortunate as I was and literally couldn’t wait that long? It happens ya know. TWELVE weeks. Sorry but this really does need emphasised. One day of feeling low can really deteriorate your mental health so imagine what 12 weeks of that would feel like if you were low every single one of these days.
I absolutely hate having a bad opinion on something but honestly, how can you not? Seven out of ten specialist nurses caring for the growing number of young people struggling with mental health problems believe that NHS services are insufficient (The Guardian, 2016.) This area is so underfunded and something is going to have to be done pronto. Easier said than done, I know.
If that’s what the nurses think then how do you think a sufferer feels? I bet if you’ve personally suffered from a mental health illness when you’ve thought about getting help you’ve said to yourself at least once, ‘Is there actually any point? No one will do anything about it.’
So then you’re back to square one. Suffering in silence. Which makes you feel even worse and even more isolated. It’s so hard to live a somewhat ‘normal’ life when the thought of even leaving the house tears you apart.
I rarely talk about my MHI as I always feel judged. I feel judged in the way that people will go silent if I even use the word anxious or low and end up finding it difficult to talk to me. I completely understand why it would be awkward for someone who has never suffered from a MHI to understand what is going on in someone’s head, but I think it’s about time that we stopped ignoring how big of a problem it’s really getting. This is the first time I’ve openly talked about being effected by a mental health illness so it has taken so much balls to post this. But now I know that it most definitely won’t be the last time I post.
Personally, I believe that everyone should be more educated in the topic of mental health. They should roll out courses in the curriculum in schools. They teach you about sex education and drugs, so why not educate pupils on mental health?
I know that much more needs done, not just in schools but in the work place too and everyday life. I’ll save that for another time.
We need to change people’s attitude to mental health and stamp out stigma for good!
Sorry for ranting, it’s been building up for a while. But a massive shout out to the very few friends and my little family for sticking by me through everything and being there through the times I’ve needed them the most.
Everyone has their own story and demons and not everyone shows they’re struggling. Be patient and kind with every human you meet. And always remember, it’s absolutely ok not to be ok! But I promise you, this too will pass!