Follow me:

Mental Health – The Taboo That Needs Breaking

I’ve written, deleted and re-written this post over and over again; I just don’t seem to be able to find the right words.  I don’t want it to sound patronising and I don’t want to sound ‘preachy’.  It’s such a sensitive subject and it can be so difficult to find the right tone.  But, I’ve decided this time I’m just going to write it from the heart and hope it comes across in the way that it’s meant.

I want to talk to you about mental health.

Mental heath conditions are really common – 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health issue in the space of a year – but somehow it’s still a taboo and not something people are comfortable, or know how to, talk about.

Quite often, when people talk about mental health, immediately the connotations are the most serious and dangerous kinds – psychopathy, schizophrenia etc., but there are so many other types which are tarred with this negative brush and the sufferers are alienated.  This alienation is often unintentional and just a natural human reaction to something we don’t understand or fear.  It’s the “bury your head in the sand” thing.

So, what counts as a mental illness?  The below are just a few of those listed on the MIND website:

Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Bipolar Disorder
Depression (including Postnatal)
Anger
Self Harming
Personality Disorder
Paranoia
Low Self-Esteem
Body Dysmorphia
Loneliness
Sleep Problems
Psychopathic Experiences
Addiction
Phobias
Stress
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Schizophrenia
Suicidal Feelings
Eating Disorders
Hallucinations and/or Hearing Voices
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

I was surprised to find things like low self esteem, stress, phobias and loneliness on there, I have to admit, however, I can understand how extremes of these could be extremely damaging to the mind and therefore considered a mental illness.

The purpose of this post, I guess, is really to say that mental illnesses are all around us, affecting people in our everyday lives and – quite often – you won’t know the battle their fighting inside their own heads.  Because of the stigma sufferers will quite often keep it to themselves for fear of people judging them; this in turn can only add to their woes.

Within my personal life I have experience of some mental disorders from both friends and family.  I’ve come into contact with depression, post traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, stress, anxiety/panic attacks and OCD.  I’m incredibly lucky in that in each of these cases, I’ve seen the people I love overcome them and come out the other side, although the journey may not have been smooth.

I have never really suffered with a mental disorder of my own – I suffered with depression aged 13 when I dropped out of school after being bullied, and I can have a few OCD tendencies, but I think everybody does in some way or other – we’ve all got our little quirks. (edit: I don’t consider genuine OCD to be ‘a quirk’ – I’m referring to the little habits a lot of us have that have been taken into the mainstream as being called OCD when they are not – I myself had OCD which is now more or less under control)   I don’t really remember the time period in which I had depression; there’s whole chunks of it I’ve forgotten totally, including a family holiday (absolutely don’t remember a thing!)  All I do remember is that I felt like I was living in a bubble; the real world was going along outside but it was all toned down – the sound, the colours, everything – it was just dull and grey.

I can’t tell you what made me come out of my depression, it’s almost like one day I woke up and was okay.  I know it can’t have been as easy as that and it must have been a long process, but the only thing I remember if feeling helpless and useless, then feeling fine again.  I’m not sure what happened in between.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I’ve tried writing this so many times over the past day or so and have kept giving up because I couldn’t find the right words.  Everything I say seems to sound patronising and that isn’t the way it’s meant at all, so I’m just going to write the next bit and hope for the best…

If you are suffering with a mental disorder and feel like you’re alone, please don’t.  You aren’t alone.  There are people out there willing to listen if you need to talk, to let you cry on their shoulder or rant about what’s hurting you.  There are organisations able to offer support and medical professionals who can give you guidance on the best way forward.

You are NOT alone.  NEVER feel alone.

And if somebody you love is suffering?  I know it’s hard to watch and you can feel like you want to scream and shout at them, to force them into getting better or finding help, but that isn’t always the best way forward.  For a lot of people with a mental condition, they need to be in the right frame of mind to begin their recovery and when they find the strength within them, they WILL make the relevant steps themselves.  Being patient can be hard and you will hurt but all you can ever do is to support them, love them and let them know you care about them.  You can’t fix them, all you can do is stand in the wings and wait for them to feel ready.

Sadly, sometimes mental disorders progress to a point where the individual feels there is no way out, so they take the only way out they can think of.  It’s absolutely heart breaking and those left behind will have questions which can never be answered, but (and this is near on impossible, I know) you can’t blame yourself.

If you or someone you love is dealing with any of these issues, you are not alone.  You can contact any of the groups below for assistance, guidance and help, you can also find more useful numbers (including those for abuse and other helplines) over on this blog post by Kellie at Big Fashionista.

0300 123 3393
The Samaritans  www.samaritans.org
08457 90 90 90
NHS Direct  www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk
0845 4647
Please don’t suffer alone.
LilliesandLove  xx
Follow me:
Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | BlogLovin | Google+

I’m Giving Up Things I Love Every Month in 2014 To Raise Money
for Cancer Research UK & Macmillan – Read More and Sponsor Me Here

Previous Post Next Post

You may also like

6 Comments

  • Reply Anonymous

    Very well and thoughtful piece. We all need to realise that we can talk to someone, even if thats a stranger.

    January 12, 2014 at 1:02 pm
    • Reply Penny LilliesandLove

      Thank you, I found this really hard to write and to find the right balance. You’re so right, there are strangers out there who are willing and able to help carry your burden as their hearts are so big they have room for more than just the people they already know. I hope that in the years to come mental health becomes more accepted and the help needed more accessible xx

      January 12, 2014 at 3:21 pm
  • Reply Anonymous

    I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, but you’ve made some massive mistakes. “Loneliness” and “low self esteem” are not mental illnesses. They might be symptoms or side effects of actual illnesses, but they themselves are not. They are not listed in the DSM; therefore they are not mental illnesses.

    You also describe yourself as having “OCD tendencies”. What does that mean? Liking things in order, or other things people associate with the illness, is not even remotely the same as actually having OCD. And you describe OCD has being a “little quirk”. I can assure you that living with OCD is more than having a fun little habit like wanting your books to be colour coordinated or something twee and cute. People often say “I’m so OCD!” and it’s a completely disrespectful appropriation of the real issues people have.

    Maybe best to leave it to professionals or to people who are living with mental illness to write about it.

    January 12, 2014 at 3:31 pm
    • Reply Penny LilliesandLove

      I appreciate your comments and am in no way trying to undermine mental illness – as I said, people in my life have battled with a variety. The information I took regarding the list was from the MIND website, otherwise I wouldn’t have included it – as I said, I think it refers to extreme versions of each of the conditions.

      Again, when I mention OCD I wasn’t implying the entire condition is a ‘little quirk’ I was simply saying people all have elements of their life which they call their “OCD”. I myself have only small elements of it in my life now – like repetitively checking things for fear of the people I love being hurt – but when I was younger I used to wake my brother from his sleep in order to check he was ok, I used to have to be awake to see certain times on the bedside clock, and I used to repetitively touch things because I thought that if I didn’t do these things then bad things would happen. I have got this under control for the most part but there are still tiny elements left. I don’t consider organising books etc to be OCD, I know what the real thing is like.

      I’m sorry if you felt like I was trivialising the issue, that isn’t the case at all, I was simply trying to make the point that mental illness is seen as a stigma and those that haven’t been exposed to it can misunderstand and fear it, which leads to sufferers hiding their conditions. I believe that it should be more widely spoken about in order for it to be understood and, hopefully, to achieve a better world for those that are suffering.

      January 12, 2014 at 3:39 pm
  • Reply Caitlin Kobrak

    I think this is a really well thought out piece – I have people close to me who suffer from both depression and a severe OCD issue & I do feel that mental health is an issue that needs to be discussed more in public as well as taught to young people in schools – that way it may start to be something people understand and are not afraid of!

    Thank you for writing & sharing this.

    January 12, 2014 at 5:53 pm
    • Reply Penny LilliesandLove

      Thanks Caitlin, I was so worried about writing it as it’s such a delicate issue but it affects a surprising amount of us in one way or another. I totally agree that it needs to be brought into the mainstream and discussed more freely! xx

      January 15, 2014 at 10:11 am

    I love reading your comments so why not leave me a message?