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.
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.
Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Depression (including Postnatal)
Seasonal Affective Disorder
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.
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.