With the week thats in it I have decided to share my views on mental health awareness and my personal experiences with the issue.
I cant remember what age I was when I first started thinking that I might not be the same as everyone else, but it has mulling away in the back of my mind for a very long time. When I was a child I felt I was more mature than the other kids my age, but also more angry, more confused, more defiant. I was sent to counsellors who didn’t understand me by teachers who didn’t know what to do with me and so the cycle continued until I was 15 and I learned to suppress my innermost feelings. And I was not alone. Statistics show that 70% of children who experience mental health problems have not had any appropriate intervention at a sufficiently early age. It wasn’t until recently, at the age of 21, when I started to write all my thoughts down each night that I felt some sort of relief. My head was always so full of anxiety, fear, anger and a constant impeding doom of helplessness. I felt like I was 10 stone lighter after emptying my thoughts out on to the pages. I was able to confide in my diary in a way I could never confide in an actual person, without the worry of judgment or misunderstanding. I have never spoken about what goes on inside my mind to anyone, and no one I know has ever spoken about their mental health to me. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people in Ireland will experience a mental health problem in any given year. So why is there still a stigma attached to people who admit that they are experiencing such common issues? In our modern day society where it is deemed acceptable to get ossified from alcohol and strip naked on reality tv shows and have Swarovski crystals glued on to your not-so-private private-parts, it is time that this phenomenon of sufferer-shaming is wiped out once and for all. When something insignificant annoys you, like your hairdresser cutting 4 inches off your hair instead of the trim you actually wanted, nothing makes you feel better than venting about it to a friend. So imagine how isolating it is for people dealing with something as serious as a mental health issue, feeling like they cant get that same “weight off their shoulders” sensation because they’re too used to bottling everything up inside for fear of humiliation and rejection? The changes that need to be made in order to cease this widespread attack on the voices of people with mental illnesses are vast, but everyone has a part to play and together we can change the fact that most people suffer in silence. It’s the blasé bully making casual jibes that someone is “mental” or “unstable” when they admit that they aren’t coping so well. It’s the little things we have let seep into society and now view as acceptable, like the social media monsters who label girls as “crazy.” No explanation required just simply, yes your a girl, your nuts. Sounds absurd, right? I logged on to Facebook just today and was confronted with a meme which quickly informed me that “If a girl is cute, smart and single you know she’s a psycho”. These nonchalant japes at mental illness may seem insignificant, some of the perpetrators may not even realise the negative effect they are having on the fight against mental health taboos, but it all adds up. It contributed towards my decision to not discuss my mental health with anyone, and I am certain I am not the only one. As of yet, I still have not sought any professional advice about my mental health, partly because I wouldn’t know where to go or who to talk to. I have tried googling what I feel and I have been faced with different results telling me I am either depressed, bipolar or suffering from an anxiety disorder. Not helpful, whatsoever. But hey, at least my laptop wont judge me, right? Well I for one am sick of pretending I’m ok if I’m not, hiding how I feel on the inside so people on the outside don’t label me and put me in an isolated box. I’m choosing to be brave and if I can do it, anyone can. Sometimes I feel like I am in control, sometimes I don’t, and thats ok. One of the entries in my diary reads;
“I wonder do other people feel this way, even on my own I feel led astray.”
Of course they do, and when someone is struggling they shouldn’t have to think twice about reaching out for help. Too many things in life are difficult, lets stop allowing being who you are and looking after your mental health to be two of them.