Mental Health Awareness Day – A Personal Account

This morning, in the car on the way to the station, the Eldest casually mentioned that it was Mental Health Awareness Day.  She told me that she’d written a couple of pieces and perhaps I might want to post something on my blog.  I asked her to send me the articles – she suggested that I may want to edit some of the content – I have removed some of the more graphic parts.  Reading her words brought back a lot of the utter fear of the places that we found ourselves in this year – for her, for her siblings, for us as parents and for our family unit.  This ‘thing’ that is mental illness knows no boundaries – it can affect anyone, even those who appear, to the outside world, to have everything.  And it obviously doesn’t stop with the individual themselves; I have spent too many waking hours worried about the impact on the rest of the Tribe.  I have seen how people have reacted when I’ve explained about her illness -some have suggested a course of vitamin C, others have glazed over and looked slightly embarrassed, others however have been incredibly warm hearted and have shared their own stories of dealing with mental health either themselves or someone close to them – that has helped so much.  The stigma is still there but the more we talk about it the more likely it is that more people will get help and we can all begin to understand how to deal with this illness.  What the Eldest has been through has made me realise how utterly precious this life is, how the simple things really are some of the best and kindness and generosity of spirit are much underrated and should be practised more often – totally free and brings happiness and joy.  And she’s in a better place now, recovering, but living, laughing and loving.

So, these are her words; I am proud that she is standing up and talking, it is brave and inspiring – I hope they will help you understand or know you’re not alone.

“People always make out that mental illnesses shouldn’t be talked about, and the amount of stigma surrounding it makes it somewhat awkward. But seeing as it’s Mental Health Awareness Day, I thought It seemed appropriate for me to talk about it as it’s something that has played a very large part in my recent life.

Surviving or thriving? Those are two states I’ve swung between for most of this year. Often all I’ve been doing is existing; just trying to get from one day to the next.  When my mental health hit an all time low this year, it got so bad that I required multiple hospital admissions. I was at the hopeless mercy of my ‘black dog called depression’. Getting up, showering, speaking, all things that we take for granted, were physically impossible. At night I’d lay awake for hours simply because I couldn’t find the motivation to close my eyes.  Mental illnesses can sometimes get to the point where they threaten your physical health as well. Only my close friends and family really got to see the amount of pain I was in, but even they could never understand the full extent of it. It’s so difficult to explain to people what’s going on inside you, when you can’t even understand it yourself. It’s difficult to tell, when you look at someone, to see that they’re mentally ill. When I first became ill, people actually found the idea of it slightly funny, because what could be wrong with my life that caused me to struggle?? I mean, I looked fine, I was smiling. What could be so wrong that it meant that someone who had everything she could ask for, still didn’t feel she was enough?? Even now, I still can’t tell you. Maybe I’ll never know. These things happen, and they don’t always have something to be justified by.

By watching me struggle, so many people in my life have had the blurry patch of ‘mental illnesses’ brought into light by what I’ve been through. I feel that so many more people understand now, even if not completely, that these things DO happen, and despite the common associations made with it, I’m not crazy, psychopathic or dangerous!! I have had an illness, just like a person with pneumonia has an illness. And I can get better, just like a person with pneumonia can get better. These things don’t go away easily, you have to work hard. You can’t ‘just eat’ if you have an eating disorder, and you can’t ‘just be happy’ if you have clinical depression, so stop treating people as if that’s going to fix all their problems!! You wouldn’t tell someone with cancer to ‘just get over it’, so think about that before you say it to someone who’s mentally ill. Believe it or not, some people actually in the profession still fuel the stigma. I once had a paramedic say to me ‘you can’t be suicidal, you’re not chronically ill. You’re being so selfish, there are people out there dying of cancer’. This was in an ambulance on the way to hospital and I was completely shocked as to how someone who had to deal with suicidal people on a daily basis could actually say this to me. People do not always need something to justify their feelings, sometimes the feelings are simply just there.

Maybe I’ll always have to fight. But I’m still here, I’m still living, and I’m still loving, and that’s all that matters for now. So let’s stop the stigma, and support the people who need support. Here’s to all of the amazing people who have helped me through this year, and all the incredibly strong people who have had to fight their own battles.”

www.mentalhealth.org.uk

www.mind.org.uk