Today, is World Mental Health Day 2015.
A chance to raise awareness. A chance to share and encourage understanding. A chance to stop the stigma.
I’m gonna leave myself pretty open to the elements here… And whilst it’s scary, it’s the truth, and the truth needs to be heard and understood and helped.
Often I felt like I’ve been put here, in this world, for a reason. Often I’ve wondered what that could possibly be – I don’t have any wonderful,special talents. I have been lucky and am eternally grateful for the multiple opportunities that have and are available to me, but I am not outstanding at anything. Recently though, I’ve started to wonder if my part to be played is in raising awareness and breaking that stigma around mental health illnesses, yet this in itself represents a challenge to me, as despite some long term suffering, I still struggle to even say two of the words that describe me, that are my diagnosis. How can you help to break the stigma when as a sufferer you struggle to utter the words “anorexia” and “depression”? How can you break the stigma when you create your own stigma?
I often feel like a fraud when I reflect on anorexia; I am no longer that thin frame of someone in the deepest darkest depths. I never have been, yet that doesn’t mean that most days can still be challenging. And as for the word depression? I agree with many that it is not really the best word to describe the sheer chaos it (often alongside anxiety) can create in your head. You are fighting another voice in your head telling you you shouldn’t even be here, existing, and something as simple as tripping up a stair or falling off the curb or spilling some water reminds you that you can’t even cope with basic aspects of life; you are utterly useless.
But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it. It is all in your head. And so to the average bystander you are physically well, therefore there is nothing wrong with you. You wouldn’t go into work if you were throwing up, and in the deepest darkest corners of mental health illness you also wouldn’t, couldn’t go into work; leave the house; leave your bed even. The difference is when you stop throwing up you return and bounce back to your old self in a perfectly healthy condition. With mental health, you can come out of a bad spell, but it’s still there, lurking. But you look fine so it’s assumed you are fine, even though you know you are still constantly battling. You know it’s still there. It will always be there, lurking, just waiting to surface.
Eating disorders, anxiety, depression, all mental health issues are NOT a choice. I do NOT choose to feel this way. You try your very best to fight it but sometimes it is just too hard. Too exhausting. People don’t realise that you are fighting everything every second of every day. You feel like you are giving your all and it is still never good enough.
Would you choose to scrutinise every mouthful of food, drink, every calorie, every clothes label, every number on the scales. Would you chose to judge your own worth based on these numbers. Would you chose for your mind to be completely unable to focus on anything. To struggle to string together a few sensible words let alone a full conversation; to live in fear of having to participate in conversation with and around others when you know you open your mouth and nothing but fear comes out. Would you chose to no longer be the social butterfly you once were? To be terrified and to avoid social situations. Would you choose to feel constantly on edge, have constant headaches? Would you choose to have panic attacks strike at any given random opportunity. To feel terrifyingly abnormal palpitations in your heart; to faint because of them. To be afraid to do anything alone in case it happens again. Would you choose to have to pull off a motorway because you feel like you are floating just above your own body? Would you choose to incessantly have the weight of guilt resting heavily on your shoulders?
I didn’t think so. So why would I?
This is not a choice.
I don’t think I’m that nice or great or good a person, so I feel like it really says something when I say I wouldn’t even wish this on my worst enemy – so please, tell me, if you think still think this is a choice, why would I chose to feel this way?
I still highly recommend that everyone, sufferers, but particularly non sufferers of any mental health problem (although particularly anxiety/depression) read “Reasons To Stay Alive” by Matt Haig for a fantastically clear picture, understanding and advice on mental health illnesses because they can’t be overcome alone, and the stigma needs to be broken to help your husband/wife/friend/daughter/sister/mother/brother/father to get through this hell.
Regardless, I will keep fighting. I will have better days and not so good days. I will try to have more better days. I will try to be open and to talk (FYI questions or leading questions can be a much easier place to start/a good start). I will continue to fight to break the stigma and to raise awareness and understanding, because living with any single mental health illness is debilitating, and just not worth the waste of already short time we have to live.