Whether we realise it or not, chances are we ALL know someone who has been affected by mental illness. Mental health should not be a taboo subject anymore. After all, we’re not living in the 19th century when anyone who showed a sign of mental weakness was locked away in an asylum!
I’m hoping that by starting this tag, people will be able to see that they are not alone and mental illness affects us all in one way or another. If we are all open about our own mental health issues, one day they’ll be accepted as a common part of modern life and those who are suffering in silence will be less scared to seek help.
Please don’t feel like you have to answer every question – whilst complete openness is most likely to help end the stigma, not everyone will be comfortable sharing so much personal information. “I’d rather not say” is a perfectly acceptable answer to any of the following questions.
1. Have you ever been diagnosed as suffering from a mental illness? If so, which one(s) (if what you suffered from can be labelled – mental illness tends to work on a spectrum – feel free to simply note symptoms)? If not, do you suspect you may have suffered from one?
OCD with associated depression that manifested following extreme work-based stress; extreme hormonal mood swings due to the contraceptive pill
2. Do you have any friends or family who have suffered from a diagnosed mental illness? Please don’t give their details (it’s up to them whether they wish to share), but, if so, which illness(es)?
Yes – various illnesses – depression, anxiety, panic attacks, schizophrenia, self-harm
3. Have you ever experienced anxiety?
On a daily basis. OCD is an anxiety disorder.
4. Have you ever felt depressed? Feel free to elaborate.
Yes. I frequently suffer from bouts of depression that mainly stem from my OCD.
5. Have you ever suffered from stress?
Yes – I suffered from stress when I had issues with a manager whilst working as a paralegal at a law firm nearly ten years ago. I won’t go into detail here, but may explain further in a future post.
6. What would you say to a friend who was suffering from some form of mental discomfort or illness?
I would tell them they are not alone and that I am here for them if they need anything – day or night – even if that’s just to chat.
I tag everyone who reads this – the more people who spread the message that the stigma around mental health is not ok, the more likely we are to banish it for good. Even if you don’t complete the tag, feel free to use the #EndMentalStigma hashtag to show you want the stigma to stop.
The first person I’m aware of who has completed the tag is Lusuna. Thankyou so much for doing my tag – every person who talks about their experiences with mental health issues brings us another step closer to being able to #EndMentalStigma. She added a couple of questions of her own to the tag so I’ve added these below.
I thought her advice to a friend who is suffering (question 6) is awesome, so thought it was worth sharing:-
“I would tell them to be kind to themselves, and give themselves the time and space to get better, but I would also urge them to seek professional help. Taking care of yourself if essential, but sometimes you need extra support in your recovery. Don’t be ashamed for asking for that help, and know that although it will be hard, you can get better.” – Lusuna, lusuna.wordpress.com
Both of the following questions are specific to those who have suffered from mental illness. If you haven’t, you may wish to either just stick with the first six questions, or answer these in relation to friends who have suffered and their experiences (again – no names please – it is up to individuals whether they wish to share such private information).
7. Have you ever been treated differently because of your mental illness?
I’m very lucky that my friends and family, on the whole, have been incredibly supportive of me since I started suffering from OCD. However, there are friendships that seem to have fizzled out since my diagnosis, and I wonder how much of that is because the people either don’t know what to say to me when I bring up my OCD, or get fed up of me complaining (not that I do complain to friends a lot, but I try to be honest when friends ask how I am).
I have also encountered difficulties with all sorts of healthcare professionals along the way. Some of them have been incredible, but others have been dismissive and unhelpful. Finding good therapists and Doctors is an important part of making sure you get the help you need. They do exist so persevere if you’ve only found unhelpful ones so far, but think you need help.
8. Has your mental illness ever stopped you from doing or achieving something that would have been attainable if you weren’t mentally ill?
Yes. I would have started my blog four years ago when the idea first came into my head for a start! I had to leave work because of my OCD and every attempt I’ve made to return to the working world has been thwarted by my illness. I’m very lucky that I have an amazingly supportive boyfriend who stepped in when I had to leave work and offered to support me financially. I’ve also had to give up on several qualifications I’ve started because sticking to a schedule when you’re suffering from such an unpredictable illness has proved impossible for me.
Finally – a huge thankyou to everyone who has liked this post so far either on here or through Twitter. Together, we will spread the message that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of and, the more open we are about our problems, the more people will realise just how common they are!