Every year 1 in 4 people are affected by mental health illnesses, but are afraid to talk about them for fear of repercussions.
Mind and Rethink Mental Illness want to change this by encouraging people to spend at least five minutes a day having conversations about mental health.
In their Time to Talk Campaign, the charities say having a conversation is a good place to start, if we are to put an end to stigma.
It’s a commendable effort but I wonder how many people will take part and open their minds.
I bare myself to the world to try to share my experiences of living with clinical depression and anxiety in the hope that it would help to educate and create understanding of what some people endure daily.
I have been reluctant to blog about borderline personality disorder and the latest diagnosis of complex ptsd because I know the problems that come with stigma.
The challenges ahead
Recently in everyday situations, amongst acquaintances and within institutions I have had to explain the legitimacy of mental illness – how physical changes in the brain or insubstantial amounts of key chemicals in the brain could result in conditions like depression. Or how repeated traumas could alter a person’s life incredibly.
I am fed up of being told it’s all in one’s mindset. That positive thinking could wish it away. That everyone has problems, get over yours (ok not in those exact words but this meaning is conveyed!)
One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to confront lately is the assumption that mental illness is a one size fits all. Depression looks like the colour black, PTSD is a war veteran… you get the drift.
I don’t walk around with a heavy dark cloud hanging over my head. I don’t. I’m not a war veteran but I live with complex PTSD. I hate the colour grey and I love the colour black for its beauty. This doesn’t subtract from the wars raging inside. Looking alright on the outside doesn’t mean a damn thing. It’s called wearing a mask.
Someone you know and love has a mental health illness and fear of judgement, being cast away or being misconceived is keeping them silent. To remain silent is to stay in pain, alone.
Break the preconceived notions and open your mind. Even if you can’t understand, be empathetic.
I have had questions around how I could be living with depression when I function. This has made me mad because I think would they rather I be bed bound and trembling in a dark corner? to suit their perceptions and misconceptions of what depression is?
Ok sometimes I am bed bound and I tremble but this is not always the constant state of depression.
I know lots of high functioning people living with depression and BPD etc. Personally, I function to meet the minimum requirements. Sure, sometimes I shut down. I frequently shut down. But me getting out of bed, working through the pain to comb my hair, shower, eat when my jaw hurts, then drag myself to work, is not me pretending. It doesn’t mean depression, anxiety, PTSD or whatever are exaggerated here.
It means I am fighting for my life. I function, but it is not without great difficulty. And it is not without the support of people who love me nurturing and pushing me on to be brave. I always say don’t judge me if you’ve not walked a mile in my shoes. Try to be open minded.
Gentle hugs x