From 8th May until 14th May it is Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 aka #MHAW17. Campaigning for better awareness of mental health illnesses and for there to be less (preferably none- but we have to remain realistic) stigma attached to the subject is a huge deal to me, so I thought I’d use it as the topic for this latest post.
It’s understandable that people don’t know what to say sometimes, or they are afraid of offending you. It may even be the case that they say something inappropriate without malice behind their words because mental health is such a complex issue. I’ve learnt to cope with a lot of standard phrases that are said to me and not to react angrily (although I will admit to crying on more than one occasion!) but to try and see that people usually have good intentions.
From the perspective of someone who is in recovery from anorexia and is a healthy weight, hearing the phrase ‘You look well’ is something I have grown accustomed to. That nasty little creep on my shoulder tells me that this means ‘I AM FAT’ when in reality this is not the case and needs to be ignored. I don’t know my current weight because I no longer trust myself to own scales without obsessively weighing ten times a day. However, my Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) tells me that I don’t have to be aware of the number and also that I am within the healthy range. Healthy is good. Healthy means happiness for my family and also for myself, which is what keeps me eating meal after meal and not giving a damn if I eat chocolate or ice cream or cake or cookies! Before I digress, however, the point I am trying to make is that we should try and educate people on what is appropriate to say and what is not.
You also need to remember that there is no need to be ashamed of your experiences. I’ve lost count of the number of individuals who have told me either in person or in a message that they have experience of life with a mental illness or know somebody who has. All have and always will remain anonymous because it is their choice to tell their own story, not mine, but you can approach me whenever you wish to and I will always reply. None of us are immune to difficulties and to think otherwise, to think you are strong enough to tackle anything thrown at you and never develop a problem is extremely naïve. We are as vulnerable to developing a mental illness as we are to developing a physical illness.
Very often there is a reason for what feels like a break in our sanity; violence, sexual abuse, grief, debt or any kind of trauma that will weigh down upon you. Overcoming something that has had such a profound effect upon you is difficult and to therefore struggle to cope is completely fathomable. Just remember that it is ok to ask for help and to feel like you deserve support. Every life is sacred, no matter who you are. You deserve to be free of pain and to enjoy life just as much as anybody else!
Demi Lovato. Catherine Zeta Jones. Ruby Rose. Zosia Mamet. Amanda Seyfried. Ryan Reynolds. Wentworth Miller. Colin Farrell.
All they have in common is that they are all famous, right? Successful? Living the dream and always happy? Just simply put- perfect.
In fact, every single one of those celebrities above have battled some form of mental health illness. I had a hard job picking out what names to write because there were so many (there is a link at the end of the post naming more) who had opened up about their battles and the list of names I stumbled upon was astounding. There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ person, no matter what they look like, how much money they have, or how ‘loved’ they appear to be. At the end of the day we are all human and although we do not all exist and live in the same way we must remember that important fact.
Whether your illness is anxiety, depression, anorexia, bulimia, OCD, schizophrenia or any other affliction you need to know that you are not alone. Maybe you are surrounded by friends and family who appear to be achieving so much more than you are, but try your best not to compare. Maybe your achievements may seem small- getting out of bed and showered and dressed whereas your best friend holds down a full-time job and is getting married or having a baby, but so what? You may have faced demons that they haven’t and overcoming that is so much to be proud of!
I don’t want to end this post on a negative note because that isn’t useful for anyone, so my message is going to be one of hope. I’ve addressed quite a few subjects and I don’t want to leave anyone feeling like there is nowhere to turn, so here are some links for you. Some provide general information, some I have found helpful myself, and some I have looked into and researched for the sake of this blog and well-being of other individuals that I don’t necessarily know, but still care about. I’ll add to the list if requested.
For someone who is struggling without help, please watch this video. Everyone deserves to get support- http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/mental-health-awareness-week-help-13006860