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Mental Health #TimetoTalk

February 2nd is #TimeToTalk day and it’s aimed at bringing those who are hiding their very real mental problems from those closest to them and encouraging them to talk about it, as well as for those who have concerns about another person and advising them to simply ask “how are you?”

I wanted to share my personal experiences because it may actually help someone, and if I can get through to just one person and remind them that taking the step towards help is very brave and not as difficult as you may think.. then I’ll be happy.

Now I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety for over 10yrs; since I was in my early teens and in my darkest times I took it out on myself and this manifested itself as self harm. They weren’t paper cuts or chicken scratches either; which left thick white very obvious, very visible scars. A lot of them.
When I sunk to my lowest I really frightened my parents, my family and everyone I cared about with this affliction and I hurt them deeply because I shut them out, said and did things I will forever be ashamed of. But even I didn’t understand what was going on with me internally, and they have always blamed themselves.. like they had somehow failed me. Which is ridiculous. So it didn’t just affect me, but everyone around me. That dark cloud hung over all of us and it still lingers around me to this day. 

For me there was no real trigger and I was SO ashamed because I knew others had had it so much worse than me. I knew people who had been victims of abuse, rape and god knows what else.. whereas I had a wonderful childhood and loving parents. So this made it so much harder to understand why I felt so deeply miserable. So lost. So useless. So worthless.

To move forward I had to accept that this illness doesn’t discriminate against how you were raised, your gender, your skin colour, your sexuality, your IQ, your hair colour; it just is. As soon as I did that and as soon as I learnt to accept that I was unwell and that it was OK to be that way, I was able to ask for help.  Because I had, some extent, taken control by facing what was going on.
Image credit: Unknown

I went to the doctors and learnt that in my case, it was a chemical imbalance, and that was absolutely not my fault and something I couldn’t help. This conclusion took a while to reach because there were numerous medication trails, cognitive behavioural therapies, counselling and a lot diaries and self doubt (i.e: am I making a mountain out of a molehill?).. but when I felt like I was ok and tried to wean myself off my tablets, it was apparent that I couldn’t because my behaviour changed drastically. I became ratty, miserable, irritable, nasty, dismissive and ultimately a complete bitch to be around – and that’s just not me. So I am, unfortunately, one of the few in the small percentage that is affected by a chemical problem rather than a full blown mental health case, if that makes sense? But I didn’t let it bother me too much because it’s okay not to be okay! It doesn’t make you weak, it doesn’t make you strange, or broken.  You have an invisible illness that only you know the detrimental effects of and you know the struggle you have with it every day. It is nobodies business but your own unless you choose to share it, which I strongly suggest you do. My journey has taken a long time and a lot of patience, a lot of different doctors, a lot of tears and frustration but I accept now that it is part of who I am and I will never be ashamed of it again.

It became apparent to me that more people than you could ever realise share this demon and I was not alone. No one is alone in this. You just don’t know because of the stigma, shame and fear of talking about it. I still and always will get looks from people when I exchange money in a shop, or when I wear a short sleeve top and they see my scars. I feel eyes on me all the time. I feel the judgement, constantly. I know they are ugly and I know they are hard to ignore, but even now at 28yrs old it still hurts me when someone looks at me that way.  I still have a pang of shame, but it was my own doing and I’ve learnt to love my scars. They’re my medals for winning a fight I very nearly gave in to.

I’ve lost a lot of friends who just didn’t have the patience but I don’t begrudge them for that. I appreciate them for trying as hard as they did, but at the time it just wasn’t enough to pull me back. And yes I’ve been called a fruit loop, mental, fruitcake, psycho, freak, lunatic.. every name associated under the sun.  I laugh because I don’t want to seem uptight, but honestly, it’s never OK to call me those things. I can laugh at myself, but you don’t get to. You don’t get to label or shame me. You only earn that right when I’ve let you in and consider you a friend. But I’d like those people who name shame and mock to know it’s OK to ask about it, just not to belittle it.

It IS okay, not to be okay. Talk about how you feel.. please don’t bottle it up. It’s not worth the strain it puts on you to hide it. Embrace it, face it and stare it down. It doesn’t have to define you. Ask for help because it’s easier when you’re not doing it alone and it’s time to change the stigma and the attitude towards mental health. It’s time to talk, and if you feel that person you need to talk to is me, I’ll be right there. And if you just want to make a difference to someone in need, make a pledge [ here ] to look out for friends and loved ones or to share your story to help another.

Image credit: We Heart It