"You don’t look like you used to be mad"
How do you react to that?
It’s difficult but the kind of reaction that I’ve had to deal with before and I’m not the only one.
My name is Sian and I have had mental health issues.
I still do in some ways but I have a long list of coping mechanisms and am officially ’well’. I’ve been off medication for a few years now but it was a long, hard journey to get here.
11th to 17th April is Depression Awareness Week, run by the Depression Alliance. 1 in 4 of us will experience mental health issues at some point in our lives. It’s incredibly common but there’s still so much stigma around it. Time To Change is another campaign led by Mind and Rethink. It’s an anti-stigma campaign aimed at people who know someone with a mental health issue but aren’t aware of how their own behaviour can impact. The people who say “Just pull yourself together” or think that their colleague isn’t as capable of doing their job as they used to be. The people who may think that people with mental health issues aren’t ‘normal’.
The only way to change this to for people to stand up and say this is me, issues and all. To raise awareness is the only way to get rid of the stigma.
When people who haven’t known me for long find out about my mental health history I am often met with slight shock and told “But you’re so confident” and “You don’t look the type”. There is no type, it can happen to any of us at any time.
I was first diagnosed as being depressed at 16 and was on and off medication for about 10 years. Some of helped, a lot didn’t. I was sent for different types of counselling, psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Some of it helped, some of it didn’t. I was given several diagnoses over the years ranging from depression to anxiety to OCD to personality disorder. Some of them made sense, most didn’t.
I have been suicidal.
I have self harmed.
I have sought refuge in drugs and alcohol.
I have felt that I have been living in a blackness so thick and sticky that at times I have hoped that the light at the end of the tunnel was in fact an oncoming train.
What helped me was when I was finally given a Community Psychiatric Nurse that understood. Who understood me. Who understood that not all mental health issues fit neatly inside a diagnosable box and can be ‘fixed’ with a specific set of medications and therapies, like a check-list. Who told me to take the bits that worked for me and use them. Who showed me how to control it, not the other way around. It worked for me.
I was working in mental health myself at the time and I tried to show some of my clients the same thing. I hope it helped.
And now? Yes, I sometimes have times when I wonder if it’s coming back but they are few and far between. I have to listen to my body and take note of what it’s telling me. I worry whether I have passed this tendency on to Miss P as depression clearly runs in my family. But above all, I am strong. I am a wife and mother. A friend. A busy woman with a busy life. I am me.