Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Awareness



I feel that Mental Health Awareness Week is a vital opportunity for the world to stop and look around them. We are only one or two people away (1/4) from someone who has mental health issues. Having been ill myself (which led to in-patient hospital treatment), I know only too well what its like to be that person. It's one of the most horrific situations you can ever find yourself in - not least because the people around you often simply don't understand and the stigma also associated with mental health problems is almost a guaranteed "add-on" to being ill. You often "can't see" the problems in other people so you don't think they exist. You don't realise that behind the smile, there is a darkness underneath that torments the sufferer.

As I mentioned, I have had my fair share of mental health problems which have come in the form of depression, anxiety, anorexia and traits of OCD and Asperger’s. That's quite a list. These are problems, which I am not afraid to talk about. These issues crept up on me, slowly but surely. Soon enough, I was franticly out of control in all kinds of ways. Family and friends were worried - but this was expressed in ways such as anger, frustration and exasperation that I clearly wasn't able to get on with my life unlike everyone else. It is very hard to understand what someone like me was going through if you have never been there yourself. Some things are certain - nobody chooses to have a mental health problem (in the same way that you don't choose to get cancer), they do not do it on purpose and they are not doing it just for attention. There is no quick fix - it takes more than a couple of doctor's appointments, a week of tablets and a few days off work/school to get you going again. Oh boy - we'd be here all night if I went into great detail about my route of help. What I mean is - if you are experiencing difficulties, don't put yourself under pressure to be back to your normal self by this time next week - and if you know someone who isn't well - don't be hopping mad and angry that they are not able to be their normal self. After all - what is "normal"? and you wouldn't make someone with a broken leg run a marathon would you?

Now, I am lucky enough to be steady and stable. However, not every day is a good day and my problems haven't "gone away" like a cold or a cough would. There is often an expectation for everything to be fine, dandy and right as rain but its important to remember that it is sometimes ok to not be ok. There are blips and bumps when recovering from any illness - be it a physical or psychiatric one. One of the greatest things that has got me on the road out of trouble is being able to help others who are in need. A scary number of people who I know and have been friends with for a while have approached me to seek advice and help since they discovered and learnt what I went through. I am not ashamed to talk about it.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of not being well, remember that there is plenty of good help out there that can get you through it, you are not far away from someone who might be feeling the same as you and there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel - you will get through this - I am sure of it.

I urge you in this week of awareness about mental health to take some time to read up about something under this umbrella that you haven't heard of before, ring that friend/family member who you know is struggling but you haven't spoken to in months and lastly - remember that there are people battling right now in more ways than you will ever know. Don't be scared to address matters if you can sense that someone you love/know is finding it tough - they may want to tell you but can't find the words or be worried about upsetting you - or they might not even realise the downward spiral you can see them heading into - in which case, you would be doing them a massive favour.

"Experiencing these problems is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign you have been strong for too long." 

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