Funny thing is… I wrote this piece for the Huffington Post and I am so proud that it was published on there. But that’s not the funny thing. I started the week having not slept because of general stupid worry that had got on top of me. And I ended up feeling beyond stressed… I also have a skin ailment that relates back to stress…HOWEVER despite these perceived issues, I ended up smashing my way through a battle of mental health – and am now laughing back in the face of it. Basically couldn’t be more ironic (even more that Alantis Morriset) in terms of living and breathing mental health if you tried. But hey, that all helps the awareness right? So anyway, back to the post…
Question: How can you tell if someone is dealing with something mental health related?
Answer is, you can’t.
You can’t ‘see’ mental health just in the same way as you can see a lot of physical diseases. You might expect that people who are dealing with mental health are a certain stereotype.
But they’re maybe better at hiding it.
Why do we hide it?
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and I happened to stumble on it whilst looking for something else. It just isn’t something that’s on the radar, yet it needs to be. It is just another official ‘week’ or ‘day’ on the calendar.
For me, for a long time, mental health was something that other people were aware of or had to think about. I cannot imagine enough people will be making anyone AWARE of it – you might be asking round the office for money towards your Race for Life, but I bet you wouldn’t be shouting about a sponsored silence for depression (if you have – I salute you).
I didn’t previously know anyone that really TALKED about mental health for a long time. It felt like a social TABOO – but why?
Let’s look at the language used around mental health:
• It is a mental health ‘problem’
• The person who has it is ‘suffering’ with anxiety etc.
• You are labelled as a someone with mental health ‘issue’.
I don’t know about you, but for a what a lot of people are feeling – a long-term state of detrimental health – which is increasing in society, that kind of outlook is pretty bleak. It feels purely negative. It does not sound like anything you want to admit to, or be associated with… even in 2017.
So when I sat in the doctors in back in 2009 telling him I had chest pains and there was (I was convinced) 100% something wrong with my heart, it was a great shock to hear the word “anxiety” pop out of his mouth like a strange and surreal surprise.
In my head, I was ‘strong’ – so to hear the words “suffer” and “anxiety” were like a slap in the face. And in 2009 it was still something that came with an almighty stigma (albeit better than it was once). And yet that was where it all began…
After a nasty car accident my confidence was knocked and I developed panic attacks, especially when driving, but soon it had started to eke into all areas of my life. I started obsessing over normal autonomic responses. Catching my breath, listening to my heart rate, swallowing, wondering about the state of my vital organs all became part of my daily routine. Strange thoughts that had no place in my brain started to be with me from the moment I woke up, till when I went to bed.
At the grand old age of 23, whilst out with friends having fun, being at festivals, clubs, and university lectures – pretending to be okay – I was constantly battling with myself to keep the thoughts at bay. You’ll hear people use the word ‘crippling’ when they talk about the ‘A’ word. And I can understand why.
I didn’t talk about it to anyone really, until I finally realised I HAD to, and that it was OKAY to be dealing with these feelings.
All these years later I can 100% safely say that if you are facing anxiety – then you CAN and WILL be okay again. And whether you see yourself as strong or not – there is no shame.
There should be no stigma. I have never let it hold me back.
But to get there you need to (from my experience) do four major things with Mental Health – REJECT negativity, then ACCEPT, OWN, and UNDERSTAND it.
If you have read this far you appreciate there needs to be a change.
I cannot bear the word ‘suffering’ when people talk about anxiety. We all suffer until we find ways of coping with it. People who starve are suffering, refugees are suffering. It makes it sound like an external problem that cannot be fixed. My brain and body created it, so both those tools can Goddamn fix it.
Accepting it is hard – you’re not the person you thought you were. You want to go ‘back’. You want to erase it.
But by accepting it; you can start on a beautiful new journey where you’ll understand yourself in a whole new way that can make you even feel happy that it happened. Honestly, this will become a thing.
If you’re constantly running away from it, it will always chase you.
Stop, turn around and embrace your feelings.
Some of the strongest, most beautiful, incredible people that I am lucky enough to know, have gone through such hardships, sadness and sorrow. But that’s what makes them interesting. They have had SH*T and they have said – NO. I am NOT feeling sorry for myself. I am taking this and OWNING IT.
Behind every interesting person, is a mad story.
You don’t become strong by an easy life.
I started by breaking down the elements of what it was doing to me. I HAD to TAKE CONTROL. I had to ask for some help. I learned that anxiety can’t kill me, and I took the power out of the fear. It can sometimes be a daily struggle, but screw it. I am happy that I am so in tune and aware of myself in ways that people who are disconnected will never understand.
My problems could seem small fry compared to what you’re dealing with, but it’s all relative – it has to be. It doesn’t matter big or small, if something is bothering you and bringing you down, it must be addressed.
Start understanding it by trying to deal with it yourself or with loved ones, or asking someone else to (counsellors are magic!).
Embrace your problem, reject negativity, you don’t have issues, stop suffering. You can beat this.