I started my blog with the intention of discussing both the trials and triumphs of parenthood, after finding the transition into motherhood particularly difficult myself I felt that if I could help just one new mother to not feel as lonely as I did, then that was reason enough for me to share my journey on the World Wide Web.
Since I have started my blog however I have found myself drawn to writing about my mental health, I still endeavour to share my parenting stories, but right now I want to talk about mental health and the stigma which surrounds it.
I have surprised myself with how soul-baringly open and honest I have felt able to be here, when I write I don’t feel like I have to hold back, whereas in my day to day life people get a censored version of me, I have become a pro at putting on a front. I have felt able to express things here I would never dream of saying out loud, but that doesn’t seem right does it – no one should feel like they have to hide away a part of themselves. I didn’t chose to have anxiety, OCD or to be susceptible to depression, no one is immune from mental health problems, it can happen to anyone at any stage in their life. Yet there is a stigma rife in our generation, I feel as though we have been raised within a culture in which we instinctively believe that someone who is suffering with mental health problems or receiving therapy is “strange”, “not the full ticket”, “disturbed”, “unhinged”, the list goes on. It is not acceptable.
The people who feed the stigma with their prejudiced views need to realise that 1 in 4 people are affected by mental health each year, this means it is likely they will know someone who is suffering from it, it could be someone they care about very much. I am sure that they wouldn’t like to think of a loved one suffering in silence, but it is their naive preconceptions which is only making it more difficult for people to open up and get better.
I am still learning about my own mental health, I didn’t know that what I have been living with all my life was categorised as a “mental health condition” until recently. I have just gone about my life thinking that this is me, everyone is different after all, so I viewed those around me as strong and confident individuals, whereas I was just.. not. When I was at school and we had to stand at the front of the class to do a presentation, I had a meltdown inside my head, I would shake, sweat, panic, go blank, want to run away and cry, but at the time I didn’t realise this was anxiety, I just thought it was because I was shy and a worrier. Never would I have imagined that I could try and talk myself out of it, I mean what was the worst that was going to happen, I don’t even know what I was afraid of but I was petrified, needless to say I hated school. So I would stand there bright red, quivering, rambling my way through it as fast as I could to get it over and done with. I still turn bright red today the moment I have more than one person looking at me and waiting to hear me speak, it could be the answer to the simplest of things, but intense anxious thoughts swarm my mind about messing it up and making a fool of myself that it becomes impossible to see clearly and it feels like I lose all functionality. I always believe the worst-case scenario is going to happen, even in the smallest of everyday situations. Anxiety has prevented me from doing so much, it has prevented me from enjoying moments of my life that I will never get back.
For years I have suffered in silence with OCD, for a long time I didn’t understand it, and I had a very real feeling that I was the ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD going through it. Growing up I thought there must be something wrong with me for having the thoughts and compulsions that I do running through my mind, I couldn’t possibly tell anyone what I was thinking because I genuinely feared that I would be sectioned or something. It is only because other people have had the courage to speak up about it that there is now an awareness of it, it is because of others opening up that I now realise I am not the only person in the world going through it. When I first read a blog of someone else’s account of their mental health, the realisation hit me hard, for a moment I had to pinch myself; someone else is writing this, writing exactly how I think and feel, for the very first time I felt like I wasn’t alone in this anymore.
It is by reading other people’s experiences that has provided me with comfort and somehow made what we are going through a little easier, and like a domino effect it has given me the confidence to share my own story. I am genuinely thankful to those who have opened up because in them doing so it has helped me to take back some control and stand up to my own mental health. It is by people speaking up and raising awareness which will help to change the views of others on mental health and to end the stigma, it is so important that people continue to open up, no one should feel embarrassed or ashamed of being honest, no one should feel afraid to ask for help or admit that they are receiving it, no one should be made to feel this way by anyone! We are no less of a person than anyone else, this is who I am, this is who we are, and together we will end the stigma.