In case you didn’t see the title, it’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week, and it’s pretty appropriate timing to say the least! As I told a colleague earlier today, this year has been all kinds of bad for me, and I don’t mean that in a dramatic way at all, I’m very lucky to have family and friends and be able to provide for myself. Unfortunately, it just seems to be the year that a number of little things have all gone wrong, one after the other, let’s call it the Domino Effect.
I’m not going to read you my diagnosis or list out every time I’ve seen a doctor in the past couple of years, because this Week is bigger than that, and bigger than me. According to studies over the last ten years, approximately ten percent of people have mixed anxiety and depression, with marginally less than that percentage suffering from phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as eating disorders. I’ve seen so many friends and relatives affected by these issues, not just as the ‘patient’, but as the brother, the parent, the girlfriend of someone suffering. No one knows the best treatment, when to speak or stay quiet, what really is going to help the person that they love.
For me, it is people allowing me to withdraw. A large majority of people see me an extrovert, as confident, and actually, compared to sixteen year old Me, I really am more self-assured. But often people milling around, that person constantly asking questions, that one friend who is always too damn cheery… It can make my head feel like it’s going to implode. It is suffocating, and overwhelming. I wouldn’t wish any kind of disorder or depression on anyone but I hope that anyone finding today, or any day, to be a struggle manages to make it through. There’s an incredible, kind girl I know that has made it past one of the worst things that can happen to a woman. It took time. It took rest. There are still days, I know, that she will wobble and need help, but she made it past and is ever stronger. In fact, she’s one of the people I rely on the most to keep me steady, and I’m so thankful for her. That is the key really, we need to learn more about mental health, so that we are able to grow from it. I think that we would all like to be more than a statistic.
A month or so ago, someone who I had once held in high-esteem said that ‘people with depression should man up’, that it ‘isn’t real’ and a few years back ‘they would have just got on with things and felt fine’. It’s unfortunate that this kind of ignorance still exists when people are hurting themselves and losing their battles all around us, so I suppose those of us who know the reality of mental illness will have to soldier on against these misconceptions. And while time goes by, what I have learnt so far is:
Read more. Learn a new language. Try new foods. Remember dreams, set goals. Be around people who support you. Support others. Don’t let anyone or anything diminish who you are.