Time to talk
Time to talk day encourages everyone to talk about mental health. Me though, I’ve always been extremely private about my struggle with mental illness, living my life behind a mask pretending I’m fine.
However something happened last year that took my mask away. I spent a lot of 2018 in a psychiatric hospital, and after absconding from the ward a missing report was put out by West Yorkshire Police and the Yorkshire Evening Post, saying that I missing from a psychiatric hospital and suicidal. This was shared on the news and across social media by hundreds of people, many of my peers, all people who had no idea what I’d been hiding all these years. I felt sick. I was so uncomfortable being exposed in this way, terrified about what everyone must think. I wasn’t ready for all these people to know my ‘dirty secret’. After some time passed, I realised there was no going back now, so I may as well try achieve some good out of a bad situation, to get some control back I felt I needed to say something. So I decided to share something I wrote on my social media account.
Here’s what I wrote..
This romantic notion of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, but after months sectioned on a psych ward, I can assure you that’s simply not true, pretty much the other way round. If only it was so trivial! I get told I’m lucky to be alive, when honestly I still don’t want to be. People usually wait until they’re out of the dark depths to talk about their “struggle” with a poetic, empowered and enlightened hindsight, but I’ve been stuck in this for years, so why not discuss it now. While it’s up close, ugly and real. Why am I oversharing all of this? My big dirty secret has been outed, I’m already exposed, its terrifying but how can I encourage others when I myself am not honest. I may as well try use this context to shed some light on a topic that our society shuns away into the shadows.
I’ve certainly shrouded myself in the secrecy of those shadows, completely fronting to the whole world. Although very lonely and alienating, there’s no judgement or rejection in these shadows. But it’s in these shadows that people are suffering, and they are dying. Trust me, way more than you’d think. Yes mental health discussion has become more mainstream, even with the trendy celeb awareness raising selfies, it’s great that we’re talking more, but to be honest the conversation is only around a very small palatable and glamourised part of the “problem”.
We’re not talking about the more severe mental illnesses, like the one that’s got me in hospital so many times and has caused so much harm to my body, and to the people around me. We’re not talking about how despite this big encouragement to talk to a mate and just ask for help, the help simply isn’t there and the services are failing horrifically. We aren’t talking about the reality of psychiatric hospitals and how ill equipped they are to deal with people in situations like myself. We aren’t talking about suicide and how this is an extremely real and common occurrence. The stigma comes from a place of fear and lack of understanding.
I get it’s hard to understand, I struggle myself, but let’s bring this topic out of the shadows and maybe try understand. Let’s view people who are struggling with compassion and open mindedness, rather than with fear and repulsion. Don’t be afraid to educate yourself, have those uncomfortable conversations, or ask people like me questions (honestly no holds barred), take action by donating or volunteer for charities like Mind, Samaritans or Dial House, choose your vote carefully. That’s the only way we’ll ever move towards changing the current situation. Apologies for the preaching, I don’t really know where to begin or end when it comes to this topic, but I just felt compelled to break my silence somehow. We’re in dire need of some change.
To my surprise I received an overwhelmingly positive response. Since this happening, I’ve decided to try be more honest in the hope that it raises awareness and education, encourages other people to be more open too, and normalises the discussion of mental health in our society. This time to talk day 2019 why don’t you start some conversations about mental health too. If you want some tips for talking about mental health check out the link below:
Above: Take a Minute Journal by Paperchase